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Art Historical Resources -- General Indexes and Guides

compiled by Thomas Hill, Art Librarian


Where to Start: Select Guides to General Art Resources






This guide provides a listing of the most important and useful general guides to the fields of art and architectural research.  Included are general indexes and abstracts, biographical dictionaries, and guides to reference works.  For a more complete listing of electronic resources, including image sources, see our Libguide for Electronic Resources in Art.

All Resources

BHA : Bibliography of the History of Art = Bibliographie d'Histoire de l'Art.  Santa Monica : Getty Art History Information Program, 1973-     ~    Covering European and American art from late antiquity to the present, the Bibliography of the History of Art indexes and abstracts art-related books, conference proceedings and dissertations, exhibition and dealer's catalogs, and articles from more than 2,500 periodicals. BHA is updated quarterly and covers 1973 to the present. BHA includes and extends the coverage of its two predecessor art indexes: RAA (Repertoire d'Art et d'Archeologie) from 1973 to 1989 and RILA (International Repertory of the Literature of Art) from 1975 to 1989.  Access

International Bibliography of Art.  Proquest, 2008 -  IBA is the successor to the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA), and retains the editorial policies which made BHA one of the most trusted and frequently consulted sources in the field. The database includes records created by the Getty Research Institute in 2008-09, with new records created by ProQuest using the same thesaurus and authority files. Access

ARTbiliographies Modern. ABC-CLIO, 1972-   Abstracts of journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, dissertations and exhibition reviews.The scope of ARTbibliographies Modern extends from artists and movements beginning with Impressionism in the late 19th century, up to the most recent works and trends in the late twentieth century. Photography is covered from its invention in 1839 to the present.  Access


Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. ,1975-     The Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals indexes more than 1,000 periodicals published worldwide on archeology, city planning, interior design, and historic preservation, as well as architecture.  Access


Art Index Retrospective and Art Abstracts (now Art & Architecture Source) 1929- . New York: W. Wilson Co. ~ Basic index to primarily English language art periodicals and museum bulletins. Coverage is comprehensive, with entries listed under author and subject. Good source for exhibition and book reviews. Reproductions of works of art listed separately under artist's name. Material Indexed between 1929 amd 1984 is searchable online at Art Index Retrospective. Material indexed after 1984 is searchable  as Art Abstracts in Art & Architecture Source.


Getty Research Portal.  The Getty Research Portal is an online search platform providing global access to digitized art history texts in the public domain. Through this multilingual, multicultural union catalog, scholars can search and download complete digital copies of publications for the study of art, architecture, material culture, and related fields. Access.

 Marmor, Max. Guide to the Literature of Art History. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005. {Art Ref. Z5931 A67 suppl.}. ~ The most comprehensive of the guides to the literature. All fields of art and architectural history are covered, but the emphasis is on Western art.Arntzen, For titles published before 1980 see the companion publication: Arntzen, Etta. Guide to the Literature of Art History Chicago: American Library Association, 1979. {Art Ref. Z5931 A67}.   

Jones, Lois Swan. Art Research Methods and Resources. Foreword by Caroline H. Backlund. 3rd Edition. Dubuque, Iowa : Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co., c1990 {Art Ref. N85 J64 1990}.  ~ An indespensible guide for students of art history, which covers all stages of art research, including defining one's subject, compiling a bibliography, finding information on exhibitions and sales, using databases and print reference works.


The Dictionary of Art / editor, Jane Turner. New York : Grove, 1996. {Art Ref. N31 .D5 1996 v. 1-34}. ~ Composed of recent extensive, scholarly articles by art historians on major and minor art forms, artists, periods, and styles. Bibliographic references accompany each article. When used for research, it is important to use the detailed index in volume 34 if you are not using the online version. Well-illustrated, though you may wish to consult as a supplement the more thoroughly illustrated older work: The Encyclopedia of World Art {Art Ref. N31 E4833}.  Access.


Thieme, Ulrich and Felix Becker. Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von Antike bis zur Gegenward. 37 volumes. Leipzig : Seeman, 1907-1950. {Art Ref. N40 T4}. ~   This is the work no art history major should be unaware of. Comprehensive scholarly biographical dictionary for painters, sculptors, engravers, architects, and decorative artists. Includes signed articles by prominent scholars, as well as extensive bibliographies, and locations of important collections. Because of long publication run, early volumes more dated than later volumes. Now updated and supplemented by Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon (Art Ref. N40 T4 suppl.). Don't miss the handlist of abbreviations at the end of the set if your German is rusty. 


Benezit, Emmanuel. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs. Paris: Grund, l976. {Art Ref. N40 B47 1976}. ~ After Thieme-Becker, the most useful universal dictionary of artists. Contains almost 800,000 biographies of artists who have worked from the 5th century B.C.E. to present times. Frequently includes facsimiles of artists' signatures, prizes received, holding museums and collections, prices, and bibliographies.