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Visual Arts: Artist Research

Artist Research

Researching an artist's life and work can be challenging. This page aims to make things easier, with some general guidelines and tips for completing your research assignment.

Any questions regarding the specific details of your assignment should be taken to your professor. 

Selecting an artist

You may have been asked to select an artist from a list, or to find an artist on your own. Either way, pick someone you have a specific interest in, in terms of their artwork, their impact, their medium, their biography, or another related theme. Then do a little preliminary research before you settle on that artist, to make sure they are the one you want to continue to study. 

A quick Google search can get you some basic information. You can also try using the library: 

  • search the online catalog 
  • browse fine arts books in the library by call numbers starting with:
    • NA = architecture
    • NB = sculpture
    • NC = drawing, design, illustration
    • ND = painting
    • NE = print media
    • NK = decorative arts
    • TR = photography

Image Search Tools

  • CC Search: Search for free content in the public domain and under Creative Commons licenses. Learn more about CC licenses here.
  • Some major institutions provide free access to images of works in the public domain, for non-commercial use: 

Contact Us

Circulation Desk: (312) 553-5760
Reference Desk: (312) 553-5784


Getting started

Once you've decided on the artist you're going to research, make a plan. For general information: 

  • search the library's online catalog by:
    • artist's name, title of work or body of works, etc.
    • keywords: brainstorm words that are related to your artist (medium, technique, style, etc.) Learn more about developing keywords here
    • link keywords using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to refine your search. Learn more about using Boolean operators here
  • find out if the artist has a professional website
  • visit galleries and/or museums (and their websites) where the artist has shown their work
  • visit Wikipedia, blogs, etc., but beware! These can be unreliable; test the reliability by looking at the quality of a site, the author(s)/publisher of the information on the site, the last time the site was updated, if there are references listed, and/or if the information checks out with other sources. Wikipedia is NOT an acceptable resource for your assignment. Learn more about evaluating sources here

Self-portrait by Judith Leyster - AAHGrS6cvWhysw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

Further research

File:Vincent van Gogh - Self-Portrait - Google Art Project (454045).jpgTo find more information: 

Citing your source(s)

Image result for fair use logoImage result for creative commonsImage result for copyright imagesAlways cite your sources!