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How to Research an Artist or a Work of Art

SIA New York Library Guide

Gather all the information you can about the work, this is know as the artwork's "tombstone information"

  • title
  • artist
  • date or approximate date
  • medium
  • origin

Make a list of what other information you need for the research project/paper/ assignment and why. Thinking about the work of art and information needed can help you narrow down your research.

Where is it located?

Do you know where it is located?

If you know what museum or gallery the work of art is located in, check the institutions’s website for more detailed information on that piece. Many museums and galleries will provide the most up to date information on items in their collections.

The museum your artwork is located in may also have their own collection-specific guides to help researchers. Some examples are listed below.

Research the artist

Researching the artist is often the best way to learn about the art work you have chosen.  For more information on researching an artist please see above.

The following databases are good places to search for information on your artist. 

Unknown artist

What if you don't know the artist?

If you do not know the artist of your object, you will have to research characteristics of the work. 

  • Where was it created?
  • When was it made?
  • What style is it?    How can you tell?
  • What are the materials used?
  • What are some similar works?

This will help you learn the context of your object and make informed conclusions about the work.  Use other works/artists that are similar as examples to support your ideas.

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