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Art Research: Beginning Strategies
The following is a guide to some of the more significant titles in our collection. It serves as an introduction to the best strategies in art research. For more extended research advice, please ask for further assistance at the Reference Desk in Room 300.
How To Research An Artist
To obtain information on an artist, there are a number of resources that can be checked. Artists who are well-known will appear in a variety of publications. More obscure artists may appear in biographical dictionaries. These dictionaries are numerous, with many written in several languages, and can be specific as to type of artist covered.
It is most important that you know the correct spelling of the artist's last name, and/or possible variations, and at least the first initial of that person's first name. Do not discount non-English language sources since they cover artists of all nationalities and may be the only books that contain any information. The following reference publications should be consulted in general:
- McNeil, Barbara, ed., Artist Biographies Master Index. Detroit, Michigan : Gale Research Co., 1986. [MAO 87-274]
- Havlice, Patricia Pate. Index to Artistic Biography. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1973. [ MAO 88-8106].
- Mallett. Index of Artists. 2 vol. [MAO]
- Benezit, Emmanuel. Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs,
- Dessinateurs et Graveurs de tous les Temps et de Tous les Pays. Paris : Grund, 1976. 10 vol.
- [*R-ART 90-2371]
- Thieme, Ulrich und Becker, Felix, ed. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart . Munchen : Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1992. 37 v. [MAN 93-9188]
- Vollmer, Hans. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler des 20. Jahrhunderts. Munchen : Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1992. 6 v. [MAN 93-9189]
If you know your artist's nationality, medium, or century, there are many other specialized biographical dictionaries to consult. Some examples of these kinds of reference tools are:
- Emanuel, Muriel. Contemporary Architects. New York : St. James Press, 1994. [ MQY+ 95-9467]
- Joann Cerrito,ed. Contemporary Artists. New York : St. James Press, 1996. 4th ed.
- [MAO 96-1401]
- Naylor,Colin, ed. Contemporary Designers. Chicago : St. James Press, 1990. 2nd ed. [MNF+ 91-4858]
- Cummings, Paul. Dictionary of Contemporary American Artists.
- New York : St. Martin's, 1994. 6th ed. [MAMT 94-14544].
- Wood, Christopher. The Dictionary of Victorian Painters. Woodbridge, England : Antique Collectors' Club, 1978. 2nd. ed.[MCT 87-3729]
- Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers. New completely revised ed. edited by Glenn B.Opitz. Poughkeepsie, N.Y. : Apollo, 1983. [MAO 86-543]
- Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who was Who in American Art. Madison, CT. : Sound View Press, 1985.[ MAO 85-3440].
- Who's Who in American Art. New York : R. R. Bowker. v. 1- 1936/37-. [MAO 1936/37-]
- Who's Who in Art: Biographies of Leading Men and Women in the World of Art Today: Artists, designers, craftsmen, critics, Writers Teachers, Collectors, and Curators With an Appendix of Signatures. Hantsford, England: Art Trade Press, 1927 - [MAO]
Sometimes artists simply do not receive biographical treatment in any existing reference publication. Information on these individuals could be found in periodical literature; you can try searching the artist's name through such periodical indexes as Art Index or ArtBibliographies Modern. Artists in the decorative and craft arts may have citations in the Design and Applied Arts Index.
Some libraries, especially museum and historical society libraries, have files of miscellaneous material that can include artist information. The Art & Architecture Collection here at New York Public Library has such a collection, its "Artists Files on Microfiche." This is an unique group of ephemeral information on 90,000 artists of all nationalities, working in all media. The Art & Architecture Collection has a five volume name index which can be consulted. This information is not available through our online catalog, you must consult our department directly.
How To Research Art Object
Art objects may be less easy to identify. However, there are reference tools available that can help in the identification process, covering where and when an object was made. Other resources are biographical in focus, and will help to locate an object's artist, designer, or manufacturing firm. Certain items, such as pottery and metalware, may have a maker's mark, or hallmark, that can be checked against a published guide to specific types of hallmarks. Encyclopedias and guides to types of decorative art forms can be consulted. Many specialized reference tools have also been published to assist in identifying the origins of various objects. Some examples of these works are:
- Boger,Louise Ade. The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959. [MOF]
- Semowich, Charles J. American Furniture Craftsmen Working Prior to 1920. Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press, 1984. [MOF 84-3202]
- Florence, Gene. The Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass. Paducah, Kentucky : Collectors Books, 1990. [MPW 90-191]
- Pickford, Ian, ed. Jackson's Gold and Silver Marks of England, Scotland and Ireland. Woodbridge, Suffolk : Antique Collector's Club, Ltd.,1989. [MNP 89-26552]
- Rainwater, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers. New York : Crown Publishers, 1975.
- [MNP 76-2752]
- Rontgen, Robert E. Marks on German, Bohemian and Austrian Porcelain, 1710 to the Present. Exton, Pennsylvannia : Schiffer Publishing Co. , 1981. [MPK 89-21208]
- Neff, Ian and Maggs, Carol. Dictionary of Oriental Rugs: With a Monograph on Identification by Weave. New York : Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1979. [MOP 80-172]
Subject headings can yield pertinent categories. Check the Library of Congress Subject Headings volumes for the appropriate entries. In the online catalog of the New York Public Library some useful headings to search are:
- Furniture Workers
- Glass, Colored
- Cut Glass
- Art Metal-Work
- Rugs--Private Collections
- Rugs, Prayer
- Textile Fabrics
How to Locate Articles in Art Periodicals
The Art and Architecture Collection has large holdings of art periodicals, in bound volumes and on microfilm. The department has both mainstream and rare and unusual periodical holdings; many of these titles have had their contents indexed in periodical indexes. The Art and Architecture Dictionary Catalogue does have subject entries for certain articles that were indexed by the Library. This practice stopped after the Library's holdings were entered online on CATNYP (circa 1971).
The department has several important periodical indexes; these tools are mainly available both in print, and online either through our LAN or on cd-rom. They are:
1929 - . (print)
1984 - . (online through LAN)
1970 - . (print)
1984 - . (cd-rom)
Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals.
2nd. edition and supplements (print)
1979 - .
Bibliography of the History of Art
incorporating RILA and RAA
1991 - . (print)
1991 - . (cd-rom)
Design and Applied Arts Index
1987 - . (print)
1987 - . (cd-rom)
Periodical articles can be located by subject and author in these indexes. The online versions of the indexes usually offer greater searching options. Once a periodical article has been located, it is most important to note the following information from the citation: full name of periodical; volume; date; page numbers. This information will allow you to accurately fill out a form when requesting the periodical at the Library.
How to Find Out the Market Value of Art Works and Collectibles
As a public institution, the New York Public Library's Art and Architecture department cannot engage in questions about valuation, attribution or authentication, nor recommend individual appraisers for works of art. Our department does have a reference collection of sales and auction catalog indexes and price guides for collectible items. These resources are available for use in the department, but the staff cannot answer queries from these publications over the telephone or by mail.