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Free resources: History of art and design

Free online resources about art and the art world.

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picture of Kydonian closed vessels
Kydonian closed vessels. Cropped version of image by ©Dan Diffendale, Flickr.
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Key resources

Google Scholar
Google's specialist search engine for academic content. Material that is free to read online will have a PDF link, or similar, on the right of the screen. Many articles come in multiple versions, accessed by the small link "All x versions" below each result.  This is worth checking if as alternative versions may be available even if the primary version is not. Note: current students and staff at SIA should access Scholar via the library database guide, in order to link through to resources available on subscription.


Museum websites are a rich source of material, and may include podcasts, accounts of the scientific analysis of artworks, conservation reports and bibliographies.  They are also often a source of particularly high-quality images.  However it is also worth checking the image resources guide: all the resources here, apart from those listed on the subscription databases tab, are free to view online.


Other resources, A-Z

Please also check the other tabs of this guide, as there is much subject overlap.


AATA Online (Abstracts of International Conservation Literature)
Abstracts (summaries) of relevant literature, though no access to the articles themselves.


Antique Jewelry University
Not a university, but a large and informative website including a guide to jewelry makers' marks.


Journal articles on art history. Much German content as well as articles in English.


Art Signature Dictionary
Images of 40,000 artists' signatures, monograms and symbols.


Asian Art Newspaper
Only limited selection of articles free online, but nevertheless a good source of information about Asian art.


Bibliography of the History of Art
Database of material published between 1975 and 2007. No access to the articles themselves: this is purely a bibliography.


Blue Mountain Project
European avant-garde journals from 1848 to 1923, digitised for online reading and viewing.


British Art History Resources
Links to free resources, compiled by the Walpole Society.


Catalogues Raisonnés Database
A guide to catalogues raisonnés, both published and in preparation.  Some of these are free online, though unfortunately it is not possible to search specifically for these. 


College Art Association: list of dissertations completed and in progress
Gives details of PhD dissertations in art history and visual studies from US and Canadian institutions. However please note the dissertations cannot be read via this site.


Courtauld Books Online
Small collection of art history books.


Courtauld Institute: recently completed PhD theses
List of PHD theses from the last few years: more up-to-date than EThOS. No online access to the theses themselves. For this you will need to contact the Courtauld book library.


Dictionary of Art Historians
Produced in association with Duke University, this scholarly database draws partly on the Journal of Art Historiography.


Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture
Historic books (plus images and a few journals) focussing on early American decorative arts. Compiled by the University of Wisconsin.


Directory of Open Access Books
Current scholarly books online, including a good range of titles about art.


Dissertations and theses
Global Electronic Theses and Dissertations Search is a search engine for finding free online versions of theses and dissertations from around the world, at both master's and doctoral level. PQDT Open is a smaller collection, with no content not found in Global ETD, but can be easier to search for some topics.
EThOS offers doctoral theses (dissertations) from UK universities, and other degree-awarding institutions in the UK. When searching, check the box Limit search to items available for immediate download... for material you can read on your laptop or other device.


Links to sites about picture frames, compiled by the Frames Blog.


Books and other material uploaded by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Almost all material is in French. However you can search for material in a specific language, and the website itself can be viewed in several different languages.


Getty Publications
Art history and art conservation books published by the Getty Institute.


Getty Research Portal
A collection of older works: over 30,000 art history publications, rare books, and related literature, from many publishers.


Google Books
Good for older works that are out of copyright. Also offers brief extracts, cover images and contents pages for newer titles which are not offered full-text.


Guggenheim Publications
Online catalogues and other publications from the Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum.


Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Essays, images and chronologies, together providing a grand overview of the history of art, worldwide. Created by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


I Photo Central
Provides "thousands of web pages for the photography collector, curator and historian". Includes all issues of the E-Photo Newsletter.


International Ceramics Directory
Links to sites on pottery and porcelain from around the world.


Islamic Painted Page
"A database of Islamic arts of the book", with images. Covers the period too-1900 CE from all over the Islamic world, but with a particular emphasis on Persian and Ottoman painting. Hosted by the University of Hamburg.


JSTOR is mainly a subscription service, but gives limited free access to the general public. If you find an article you want to read, use the Register & Read service.  You can access 3 articles in each 14-day period. Current SIA students and staff should generally not use the above link, but instead follow the JSTOR link from the library database guide, because that will give access to the SIA subscription. 


Metropolitan Museum of Art: several different collections of e-books. Most are accessed via the Digital Collections, including all known Met publications from 1869-1939, rare art books, and historic sales catalogues. 400 Met publications from 1964 onwards.


MoMA exhibitions database
Images and documentation from the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibitions from 1929 onwards.


Modernist Journals Project
Online reproductions of early modernist journals. 27 titles have been digitised as of 2015. Also includes some related books and many other features.


National Gallery Technical Bulletin
Articles on the materials and techniques of painting and the scientific examination of paintings.


OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks)
Scholarly books, including some important titles about art and art markets.


Pictorialist Photography Exhibition Catalogues
103 exhibition catalogues from 1891-1914, made available online by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Project Gutenberg
Older, out-of-copyright works on a wide range of subjects. Includes an art collection and an architecture collection which can be searched separately.


Provenance research: the Getty Provenance Index Databases and the IFAR provenance Guide (IFAR) are good starting points for research.


RKD (Netherlands Institute of Art History)
Large database of book titles, article titles, images and more, especially useful for researching Dutch art.


Repositories are often the best starting point for finding free scholarly material.  They are large online collections, created by universities and other institutions, and usually include the most up-to-date research.  Our guide to repositories gives more information, with links to tools for searching many repositories at once.


Royal Academy: summer and winter exhibition catalogues
Available online.


Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
An online encyclopedia.


Union List of Artist Names
Names and other basic information about artists. Useful for checking the different names and variants artists have been known by.


Watercolour World
Database of documentary watercolours from before 1900