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Art History From 1700 to the Present


Research Sources/Tips/Process | Images | Full Text | Request Articles/Books | Writing/Citing


Research Sources, Tips and the Process

Research on your topic to answer an analytical question (why and how) instead of a mere fact-finding question (what, who, when, etc.).

I. Start with a Work of Art, an Artist, etc.

II. Relate Your Work of Art/Artist to Their Stylistic Types

III. Explore the Art-Critical Debates Surrounding Your Topic

IV. Situate Your Paper within the Current Scholarship

I. Start with an artwork, an artist, an event, or a case study –- “a tangible and specific topic”

Examine the fracture of the artwork (how it was made) and its provenance (who owned it through time).

Note: current artists are likely to be viewed and heard on the Web. Abramovic's videos through learned societies and organizations such as MOMA on the internet is a good example.

Look up the bibliographies in the sources.

Search further on those authors and/or in those journals for more current scholarship when relevant.


Search Library Catalogs for Books book:

          Tufts Libraries Catalog

          WorldCat (beyond Tufts)

Searching the Catalogs/databases is like learning a second language, but there are only six basic rules.

1. Quotation marks around a phrase.
2. Last Name, First Name in subject browse;

There would likely be more books on better established artists.

For example, on the artist, Eva Hesse.


"Eva Hesse" (keyword search)


Hesse Eva (subject browse)



Among the search results, there are biographies, criticism and interpretation,
primary sources (artist's own writing and interviews), exhibition catalogs and
catalogue raisonné: book

Exhibition and museum catalogues are uniquely valuable sources, which include:

*Fundamental data on each work of art;

*Official images of the artworks;

*Curatorial statements/essays;

*essays by art critics/historians;

*list of scholarly publications on the art,

*sometimes, artists’ interviews,

*and more.


Catalogue raisonné presents the complete works of an artist, often accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography.

Two samples:

Eva Hesse: Sculpture. / Elisabeth Sussman and Fred Wasserman; with essays by Yve-Alain Bois, Mark Godfrey.

Eva Hesse: Catalogue Raisonné. / edited by Renate Petzinger and Barry Rosen.


II. Relate your artist/artwork to their Stylistic Type – the art historical significance of your artwork

In a stylistic analysis, focus on how the work of art reflects or affects the time in which they were made. How does it fit in with the larger historical trends and forces in the culture that influenced the development of art.

For some current artists, there may not be much scholarship on their works yet, but there are surely scholarship on the same types of works. (The question to ask might be, "Your artist are shown together what other artists?")

Library Catalogs/databases Searching Rule 3:

   Follow the Subject Headings  in your initial findings:


Eva Hesse / edited by Mignon Nixon; essays and interviews by Cindy Nemser ... [et al.].


Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c2002.


Hesse, Eva, 1936-1970 -- Criticism and interpretation.

Minimal art -- United States.

More Overviews:

The Contemporary Art Themes and Movements Series:
    Art and Electronic Media
    Art and Feminism
    The Artist's Body
    Conceptual Art
    Land and Environmental Art
    Minimal ism
    The Contemporary Artists Series

The Contemporary Artists and Their Critics Series


Subject Headings in a catalog/database are important clues, which lead to broader/related contexts.

Follow the Subject Heading here to explore the stylistic context of Hesse's artwork:

Minimal art -- United States.


[Take advantage of this rule; search, in the catalog/databases, for the authors/titles you have encountered in your course readings and explore the subject headings for further clues on a potential topic interesting to you.]


More stylistic history searches:

Abstract Expressionism

Conceptual Art

Earthworks (Art)

Environment (Art)

Installations (Art)

Modernism (Art)

Performance art

Photography, Artistic.

Video art.

the Broader Art Historical Context:  

Art, Modern -- 20th century.

Art, Modern -- 21st century


III. Explore Art-critical debates surrounding the artwork, the artist, the type of art:

Focus on the Artwork from Particular Perspectives

e.g. the issues of gender/sexuality in regarding Eva Hesse's "Right After"

You need to use WorldCat when you don't find books in the Tufts collections.

Catalog/database Searching  Rules 4, 5 and 6: 

   4. AND in between keywords and phrases;
   5. sex* searches for sex, sex tu al, sexuality, etc.
   6. "or" and ( ) nest related/varied expressions.


A search in WorldCat, for example:

"Eva Hesse" and (gender* or sex*)


Sample Findings:

More Than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the '70's: Lynda Benglis ... [et al.] / Susan L Stoops.

Three Artists (Three Women): Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe / Anne Middleton Wagner

From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women's Art. / Lucy R. Lippard. Tisch Oversize: NX180.F4 L56 1976


IV. Situate Your Paper within a Critical Discourse -- Current Scholarship in the Field

Search Subject Databases: 

ARTbibliographies Modern (1960's - present)

Art Full Text   (1984 - present)

Art Index Retrospective (1929 - 1984)

Academic OneFile (All subjects)

Arts & Humanities Citation Index

JSTOR and Project Muse

Related Subject Databases:

Film & Television Literature Index

Communication & Mass Media Complete

Women's Studies


Read scholarly articles to discover:

*What are the primary themes/central debates on your work of art/topic?

