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Visual Arts

Art Research

Art historical literature examines artists, artistic styles and movements, artistic practices, individual works of art, physical components of artworks and much more, and it also includes visual analysis and criticism. This interdisciplinary field uses theories and methodologies of its own, but often incorporates many other forms of analysis and criticism, such as feminism, gender studies, and political philosophies, to name just a few.

Keep in mind that research on individual artists or their works of art, and even contemporary art is included under the "art history" heading! 

When researching in art history you will encounter a number of types of specialized art historical literature (see below). Bibliographies from any of these types of works can provide additional valuable resources.

  • Archival materials may include correspondence, invoices, postcards, posters, and more (these are not limited to art historical use)
  • Artists books are works of art, and as such are primary resources, along with other original works of art
  • Catalogues raisonnés generally contain an artist's entire œuvre (a collection of all of their works) and include in-depth research and analysis
  • Collection catalogs contain information on some or all of the works in a particular museum or collection; they tend to be broader in scope, but are often comparable to exhibition catalogs in terms of format
  • Collections of essays and interviews by multiple authors are focused around a subject or theme
  • Essays and articles compare to the other types of literature listed here, but are generally shorter in length and are published in periodicals or scholarly journals
  • Exhibition catalogs are publications related to an exhibition of art, whether of a single artist's work, or on a theme or subject; their contents may vary, ranging from a list of works to being comparable to a monograph
  • Festschrifts (from German: "festival or celebration" + "something written") are collections of essays celebrating a particular honored individual, most typically a scholar
  • Monographs are in-depth, thoroughly researched texts on a particular subject

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