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Art History Research Resources: Finding Books

Using the Online Catalog


The library has almost 2 million books, e-books, microtexts, films and government documents.  The online catalog is the best way to locate the resources you need.

To make sure you are searching just the library catalog (books, ebooks, dvds, streaming video) select the option for "library catalog" rather than "everything."  "Everything" will include article results from our many journal databases.

Basic Search

Use the basic search screen when you have a simple search, such as the name of an artist (rembrandt) or a topic (renaissance architecture).  You can use the options on the left side of the results screen to narrow by availability (in library or online) or content type (books or videos).

Advanced Search

Use the advanced search screen when you have a more complex search, or when there are multiple search terms for what you are looking for.  If you were looking for information on Impressionist painting in France, you could use the following terms:

impressionist AND painting AND france


impression* AND paint* AND (france OR french)

With the first search you will get about 67 results.  For the second search you will get about 330 results.  If you shorten your search terms and add an "*" as well as combine variations, you will increase the number of results you get back.  Rather than just searching for "painting," if you search for "paint*" you would also get "paint," "paints," "painter," "painters," "paintings" and "painted."  In the last box, because "France" and "French" are variations and you want either term in your results, you can place an "OR" in between them, which indicates that either term is acceptable.

Art Books

In addition to biographical books on artists or books (monographs) discussing a particular time period or location, there are several types of books that are unique to doing research on an artist or art history topic.

Catalogue Raisonne- A catalogue raisonne is the collected works of an individual artist.  They will usually include introductory essays on the artist and their historical context, as well as bibliographies and lists of major museum collections.  Catalogues raisonne will also include reproductions of each work created by the artist, usually in chronological order, including the provenance and physical descriptions of the work.  Some examples include Piet Mondrian: Catalogue Raisonne (N6953.M64 A4 1998) and The Andy Warhol Catalogue RaisonneĢ (N6537 W28 A47 2002).

Exhibition Catalog- An exhibition catalog accompanies an exhibition on a particular artist or theme.  Exhibitions often bring together important works from various collections, and the catalog is a way to highlight those works as well as include essays on the artist(s) involved or the theme around which the exhibition is designed.  Examples include Drawing in Renaissance and Baroque Siena: 16th- and 17th-Century Drawings from Sienese Collections (NC256.S5 C53 2002) and Art and Faith in Mexico: The Nineteenth-Century Retablo Tradition (ND1432.M45 A78 2001).

Museum Catalog- Museum catalogs list every item held by a particular museum, either the entire collection or specific parts (16th century Italian paintings or 20th century photography).  If you know which museum owns the work you are looking for, to find basic information the best place to start is the museum catalog.  Examples include Tate Modern: The Handbook (N6488.G7 L678 2016) and Still Life: The Object in American Art, 1915-1995: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (ND1392.6 .M48 1996).

Art History Call Numbers

Most art materials have N call numbers and are shelved on Reynolds 6.  The N section is divided by medium:

  • N- Visual Arts
  • NA- Architecture
  • NB- Sculpture
  • NC- Drawing, Design, Illustrations
  • ND- Painting
  • NE- Print Media
  • NK- Decorative Arts
  • NX- Arts in General

These broad categories are broken down further by time period, geographic area, artistic movement, subject or artist:

  • ND615- Painting-Italian Renaissance
  • ND553 M37- Matisse, Henri
  • N6465 I4- Impressionism
  • NK1700-2138- House Decoration, General, Special Rooms
  • NA190-1555.5- Architecture, History
  • NX440-632- History of the Arts

There are several other call number areas that might be useful for doing research in the arts:

  • TR- Photography
  • PN1560-3300- Performing Arts, Drama, Theatre, Film
  • ML- Music History and Criticism
  • GV1580-1799.4- Dance