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Art & Art History

This guide is intended to help you get started with your art research.

When searching for books about art and art history, try using the following types of search terms:

  • Title of the book if you know it
  • Artist name
  • Artistic movement
  • Time period
  • Region or culture
  • Technique or medium

Use filters like Book, or Book and Available Online to find e-books.

If you are interested in a book stored off-site (location listed as High Density Library), you can request material to be sent to TFDL, usually arriving within one business day.

If you are interested in material not available at UCalgary, we can facilitate access through an interlibrary loan.

Browse the Shelves

Connecting to our physical collection can be an efficient way of accessing material or an opportunity for browsing and serendipitous discovery. At TFDL, the majority of books on art (N and N subsections) and oversized books are located on the 5th floor, TR (photography) on the 6th floor, and AM & BH (museums and aesthetics) on the 4th floor. Use the call numbers below as a guide to your browsing.

                Art Book Stacks in the TFDL            AM - Museums

BH - Aesthetics

N - Visual Arts in General

NA - Architecture

NB - Sculpture

NC - Illustration, Drawing

ND - Painting

NE - Printmaking

NK - Decorative and Applied Arts

NX - Arts in General, including literature, music and the Visual Arts

TR - Photography

Types of Art Books

There are several types of specialized art publications that can be especially useful in your research. All of them are also excellent sources for images.

Browse through these tabs to learn more about each and why you might want to use them in your research.

Survey texts are generally assigned in first year Art History courses, and cover a broad range of time periods, movements, and artists. These are meant to give an overview, and are a good place to start to get a sense of major movements, and artists, as well as key works of art.

Why use them?: To get background and key information about artists and movements.

Search terms to use:

  • "history of art"
  • "history of art" AND time period (modernism, ancient, etc.)
  • "history of art" AND region (western, Asia, Africa, etc.)

Subject headings to use:

  • Art -- History

See below for some examples of art survey texts.

In art history, monographs refer to books that are about a single artist. These can be more scholarly resources, or more popular resources (like coffee table books). Monographs are another good place to search for images of a particular artist, and can also provide comprehensive information about a particular artist (like exhibition histories, as well as lists of publications by and about the artist).

Why use them?: To get information about artists.

Search terms to use:

  • Artist name (Last Name, First Name)
  • Artist name ("first name last name" ie. "yayoi kusama")
  • Artist name AND monograph
  • Artist name AND biography

Subject headings to use:

Catalogue raisonnés are books or sets of books that document an artist's entire career. They will often include descriptions and sometimes illustrations of all known artworks. They also frequently include scholarly essays. While catalogue raisonnés can be very useful for researching artists, typically they only exist for better known artists.

To determine whether an artist has a catalogue raisonné, you can search the International Foundation of Art Research catalogue. 

Why use them?: To get detailed information about artists and their works.

Search terms to use:

  • Artist name (Last Name, First Name)
  • Artist name ("first name last name" ie. "yayoi kusama")
  • Artist name AND "catalogue raisonné"

Subject headings to use:

Exhibition catalogues are publications by museums or galleries meant to accompany an exhibition. This means they usually contain reproductions of artworks, as well as installation shots from the exhibition. Like exhibitions, exhibition catalogues can be about a single artist, a particular theme, or a particular time period or artist movement. They often include essays by scholarly authors, as well as detailed information about specific artworks.

Why use them?: To get information about artists, artworks, and exhibitions. Also great resources for exploring contemporary themes in art history and emerging areas.

Search terms to use:

  • Artist name (Last Name, First Name) AND exhibition
  • Artist name ("first name last name" ie. "yayoi kusama") AND exhibition
  • art movement AND exhibition
  • museum or gallery name AND exhibition
  • theme AND exhibition

Subject headings to use:

  • Exhibition
  • Exhibitions

E-Publications in Art

University of Calgary Press

Art in Profile: Canadian Art and Architecture

Art in Profile showcases the contribution of contemporary Canadian artists and architects both emerging and established. Each book provides insight into the life and work of an artist or architect whose innovative and creative imagination is making a difference and making us think.

Series Editor: Michele Hardy, curator, Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary