AMD 121: Pre-20th Century Art History

Getting Started

Getting Started


Research Help is still available during remote instruction!

Email or chat your subject librarian using the contact information on the right of this page. We can provide remote research assistance via Zoom (which allows for screensharing), chat, email, and phone.  

Art Research Prior to the 20th Century

The sections of this course guide will help you locate the required scholarly sources for your choice of research paper.

1) A thorough analysis of a work of art from a museum collection


2) An investigation of an art history issue from the list of topics for this class.

Review the introductory information found at the Articles and Databases link to the left. These guidelines will help you identify the type of material you must use. In art, there is a great deal of opinion that is not sufficiently scholarly to meet scholarly standards, so knowing what to look for will keep  sub-standard resources out of your paper.

Resources are not limited to the CSUSM collection. We can get books from nearby libraries for you (see the Circuit link for information) or Interlibrary Loan all at no cost!

Keep in mind that there may be little to no in-depth research available on the museum piece you choose analyze. Often, your best bet for information about a piece belonging to a museum collection is the museum itself. Many museums have research collections that are open to the public (usually by appointment), or a helpful librarian that can help you track down information. Contact your Arts and Humanities Librarian for assistance if you have trouble accessing these resources.

Art History research is disseminated in many different languages -- sometimes the major research about the work or artist you are interested in is only written about in a language you don't happen to speak! Again, your Arts and Humanities Librarian may be able to help.

Helpful information on using Google Scholar and Google Books is also available. These are places to look AFTER you have used the books and articles CSUSM makes available to you as much of the content found in these two resources will not be full text.

For background information on your historical period, the library has both electronic and print resources. Here are some examples:

The Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture
5th Floor N5610 .G76 2007

The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art
5th Floor N8510 .G76 2008

The Dictionary of Art (also published by Grove)
Library Reference N31 .D5 1996

Historical Dictionary of Neoclassical Art and Architecture (online access for CSUSM users)

Many more helpful titles can be found by searching our catalog using the words ART ENCYCLOPEDIA (or DICTIONARY, the terms may be used interchangeably by some publishers) or your particular art period as a search term.

Available on the web:

Timeline of Art History
A site provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art using images from their vast collections. 

Librarians are available to assist you in person or virtually.

Books & Catalog

Books & Catalog

Art History Books

To assist you in your analysis of a work of art or investigation of an art history issue, books are a good place to start. WHY?

  • A university's collection is hand-picked by subject experts (librarians and faculty) to provide you with the best information.
  • Whether a book is scholarly or not is easily determined from the book's details, where articles and web pages can be more difficult.
  • There are fewer books than articles or webpages, so you have less to look through to find something useful.
  • You don't have to read the entire book! Looking in the index or table of contents will show you what part of the book is useful.
  • Scholarly books have great bibliographies to lead to you related and relevant materials.
  • Much of our collection is in e-book format so accessible from anywhere you can log in.

How to search the catalog--make sure you are on the BOOKS search tab.

Searching a work of art

Searching an art history-related topic


Articles & Databases

Articles & Databases

Art History Articles

After searching books, you will want to look for scholarly articles. There are differences between the two types of materials. Books will deal in depth with a topic or artist, where articles are much more narrow in focus. Also, because of their publication strategies, there are a LOT more articles to wade through in a result set than a book search. Just saying!

CSUSM offers you several ways to get to articles.

  • Specific databases--you need to know which ones to search and here is a list to start:
    • Art Full Text (the name says it all, but there will be a mix of scholarly and popular materials)

    • JSTOR (scholarly, full text general database)

    • Project Muse (scholarly, full text, general database)

    • ProQuest - Arts (much of this is popular press, rather than scholarly, but still has useful content)

    • Historical Abstracts (for the history topics research, rather than specific art work)
  • Articles+ Search--this searches a number of databases, but can bring back a lot of unrelated materials to look through.
  • Discovery Search--searches our books, videos and articles in one search. Problem is there will be even more that won't be relevant to your needs to look through.

Here is an example of a search in Art Full Text database:

Tip: There are a lot of ways to do searches, this is a basic set of steps. See your librarian for more.

Online Collections

Online Collections

Art Collections Online

Before download or use, check for any copyright or usage restrictions. Most images are provided with the intent of limited educational and scholarly use, but that does not mean they can be reproduced for widespread use or in products intended for sale.
If you are using the image for a class activity or assignment, consult the Visual Resources Association's Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research and Study to see what kinds of uses are advisable.  See especially Principle #4.
Resources for reading and links to previous conferences on copyright are available from the University of Oregon at Christine L. Sundt's Copyright & Art Issues.
Check the website of the museum or gallery that owns the work you wish to research. Basic information about the work, the artist, and possibly its provenance will be available through the owning institution, with more in-depth research and documentation available in their research collections (if they have any).
Some Selected Collections:

National Gallery of Art
Located in Washington, DC, this is the art gallery for the nation, but collects much more than US artists. Works are available to view and in many cases have a bibliography link to find more information.

Smithsonian Image Gallery
Over 138,000 images digitized from photographs, slides, paintings and much more. Searchable by using the AMP catalog (includes documents and other materials as well as images) or browse the groupings by type of original media, Smithsonian collection group, or most popular use.

Metropolitian Museum of Art
AKA "The Met", offering searches by object, date/era, artist, culture and much more.

Getty Art Collection
One of the premier art collections on the West Coast.

University of California San Diego Slide Collection
The images are NOT online, but if you need to know what they have before going to visit the collection, this is the search tool for you. Many of the items are held in the Arts & Architecture Library.

Walters Art Museum
Not only images, but background information about the work including conservation and exhibit history.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Access to Images
A massive, searchable collection of images from the collections of the V&A Museum in London.

LUCI--Materials held in the University of California system by seven participating campuses. Materials range from ancient Greek and Roman classics to California and public art. Be sure to read the page on 'How to Use LUCI" to understand the collection and get the best results.

Mother of All Art: Image Collections and Online Art--from University of Michigan offers links by geographic and genre headings.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
A wide-ranging collection of images (photographs, prints, and more) from the massive collections held by NYPL. Sorted into subject-related collections or fully searchable from the home screen, these range in date, subject, media and purpose. 

Visual Collections-- A collection of over 30 online collections assembled by David Rumsey and Cartography Associates. Most collections are freely available, but may require a one-time software download available from the site. Collections include cartography, fine arts, architecture, photography and other. 

World Images
A collection being assembled by the CSU with over 65,000 images has a broader range of content, including political and cultural history. Tutorials are provided for maximizing your use of this collection. This is a growing project with subject-specific image collections planned. 

WikiMedia Commons--An image and media collection assembled in the wiki format. Searchable by subject, type and collection. Verify usage permissions before download.

More links to collections, artists, and museums are discussed in David Mattison's article "Looking for Good Art: Web Resources and Image Databases, Part 1".

Need Help?

Torie Quiñonez

Arts and Humanities Librarian
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Office Telephone


Office Location

KEL 3426

Office Hours
By appointment