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Art History

This guide will help you in your research and writing for Art History. You will find databases, journals, books, where to find images, cite images and approved Web links.

Researching Art & Artists

Here you will find resources to help you research art and artists.  Researching art is often known as provenance research, which means "to come from."  This is the history of ownership of the artwork.  Provenance research will provide insight on the historical, social, and economic conditions at the time the artwork was created and how it changed hands throughout history  Completing this type of research will include a record of owners’ names; dates of ownership, and means of transference, or sale through a dealer or auction; and locations where the work was kept, from the time of its creation until the present day. 

Provenance Research:

Catalogues raisonnés are catalogs of artists known works.  They will help you with the provenance and attribution of artworks. The International Foundation for Art Research provides two databases ( published catalogues raisonnés and catalogues in preparation).  You will want to search for artists by searching 'last name, first name.'

Getty Provenance Index - currently contains more than 2.3 million records taken from source material such as archival inventories, auction catalogs, and dealer stock books.

Getty Union List of Artists Names - Learn about the purpose, scope and structure of the ULAN. The ULAN is an evolving vocabulary, growing and changing thanks to contributions from Getty projects and other institutions.

Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online - The AAT is an evolving vocabulary, growing and changing thanks to contributions from Getty projects and other institutions.

Getty Vocabularies - The Getty Vocabularies contain structured terminology for art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, visual surrogates, art conservation, and bibliographic materials.

Getty Publications - More than 300 of our books to read and download for free

Archive Finder - Archive Finder is a current directory which describes over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

ArchiveGrid - ArchiveGrid includes over 7 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,400 archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

The Met Archives - The primary mission of the Watson Library Digitization Initiative is to expand access to the Museum's rare and unique research materials by developing, supporting, and promoting a distinctive digital collection of these items. 

MOMA Archives - The Museum of Modern Art Archives is an internationally recognized research center for modern and contemporary art. The Archives collects, preserves, and makes accessible nearly 90 years’ worth of the Museum’s historical records, 40 years’ worth of MoMA PS1 records, and other primary source documents concerning art and cultural history in the 20th and 21st centuries, including private archives and papers of artists, galleries, dealers, art historians, critics, and others. The holdings also include an extensive Photographic Archive and interviews conducted as part of the Archives Oral History Program. 

Smithsonian: Archives of American Art - The Archives of American Art is the world’s preeminent and most widely used research center dedicated to collecting, preserving, and providing access to primary sources that document the history of the visual arts in America.


Newspapers - MSU subscribes to several newspaper databases.  You will want to look for articles about artists and their works.  Also, try to access local papers for the artist.


Auction Records:

Look at Auction Records for the sale of artwork.  These online sites provide some information without a subscription.

  • ArtNet - Access over 12 million past auction results with prices, images, detailed descriptions, and more.
  • ArtPrice - Search 781,500 artists and 14,910,100 auction prices, 993,100 artworks listed for the past 12 months, from 6,400 auction houses around the world
  • askART - A world leading resource for art pricing, international art auction records, artist signatures, alert notifications and much more.
  • Invaluable - Invaluable is the world’s leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles. We partner with over 5,000 of the world’s premier auction houses to make it easy for collectors from around the world to discover and acquire the items they are most passionate about all in one place.