Art History

    Reference and Introductory Materials:

    Use these to get an overview of your topic or to find definitions of key terms and concepts:



    Sources of Information

    Scholarly Journals Trade Publications / Magazines
    Each article is peer-reviewed (critically evaluated by a board of experts in the discipline) before publication  Articles are not peer-reviewed

    Published usually 2-4 times a year

    Typically published monthly

    Every article contains cited references: footnotes or bibliographies, reference lists or works cited. Articles typically do not contain cited references.
    Articles are written by scholars in a particular discipline who have done extensive research in their field. The language of the article is geared towards other scholars in the same field. Articles are written by staff writers and others in the field for members of galleries, professional artists buyers, amateur or professional artists and the general public.
    Articles are usually structured and may include sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results and conclusion. Articles do not usually follow a particular structure.

    May contain criticism and exhibition reviews (not peer-reviewed)

    May contain criticism and exhibition reviews (not peer-reviewed)




    The following are some basic search tips that can be used in Omni and most academic databases when searching in Art History. Unlike in Google and in other search engines, you will not get satisfactory results if you type an entire sentence, such as "Jean-Paul Riopelle art pieces". You need to first search for the particular artist and/or piece of art and then move to a larger search by looking at the particular art movement, the time-period, the geography, etc.

    Step 1: Identify keywords

    • Start by searching for your artist or piece of art in Oxford Art Online or Oxford Reference: Art and Architecture. If you can't find the artist or piece of art, look for the art movement, time-period, etc.
    • Find synonyms for your keywords as well as their equivalent in different languages. Certain art pieces can be found in multiple languages. The following are some resources to help you find synonyms:​
      • Termium Plus: One of the largest terminology and linguistic data banks in the world, gives you access to millions of terms in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. You can find terms, abbreviations, definitions and usage examples in a wide range of specialized fields.
      • Thesaurus: World’s largest and most trusted free online thesaurus brought to you by
      • GraphWords: Online thesaurus that helps users find the meanings of words and show connections among associated words.
      • Visuwords: A modern dictionary for a modern world. Visuwords represents language visually.

    Step 2: Use special characters & boolean operators

    Special characters (asterisk*, quotation marks) and boolean operators (AND, OR) to limit or expand your search. Boolean operators should be capitalized when used in searching databases. 

    • Use AND to combine and limit your results (Riopelle AND Automatistes)
    • Use OR when using synonyms and want to expand your results (ie. Riopelle OR Automatistes)
    • Use asterisk* to search for all variations of the word (ie. surrealis*)
    • Use the quotation marks to search for phrases (ie. "jean-paul riopelle")

    Step 3: Search Tips

    1. Start your search using the recommended databases.
    2. Use the Advanced search when possible
    3. Use the special characters and boolean operators to formulate your search. 
    4. Use the filter tools on the left (time-period, language, type of resource, etc.)
    5. Once you find a resource:
      1. Explore the controlled vocabulary (ie. subjects. These are typically clickable)
      2. Explore the citations
    6. Obtain additional keywords for your search statement.
    7. Repeat steps 1-6.

    General Databases

    • Omni: The search box on the library home page searches most of Carleton's databases. More detailed information on searching in Omni
    • JSTOR: Provides access to the complete archives of major journals in a variety of subjects.
    • Google Scholar: Google Scholar allows you to search broadly in the academic literature. 
    • Web of Science and Scopus: Multidisciplinary databases

    Art History Databases

    Artbibliographies Modern
    Materials contained within Artbibliographies include: journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews. Premier source of information on modern and contemporary arts dating from the late 19th century onwards, and including photography.

    Art Full Text
    Coverage includes art design, folk art, industrial design, interior design, museum management, pottery, textiles, and motion pictures, television, and video.

    Art & Architecture Complete
    Art & Architecture Complete provides cover-to-cover indexing and abstracts for academic journals, magazines, trade publications and books. In addition, the database provides full-text coverage of many of the journals and books and includes a large image collection.

    Art Index Retrospective
    Provides citations for Art Index from 1929-1984. Covers English-language periodicals, yearbooks, and museum bulletins, as well as periodicals published in other European languages.

    International Bibliography of Art
    Coverage includes European art from late antiquity to the present; American art from the colonial era to the present; global art since 1945; Visual arts in all media; decorative and applied arts; museum studies and conservation; archaeology and classical studies; antiques and architectural history; and related fields.

    Design and Applied Arts Index
    An index of articles on design and craftworks. Indexes over 500 core design and craft journals.  Also includes information on over 50,000 designers, craftspeople, studios, workshops and commercial firms.

    BHA and RILA
    The database includes both BHA (covering 1990-2007) and the International Bibliography of Art (IBA), covering the years 2008 and part of 2009.


      The library subscribes to multiple film streaming services.


      Image Find Guide
      This guide explores different types of image sources, explains how to search more effectively for visual materials, provides resources for Creative Commons and public domain images, offers information on copyright and fair dealing, and provides examples of image citations by style.

      A digital library of art images. Includes approximately 500,000 images covering art, architecture and archeology.  ARTstor's software tools support a wide range of pedagogical and research uses including: viewing and analyzing images through features such as zooming and panning, saving groups of images online for personal or shared uses, and creating and delivering presentations both online and offline.

      The Archivision Library
      Archivision Digital Research Library is a collection of many thousands of high quality images. It spans the globe and all time periods, and is intended to be a diverse, rich and extensive image resource for students and faculty in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, archaeology, art and art history.

      Index of Christian Art
      Based on The index of Christian art, a thematic and iconographic index of early Christian and medieval art objects to 1400. The database consists of bibliographic records with links to images that have been added since 1991 as well as about 1/3 of the old paper files. Only those images labelled "Public Images" may be viewed. You will not be able to view "Restricted Images".

      Art and Architecture Complete
      This database has a large image collection. Use the search facets to limit your search to images.

      Google Arts and Culture
      Contains high resolution artwork and collections from around the world. Also includes tours of institutions and cultural locations. 

      Oxford Art Online
      The collective resource of Grove Art Online and other Oxford databases with links to images from the articles.

      Smithsonian Collections Search Center: Digital Collections
      Over 568,000 images, video and audio available from across the Smithsonian's vast collections.

      World Digital Library
      Includes maps, films, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.

      Digital Bodleian Library
      Contains archival images, maps, rare books, music collections.

      Citation Guide

      Bibliographic and Citation Management Tools

      The library provides support for Mendely, Zotero, and Endnote Basic. Check out the citation management page for details, downloads, and workshops.

      Writing Resources

      A Short Guide to Writing About Art

      Writing About Art

      Writing About Visual Art

      Content last reviewed: January 29, 2021