Skip to Main Content

Graduate students' guide to resources in art history: Finding images

Research guide for graduate students in art history lists core resources, print and electronic.

Image sites and databases

The following sources are good and/or obvious places to go to find images of fine art.  It’s worth remembering that most major museums have images of their collections online and some – the Met, the Louvre, the National Gallery (U.S. and U.K.), the Tate, the Rijksmuseum, and many others – are rich sources of information on provenance, exhibition history, and bibliography as well.

Internet resources are freely available from anywhere.  Clark/Williams resources must be accessed on campus or through the Williams proxy server.

Check the box below and to the right to access a more indepth guide to finding, using, and citing images.



ArtCyclopedia’s mission is “to become the definitive and most effective guide to museum-quality fine art on the Internet” and it includes entries for “most well-known artists.”  A search for an artist will bring up links to images of that artist’s work on museum websites and in image archives, and will also link to articles and reference sites.

Internet resource



ARTstor is a digital library of more than one million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and social sciences with a suite of software tools to view, present, and manage images for research and pedagogical purposes.  ARTstor collections are comprised of contributions from museums, individual photographers, scholars, special collections at libraries, and photo archives.  Collections available fall into such categories as African-American studies, American studies, architecture and architectural history, Asian studies, design and decorative arts, Medieval studies, photography, Renaissance studies, women’s studies, and many more.  One of the major collections in ARTstor is The Illustrated Bartsch, a peerless source of images of prints.

Clark/Williams Electronic Resource



OCLC's Catalog of Art Museum Images Online is a growing online collection documenting works of art from around the world, representing the collections of prominent museums. CAMIO “highlights the creative output of cultures around the world, from prehistoric to contemporary times, and covering the complete range of expressive forms.”   Includes images of paintings, architecture, sculpture, drawings and watercolors, prints, photographs, textiles, decorative and utilitarian objects, and more.

Clark/Williams Electronic Resource



Flickr is an image and video hosting website that allows users to store and share images and video.  Photo submitters can organize images into "sets" of photos that share some theme or characteristic and can tag photos with keywords so that images or categories of images can be searched across the website.  Although subject to all the vagaries of social networking websites, Flickr can be a surprisingly effective source for images that can't be found elsewhere, for instance work by contemporary artists, art installations, buildings or architectural details from interesting viewpoints, and works of art that don't appear in published works but that tourists or museum-goers or owners or galleries have snapped and put online.

Internet resource


Google Images

Simply by virtue of being the most comprehensive source of images in the world, Google image search is a clear first and last choice for finding images as long as the other options between first and last are also thoroughly explored.   Google image search is fraught with pitfalls, one example being questions of copyright and another being issues of image size and quality.  Navigate these with care, and check to see if the image you are looking for can be obtained from an image database (ARTstor, Camio, Oxford Art Online), a book, a museum website, or some other published or vetted source.

Internet resource



“Catalog of the collections of the museums of France, available via the internet.”  Includes the holdings of about 140 museums with collections in archaeology, the fine arts, ethnology, history, and the sciences and technology.

Internet resource


Louvre: Inventory of the Department of Prints and Drawings

An exhaustive catalogue of the museum's 140,000 works on paper, by some 4,500 artists; it provides access to the drawings, cartoons, pastels, and miniatures listed in the original handwritten inventories of the Cabinet des Dessins of the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay.  Choose "Oeuvres" and click "Recherche Multicritère" to search by inventory number, artist, school, date, subject, or technique, or in the context of the history of the collection. Information about the artists (in French) is also provided (lives, works, style). Includes images.

Internet resource


Oxford Art Online

Oxford Art Online (formerly Grove Art) includes links to external images and to the Art Resource image database, “the world’s largest photo archive of fine art,” which contains over 100,000 high quality images of works of painting, sculpture, architecture and the minor arts from most of the world’s major museums, monuments, and commercial archives.  There may be a charge for using images from this source. 

Clark/Williams Electronic Resource


RMN (Réunion des Musées Nationaux), Agence Photographique

Searchable website created by the photo agency of the RMN.  Online catalog of 200,000+ photographs of works of art collected in the national and regional museums of France.  Search by artist, title, museum or collection, or by keyword for iconographic searches.

Internet resource

Piero della Francesca, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels

Piero della Francesca.  Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, 1460-70.  Oil possibly with some tempera on panel, transferred to fabric on panel.  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA.

Featured database: ARTstor

The ARTstor Digital Library is a nonprofit resource that provides over 1.5 million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with an accessible suite of software tools for teaching and research. 

Click here to browse a list of contributing institutions, including the Rijksmuseum, the Met, the American Folk Museum, the Barnes Collection, the Getty, the Phillips Collection, our very own Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, and many more.

A more extensive guide to finding, using, and citing images