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Research in the Art LIbrary

A guide to arts-related resources and digital image collections for use in research and writing

Books live on for art historians!

Art books and art historical texts are becoming increasingly available in e-Reader and digital formats; however, for now, the printed book remains very important to art research. The reason is because of image quality.  Please Note:  the best image quality is always found in the original image.

Exhibition catalogs also constitute an important part of the Art Library's collections.  These catalogs focus on particular exhibitions, and depending on the theme and scope, may include artists from various areas and time periods.  You will find biographical information about artists, as well as images and scholarly essays on aspects of the exhibition.  If you are writing about a particular artist, look for exhibition catalogs of a retrospective exhibition of that artist's work.

When looking for catalogs ARTbibliographies Modern is a great tool for finding English and foreign-language exhibition catalogs and reviews of exhibitions.


Art Catalogs

CatalogsBecause art history is concerned with works of art as physical objects, art historians have found the information about individual works in art catalogues useful. The fullness of information and scholarly apparatus provided in modern catalogues, as described below, is a recent development that roughly parallels the growth of art history as a scholarly discipline.

Gallery Catalog: often the first type of catalog published for the work of an individual artist or group of artists.  These are usually pamphlets that include an artist's statement, a listing of works for sale, and pricing.  For contemporary artists at the beginning of the beginning of their career or very local artists this type of publication may be one of the few sources of information.  Search strategies include: su:[artist's name] kw:[gallery name].

Exhibition Catalogs: a type of catalog which lists a curated collection of art objects with a particular thesis in mind.  Exhibitions can be subject oriented or individual author oriented.  These are searchable in bibliographic catalogs as a genre of publication, e.g., ge:exhibition catalogs. Exhibited artists often are concurrently alive and may be at any point in their career. A sub-genre of these catalogs is the retrospective, an exhibition of works from a selected period of time. To find artist retrospectives search by artist's name, genre and keyword, e.g., su:Andy Warhol ge:exhibition catalogs kw:restrospective

Catalogue Raisonnésa type of a catalog is a "collected works" of an individual artist, studio, or school along with the location of the original and its important art historical scholarship.  Only major art figures will have a sufficient body of work and study to occasion such a catalog. Most often these are published posthumously. Like exhibition catalogs, these are searchable in bibliographic catalogs, e.g., su:Andy Warhol ge:catalogues raissones

Collection Catalogsthe world's major museums have published catalogs of at least part of their collections.  These are often organized by subject, e.g., Early Netherlandish Painting by John Oliver Handand Martha Wolff. Use this search strategy to find in our library catalog: su:[museum name] ge:catalogs.  Like library catalogs, museums have also been providing access to their collection via their websites. 

Search Tips and Subject Headings

Search Worldcat UM for books on art and artists.  When searching an artist's name, correct spelling is important. If you are unsure of the spelling, check one of the biographical dictionaries listed under the Reference Shelf tab. In subject searching, try using the following sample terms, inserting words relevant to your topic. 


Sample subject search terms:  
su:abstract painting  
su:illuminated manuscripts
su:installation art
su:Stieglitz su:photography
su:Baroque su:sculpture su:Italian
su:japanese art su:exhibitions
su:[artist's name] ge:exhibition catalogs
Sample Artistic Movements search terms:
su:Modernism (Art)
su:Arts and crafts movement su:history


More information on searching techniques 

Bibliographic Catalog

A bibliographic catalog is a database to library resources and collections.  To access the UM Libraries' collections, begin your search in the online catalog.  You can search by title, author, subject keywords, or call number.