*What are the dominant assumptions?

*What evidence are examined; what are left out or less emphasized?

*Are the analysis done from a particular perspective, multiple perspectives?

e.g. How is your work of art discussed in relation to issues about gender, class, artistic creation, culture, or politics associated with that time?

There are many possible "right answers" to an analytical question, which leads to discussions and debates. You can develop your own argument or your position on why one argument is more reasonable/logical than another.

Your specific artwork may not be directly addressed in articles. Broaden your search to look at the artist and her/his body of work as a whole to provide context for your own analysis, e.g.

"Eva Hesse" and (gender* or sex*)


Two sample findings:

Chave, Anna C. "Sculpture, Gender, and the Value of Labor." American Art 24, no. 1 (2010): 26-30.


Whitney, Kathleen. "Eva Redux Or what do we Owe Eva Hesse? some Thoughts on Legacy and Influence." Sculpture 21, no. 10 (2002): 30-5.


A. Search for Review Articles:

Review of books and other types of review articles in some major journals in a discipline summarize current state of research on a topic. Here are some samples:

A review of books

Dene Grigar. "Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation (review)." Leonardo 41.3 (2008): 294-295.

Review articles

Smith, Terry. "The State of Art History: Contemporary Art." Art Bulletin (U.S.A.) 92.4 (2010): 366 - 383.


Nickel, Douglas R. "History of Photography: the State of Research" Art Bulletin (U.S.A.) 83.3 (2001): 548-58.


B. More Articles like this "perfect" one


Search, in Arts and Humanities Citation Index, for the article you have read.


1. Not every single article is cited;
2. More recent publications take time to be cited.

For example:

Kwon, Miwon. "The Wrong Place (Performance art, space, locale)." Art Journal (U.S.A.) 59: 1 (2000), 33-43.
References: 11 Times Cited: 2

You can, then, look up, in the record, the 11 references that Kwon cited for her article and, in turn, 2 articles (so far) that cited hers. The assumption is that these articles address related issues.


C. Exhibition Reviews in Popular Press

     Search Newspapers and Popular Magazines: 


LexisNexis Academic


Factiva (more international coverage)


Boston Globe (1872-1979)

New York Times Online Archive
(1851 - 3 years before current date)


Times Digital Archive  (1785 - 1985)


Art Index Retrospective   (1929- 1982)


Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890-1982)


American Periodicals (1740 - 1940) British Humanities Index (1962- )
British Periodicals (1680s - 1930s)

As we discussed earlier, for some current artists, there may not be much scholarship on their works yet. You are more likely to find exhibition reviews in popular press and trade publications.

Exhibition reviews in popular press are likely opinion pieces. Ask yourself if these reviews are seeking to promote the artist, to criticize him/her, to judge his/her work, or simply to inform. Have the reviews changed over time? Why? How would you use these "public receptions" with other scholarly criticism?

Two sample reviews:

Tuchman, Phyllis. "Review: Rothko Rising." Art Journal 58, no. 1 (Spring, 1999): pp. 110-112.

Johnson, Ken. "ART IN REVIEW; Mark Rothko -- 'A Painter's Progress : The Year 1949'." The New York Times, February 6, 2004, sec. E; Part 2; Leisure/Weekend Desk.

Source of the two samples: Barnet, Sylvan, A Short Guide to Writing About Art (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011), p169.


D. Popular Press as Primary Sources

If you are examining the public/popular reception (vs critical responses) of an artist throughout time, popular press are your primary sources.



Appendix I. Finding Full Texts

Request Articles/Books

Set up for your ILliad account

Use ILLiad, our Interlibrary Loan Service, to request articles, books and other materials that are not available at Tufts.

1. Click on the findIt@tufts button button in your search results screen to a window of three sequential options:

a. link to the digital full text when available;

b. link to a Library Catalog search for the print journal;

c. link to ILliad for requesting the article when the above two options are negative.

2. Search for a journal directly here:

a. Tufts Library Catalog (including e-journals)

b. Electronic journals list

c. Use ILliad to request your article, if Tufts does not have your journal.

Appendix II. Digital Images

Print Images

Books and journals with color plates, photographs, and other visuals are excellent sources; these illustrations are usually done professionally and/or are commissioned works serving as the official records of the images.

Search the Catalog for Books with Images

           Interactive art -- Exhibitions

          Installations (Art) -- Exhibitions

          Photography, Artistic -- Exhibitions


Oxford Art Online (Tufts subscription)

Art Museums

New York Public Library Picture Collection

New York Public Library Web Gallery of Images

Appendix III. Writing and Citing Sources

Writing about Art & Art History (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)



Chicago Style Manual (for citing sources)