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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Fine Arts

Fine Arts Sandbox


With thousands of years of source material spread out over the entire world, art historical research can seem intimidating if you're new to the field or simply unsure of where to begin.

So, if you don't know where to start, start here.

Art History Research Tools

The discipline of art history has developed specific tools for research. Here are examples of the types of resources you may wish to consult as you explore research in the field.

  • Art Encyclopedia

An art encyclopedia is made up of entries that provide an overview of a particular artist, art movement, artistic technique, or style and then point you to additional reading on that topic. This is an excellent place to get started with your exploration of a wide range of topics in art history including information on art movements, art styles, biographical information on artists, and information on artistic techniques and production in specific locations or time periods.

For example:

Macy, Laura William., Michael Clarke, and E. (Emmanuel) Bénézit. Oxford Art Online. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 2002.
  • Catalogue Raisonne

A catalogue raisonne, or "reasoned catalog" is a major scholarly work that traces an artist's career, documenting all authentic and documented works by that artist in detail. Entries contain all known information for a work, including a critical description and analysis of the work; the title, medium, and dimensions of the work; the current location; the ownership history; an exhibition, conservation, and publication history for the work; and a bibliography.

For example:

Bernstein, Roberta, Jasper Johns, Heidemarie Colsman-Freyberger, Caitlin Sweeney, Betsy Stepina Zinn, and Jasper Johns. Jasper Johns : Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture. First edition. New York: The Wildenstein Plattner Institute, 2017.

  • Collection Catalog

A collection catalog documents all of the artworks that have been compiled into a permanent collection by a collector or institution. Collection catalogs may contain individual entries that are as detailed as those in a catalogue raisonne, or may contain essays that discuss the artworks in terms of the scope or the themes of the collection.

For example:

Ades, Dawn, Margherita Andreotti, and Adam Jolles. Surrealist Art : The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1997.
  • Exhibition Catalog

An exhibition catalog describes a temporary exhibition of works in a gallery or museum. In addition to a checklist of the works on display, exhibition catalogs usually contain curatorial essays and extensive bibliographies. They may also include chronologies of the works, lists of the donors to the exhibition, technical information on how the works were created, and artist statements. Exhibition catalogs are usually lavishly illustrated. Exhibitions may cover only one artist's work, or may include the work of several artists; they may be based on a specific time period, medium, location, or theme.

For example:

Cecchi, Alessandro, and Andrea del Sarto. Andrea Del Sarto : The Renaissance Workshop in Action. Edited by Julian Brooks, D. (Denise) Allen, and Xavier F. Salomon. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015.
  • History

A history usually covers a particular artistic movement, a specific period, a specific type of artwork or technique, or the art of a civilization or region.

For example:

Taft, Maggie, Robert Cozzolino, Judith Russi Kirshner, and Erin Hogan. Art in Chicago : A History from the Fire to Now. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 2018.
  • Monograph

A monograph is a detailed scholarly work, usually by a single author, that covers a specialist theme in depth.

For example:

Garrard, Mary D. Artemisia Gentileschi and Feminism in Early Modern Europe. London: Reaktion Books, 2020.
  • Article

Articles are available in print or online serial publications, and may review an artist's work or exhibition, interview an artist, or present new scholarship on an artist or artistic movement.

For example:

Nochlin, Linda. “Edward Hopper and the Imagery of Alienation.” Art Journal (New York. 1960) 41, no. 2 (1981): 136-141.
  • Artist File

Artist files are compiled by art libraries and include ephemera on artists, including exhibition announcements, clipping files, gallery notices, photographs, and exhibit brochures. These are good sources for compiling an exhibition history of an artist, or for seeing how the artist described her own work over time. In Chicago there are significant collections of artist files at the following libraries:

Chicago Public Library Artist Files

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago


  • Archive

An archive consists of primary-source documents compiled by an individual or organization in the course of their work that have been organized into thematic groups to provide for access by researchers. Artists, art schools, and art organizations such as clubs, art fairs, galleries, and museums are entities that may have compiled archival records detailing their activities over time. Loyola University Chicago has two archival collections on campus that are available for research by advance appointment:

Loyola University Archives and Special Collections

Women and Leadership Archives


Where to Begin