Self-Guided Tutorial for Art Studies

Art is perhaps as old as humankind and accompanied human beings as they have evolved through time and many cultures.  The systematic study of art is less old and has developed particular characteristics that are useful to know before you embark on your project in art appreciation or, art history proper. This cursory introduction will help lay before you proven approaches to producing a better project, whether a paper or oral presentation.

Multifaceted and complex, art is within the humanities:


Depending on how art and aesthetics mingle with other areas of life and human activity, art can merge with other disciplines and bodies of knowledge.

Basic Hard Copy and Online Reference Resources:

It is always good to start with reference resources if you are uncertain about ideas, concepts, artists and their biographies, historical periods, etc.

Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks:


This is a fulltext all-purpose site with access to reproductions.

The Dictionary of Art, Vols. 1-34

Jane Turner, Ed. (New York : Grove, 1996). UGRL REF. Call No. 703 D561 1996.  Consult this masterwork as it includes thousands of entries devoted to all aspects of artistic life.  All cultures and periods, definitions, technical information, and biographies are here. Each entry is complete with a bibliography.

Dictionary of Art Historians

Sound selection for general art topics and definitions.

The Oxford Companion to Art

Harold Osborne, ed. (Oxford, Clarendon, 1970).  HSSE Ref. 703 Ox3.  This source is excellent for definitions and technical nomenclature.  Short biographies and entries devoted to periods and styles included.

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Art

Harold Osborne, ed. (Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1981).  This dictionary is excellent for 20th century coverage of various artists, schools, styles, and technical information.

Encyclopedia of world Art

(New York, McGraw-Hill [1959-c1983]) Call No. 703 En19 Local Storage HSSE.  While dated, this work is a very important guide to world art. Richly written with lengthy in-depth entries, it is complemented by many plates, drawings, and archaeological renditions.

Please note: There are many specialized art reference books that treat specific periods and cultures -- consult THOR or a librarian.

Searching for books with The Catalog at Purdue:

  1. Art books, or monographs, may treat a particular school, artist, or tradition. Often art books appear as specialized studies or can be surveys and general treatments of broader topics.  Sometimes they may be very theoretical and involve approaches, other than art appreciation and historical.
  2. If illustrations are needed, pursue those books that offer the most breadth, if you can not find a book entirely devoted to; i.e. Giotto, Picasso, or Frank Lloyd Wright.  General surveys are good for this purpose.
  3. If you require slide copies of materials, i.e. a periodical issue, please consult a reference librarian for loan privileges for such purposes.

Remember:  Consult a librarian for specific search strategies.  If you require books and materials not present at Purdue, West Lafayette Campus, please search WorldCat.  Here, you can search globally and then request materials through ILL (Interlibrary Loan).  You may do so electronically in The Catalog at ILL, or please call ILL at 42800.

Searching for Articles in Periodical Indexes:

Paper and Online indexes Available at Purdue:

Art Index 1984 - Present

Indexes journals covering articles in archaeology, architecture, fine arts, photography, and the decorative arts.  Additionally, advertising  & commercial art, industrial design, museum studies & museology are included.  International in scope, articles indexed are in English, Dutch, French, Italian, German, Spanish.  Art museum bulletins, art press periodicals, as well as archaeological reports, are indexed.  Since 1995, some articles are fulltext.

Art Index 1929-1984 In Serials Stacks, Call No. 016.7 Ar7

This hard copy index is the very same index as Art Index online.  It covers the very same fields and items as its counterpart only for the years 1929-1984.

ARTbibliographies Modern

This multi-language index concentrates on all aspects of art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Articles, museums catalogues and bulletins, commercial & industrial art, as well as the fine arts in all their richness are indexed here. International in scope it covers publications from 1974 to the present.  Dissertations are covered as well as art press publications and criticism in general.

BHA (Bibliography of the History of Art) Vols. 2-8, Call No. 016.7 B471

BHA covers publications primarily treating periods and styles from the ancient world to the present.  International and bi-lingual [French and English] this index provides coverage for periodical articles, museum bulletins and catalogs. Archaeological reports, monographs and dissertations are included. Among its special features is that it subsumes RILA (International Repertory of the Literature of Art) as well as RAA (Repertoire d'Art et d'Archeologie), useful for classical and near eastern archaeology.

Design and Applied Arts Index Vols. 1-14, Ref. Call No. 016.745405 D46

Design in all its varied forms is covered, including international design and interior design.  Industrial and commercial design are especially strong.   Both scholarly and professional and trade magazines are indexed from 1973 to the present

Often, your topic may cross different areas not always readily identified as being art.  Be creative and consult these very useful multidisciplinary databases:

Academic Search FullText Elite

This multidisciplinary database indexes popular magazines and scholarly journals.  Both abstracts and some full-text articles, as well as peer reviews options, are available.  Art journalism, reviews of galleries and museum exhibitions, and art criticism in general are well represented.  Newspapers and magazine entries are especially useful. Entries are indexed from 1900 to the present.

America: History and Life

This primary resource tool indexes journals articles, book reviews, and dissertations.  International in scope it concentrates on American culture and history, treating all periods and areas of specialization.  It is especially good for American art and any publication dealing with art in American studies within the broader framework of the cultures of the United States and Canada. Indexing begins 1964 to the present.  Use this database when searching for art topics that have a decided focus on larger than themes generally found in art journals.

Historical Abstracts

The primary resource for non U.S. history publications. It indexes journal articles, book, and dissertations in all specialties in historical studies.  Use this index when searching for artistic subjects dealing with larger issues, especially, cultural, intellectual, and social history. Strong in European history from 1450 to the present, it includes publications from 1973, and is multilingual, reflecting the many non U.S. journals indexed.

International Medieval Bibliography

Serials Stacks Call No.  016. 9401 In8. Articles and books, among other materials, are indexed in this multi-lingual (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, etc). resource from 1983 to the present.  International in scope, it covers all periods of medieval culture and civilization, and is especially strong for art and archaeology.  Many specialized journals make this a valuable and nearly comprehensive tool.

Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe

This is a multi-disciplinary database that includes many popular materials.  Newspapers and other press media make this perfect for art criticism and journalism.  Here, you will also find current legal studies that may have an impact on art and artists, i.e. free expression, censorship, etc.  Fulltext articles may be available depending on coverage.

MLA International  Bibliography

Indexing books, book chapters, and journal articles on internationallanguage and literatures, folklore and mythology are included.  Especially good for research that treats literary theory and art criticism as well as myriad approaches to the arts in general and creativity across genres.  Indexing from 1963 to the present, it offers cross-disciplinary materials useful to art historical theory and criticism. (This database will require you to log in with your Purdue ID)

PCI Periodicals Contents Index

This is an international multi-lingual index to articles in the humanities and the social sciences.  Useful for retrospective searching for those items hard to find otherwise, especially book reviews and older art criticism of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Entries are indexed from 1770 to 1993.

Philosophers Index

This database indexes and provides abstracts for books and articles in philosophy.  Aesthetics, and art theory and criticism are well represented here. Author, title, journal, and keyword(s) may be searched. International in scope, it includes both English and non-English philosophy literature for 1940 to the present.

Proquest Research Library

This general database indexes popular magazine, newspaper, and scholarly journals articles across many fields and subject areas.  Multidisciplinary in orientation, it covers education, humanities, multicultural studies, psychology and sociology, including women's studies.  A unique feature is peer reviewed titles searching.  Many articles are available full-text [some with images], that cover areas of the arts that may not be found elsewhere.  This is especially good for searching art journalism, reviews, gallery and museum exhibitions.


This database should be consulted when interested in social issues and art as they interact with each other.   Sociology of artis especially strong here as well as socioeconomic issues concerning art and artists in the wider context of society.  Such topics as artistic occupations, marketplace conditions, and visual communication are covered.  Entries are indexed from 1974 to the present. (This database will require you to log in with your Purdue ID)

Wilson's Reader's Guide

Indexes articles from 1983 to the present published in popular magazines and the general press in many subject interests. Art criticism in newspapers and general interest magazines and journals are regularly indexed here.  Especially strong is coverage of museum and  gallery showings and  reportage.

Women's Resources International

This international index covers many diverse aspects of feminist scholarship and general feminist press from 1972 to the present.  Here you can find both popular and scholarly articles and reviews.  This index is very good for art criticism and studies not generally found in art sources.

Examples of Database Searches:

Remember:  always search Art Index 1989 and Art Index 1929 -1984 as part of your search, then search other databases and indexes:


Internet Resources:

These internet based sites cover many areas of interest relevant to art studies, including, interdisciplinary approaches.  Among these areas are libraries and museums offering their own resources that may cover professional organizations, slide collections, including digitization projects and imaging resources, as well as electronic journals with fulltext capability.

Representative and General Internet Sites for Art:

Art History: A Guide to Internet Resources

An excellent comprehensive source for internet resources.

Art History Resources on the Web

This global site offers a rational approach to art resources via world cultural traditions, periods, and style. It is beneficial for those in need of the rich introduction to internet art resources.

Art Links on the World Wide Web

This is a good for a global entrée to a very large listing of sites devoted to many areas of artistic heritage.

Art Source

An all-purpose site that lists useful resources in art in general and architecture, museums, professional and scholarly organizations.

Getty Research Institute for the History of Art & the Humanities

This official site is a portal to the research databases and programs sponsored under the aegis the J. Paul Getty Trust. It offers some fulltext project information as well as image databases.  Links to other research information is available.

History of Art Virtual Library

A strong and comprehensive site devoted to art history in all its variety.  Professional and scholarly information linking academic programming and other services and offerings is useful.

World Wide Art Resources

This all-purpose site offers links to organizations that provide art information.  International in scope, galleries, museums, and other art institutions are listed with their diverse offerings.

When you are ready to start you research for art history or art appreciation, you should find more than enough sources for your project.  Remember:  if you cannot find what you need to undertake your research, please consult a librarian.

Web site maintained by : P.Whalen & K.Schurr- Content provided by:Jean-Pierre V.M. Hérubel - Questions: