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Resources for Art/Art History

Paintbrushes Dome in St. Peter's Basilica Mosaic

Research in art history is often cross-disciplinary; for some questions it may be useful to consult guides to history and religion. Please ask a reference librarian for suggestions for additional sources which may be more appropriate to your specific topic.

Table of Contents:

Indexes and Databases
For more information and additional suggestions, see the Databases Guide for Art & Art History.
  • Academic Search Premier
    The world's largest academic multi-disciplinary database, Academic Search Premier indexes nearly 8,050 publications and provides full text for nearly 4,600, including more than 3,500 peer-reviewed journals. Coverage also includes many newspapers and popular magazines and spans virtually every area of academic study since 1975. Updated daily. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM). View our Academic Search Premier tutorial.
    1975-present; updated daily
  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Web of Knowledge)
    A multidisciplinary index covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. This index fully covers 1,144 of the world's leading arts and humanities journals, and also includes some individually selected, relevant items from over 6,800 major science and social science journals. Some of the disciplines covered include archaeology, linguistics, art, literature, music, philosophy, dance, history, religion and theater.
    1997-present; updated weekly
  • Art Index
    New York: Wilson 1930--
    An author and subject index to art periodicals, covering all periods and media of art, including film and photography. Particularly helpful for locating reproductions in periodicals as well as research studies and news of sales and exhibitions. This index is only available in print form.
    • Location(s): Ref N1 .A1 A78
  • Bibliography of the History of Art
    The Bibliography of the History of Art is a comprehensive bibliography of scholarly writing about the history of western art. BHA includes articles from over 1,200 journals. Note that the database search includes both BHA (covering 1990-2007) and the International Bibliography of Art (IBA), covering the years 2008 and part of 2009. The Répertoire de la litterature de l'art (RILA), one of the predecessors of BHA, with records that cover 1975–1989, is slated to be online by May 1.
    The Catalog of Art Museum Images Online (CAMIO) is a growing collection documenting works of art from around the world, representing the collections of prominent museums. CAMIO highlights the creative output of cultures around the world, from prehistoric to contemporary times, and covering a range of expressive forms. Access is provided by the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM).
Reference Works
  • Encyclopedias
    • Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia
      New York: Garland 2001
      A single-volume handbook containing over 500 articles on the ancient past in Middle America, covering the area now occupied by Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Covers sites, sacred places, ritual practices, and a variety of related topics.
      • Location(s): Ref F 1218.6 .A73 2001
    • Dictionary of Art
      Grove's Dictionaries 1996
      An exhaustive encyclopedia of world art, containing articles written by scholars on artists, movements, works, and subjects, each followed by a selective bibliography.
      • Location(s): Ref N 31 .D5 1996
    • Encyclopedia of Aesthetics
      New York:Oxford UP 1998
      Covers individuals, concepts, periods, theories, and movements in aesthetics, with each essay written by a specialist.
      • Location(s): Ref BH 56 .E53 1998
    • Monuments of Italy: A Regional Survey of Art, Architecture and Archaeology
      London: I.B. Tauris 2002
      An exhaustive catalog of Italy's archaeological sites, churches, palaces, and other notable structures. The first five volumes are arranged by region and province; volume six offers a pronunciation guide.
      • Location(s): Ref DG 431 .O67 2002
    • Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures
      Oxford: Oxford UP 2001
      Solid, scholarly articles on a part of the world that has been the site of significant cultural developments in archaeology, history and the arts.
      • Location(s): Ref F 1218.6 .O95 2001
    • Encyclopedia of World Art
      New York: McGraw-Hill 1959-
      Offers scholarly and thorough articles on artists, movements, media, periods, national traditions, and so on. Each volume has a section of plates in the back. There is an index to the entire set, as well as supplementary volumes presenting newer information. Though more dated than the Dictionary of Art, above, this set remains useful, particularly for its thorough indexing of plates, making it a good source for locating images of art works.
      • Location(s): Ref N 31 .E56
    • Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects
      New York: Free Press 1982
      Profiles over 2400 architects from all regions and periods through the 1970s, providing biographical and critical information as well as, in many cases, a bibliography for further research. Note that the publication date of this work limits coverage of contemporary developments and theoretical approaches.
      • Location(s): Ref NA 40 .M25 1982
    • World Artists, 1980-1990
      New York: Wilson 1991
      Offers biographical-critical sketches on contemporary artists worldwide. Coverage is limited to prominent artists. An earlier volume covers 1950-1980.
      • Location(s): Ref N 6489 .W67 1991
  • Places to find topic overviews and quick facts
    • Dictionary of Christian Art
      New York: Continuum 1994
      Offers brief discussions of people, topics, and symbols important in Christian art. Especially good at drawing parallels between Classical and Biblical iconography and at identifying important biblical passages. Illustrated with a number of black and white plates.
      • Location(s): Ref BV 150 .A66 1994
    • Oxford Dictionary of Art
      Oxford: Oxford UP 2004 3rd edition
      Covers Western art from ancient Greece to the present, with nearly 4,000 entries on artists, periods, movements, and styles.
    • Contemporary Artists
      Chicago: St. James 2002 5th ed. edition
      Provides biographical profiles of current artists around the world, giving personal background and information on their work, as well as lists of exhibits and bibliographies of sources for further research.
      • Location(s): Ref N 6490 .C6567 2002
    • Dictionary of Women Artists
      London: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997
      Offers 600 entries describing the lives and work of artists in a wide variety of media from Europe, America, and Australasia, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present. Each sketch includes bio-critical information, exhibition history, and often a bibliography. There are also lengthy essays on women artists in the Middle Ages, convents, academies of art, training and professionalism, modernism, and feminism.
      • Location(s): Ref N 8354 .D53 1997
    • Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography
      New York: Routledge 2006
      Contains articles on the history and practice of photography, including significant photographers, technical issues, topics, and theories.
      • Location(s): Ref TR642 .E5 2006
    • Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture
      Oxford: Oxford UP 1996
      Intended to fill in gaps in cultural knowledge, this work illuminates the symbolism and context of Christian art. Brief articles address figures in Biblical and church history, religious concepts that bear on artistic expression, artifacts, places of significance, relevant events in church history, and so on.
      • Location(s): Ref N 7830 .M87 1996
  • Iconography and Symbolism in the arts
    • Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art
      Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1998
      The purpose of this interesting work is to show how fundamental cultural narratives and themes have been represented in the arts. Includes both stories and general themes such as abandonment, envy, and ecstasy. Each essay ends with lists of works that employ the theme and selected secondary sources. There are 7 indexes to enable seeking out names, Biblical themes, literary references, mythological references, etc.
      • Location(s): Ref N 7560 .E53 1998
    • Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
      New York: Icon 1996
      Includes brief discussion of the significance of symbols from Egypt, the ancient Near East, Christian Europe, India, and the Far East. The work is divided into categories: abstracts signs, animals, artifacts, earth and sky, human body and dress, plants, and "collectives" of concepts, deities, and ideas. Illustrated with 600 drawings.
      • Location(s): Ref N 7740 .H35 1996
    • Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1900s
      New York: Oxford UP 1993
      Links Classical subjects and Western art, cataloging under topics, the various expressions of each topic in the fine arts, music, dance, and literature. While it does not claim to be exhaustive, it does provide background information and intriguing connections; includes bibliographic references to published sources for the art works listed.
      • Location(s): Ref NX 650 .M9 R45 1993
Browsing for Books
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of art/art history.
  • CC Archaeology
  • N Visual Arts (General)
      • 5300-7418 History of Art
    • NA Architecture
    • NB Sculpture
    • NC Drawing. Design. Illustration
    • ND Painting
    • NE Print Media
    • NK Decorative Arts
    • NX Arts in General
  • TR Photography
  • TS Metalwork. Wood. Textiles
  • TT Handcrafts


Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library.
  • American Antiquity
  • American Artist
  • American Photo
  • Ancient Mesoamerica
  • Aperture
  • Architectural Record
  • Architecture Minnesota
  • Artforum International
  • Art Bulletin
  • Art in America
  • Art Journal
  • Art on Paper
  • Ceramics Monthly
  • Studio Potter
  • Winterthur Portfolio
  • Womans Art Journal
  • General
    • Artcyclopedia
      Search or browse by artist, title, museum, or movement or browse by medium, subject, nationality, or by women artists.
    • ArtSource 2002-2007
      A directory of Web links for art and architecture.
    • 2007
      From the Walker Art Center and the McKnight Foundation, a site dedicated to the contemporary art scene in Minnesota.
    • World Wide Arts Resources 1995-2006
      A commercial directory of arts resources, with emphasis on contemporary and studio arts resources.
  • Architecture
    • Great Buildings Collection 1997-2007
      Search by architect, building, or place. Provides images, background information, and in some cases 3-D models.
  • Art History
  • Art Images
    • ImageBase
      A searchable database of over 82,000 works held at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The "advanced search" option allows for searching by combinations of artist, keyword, country, and period.
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York): Works of Art
      Use the search box to search for images or artworks, or browse by period and genre. The Metropolitan Museum's website contains over 6,500 images of artworks with descriptions and information about their creators, materials, and provenance.
    • Image Collections and Online Art
      Links to online image collections arranged by geographic area and genre as well as listings of more general collections. For additional art history links, visit the site's home page. From the University of Michigan.
    • Web Gallery of Art 1996-
      Over 12,000 images of European art from 1150 to 1800, browseable by artist. Includes a "dual window" mode for side-by-side comparison of images.
    • WorldImages
      California State University IMAGE Project
      WorldImages contains over 50,000 images, is global in coverage and includes all areas of visual imagery. Its images may be freely used for non-profit educational purposes. Use a variety of search techniques, or browse some 500 portfolios organized into subject groupings. (Description from home page.)
  • Museums
    • Museum Network 2000-2005
      Information about museums and for museum professionals.
Photo Credits (L to R)

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