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Graduate students' guide to resources in art history: Historical and bibliographic guides

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

Historical surveys of art and art history

Arnason, H. Harvard.  History of modern art:  Painting, Sculpture, Architecture.  3rd edition revised and updated by Daniel Wheeler.  New York:  Abrams, 1986.

Standard, well-respected textbook on the movements and styles of twentieth-century art.  Chronologically/ thematically arranged chapters begin with prehistory of modern painting, realism and impressionism, post-impressionism, art nouveau, Fauvism, and Expressionism, and end with sixties abstraction, the post-minimal seventies and the pluralistic seventies, the neo-expressionism and neo-abstractionism of the eighties, and post-modernism in architecture.  Sawyer Library's 2004 edition may also include the art of the nineties.

Clark Stacks  N6490 A75 1986
Sawyer Stacks  N6490 .A713 2004


Foster, Hal, Rosiland Kraus, and Yves-Alain Bois.  Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism.  London:  Thames & Hudson, 2004.

A controversial but important book in the field.  Arranged as a year-by-year chronology from 1900 to 2003.

Clark Stacks  N6490 A783
Sawyer Stacks  N6490 .A7186 2004


Janson, H. W., and Anthony F. Janson.  History of Art, 6th edition.  New York:  Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Highly respected, standard college textbook of the history of art.  The 5th edition featured 119 excerpted primary source readings, 111 line drawings and diagrams, heavily revised sections on Baroque, Rococo, and contemporary art, many new artists, redesigned timelines, sections on techniques and processes, and an updated bibliography.  These revisions transformed the book into “purely a history of Western art.”

Clark Stacks  N5300 J3 1986 (Clark library’s most recent edition is the 3rd)
Sawyer Stacks  N5300 .J3 2001


Minor, Vernon Hyde.  Art History's History.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice-Hall, 2001.

Three main sections trace the development of art history as a discipline, from ancient theories of art (e.g. Plato and Aristotle) through medieval and Renaissance theory, nature and the ideal in 17th century theory, and the emergence of method and modernism in art history from Winckelmann to late-twentieth-century intertextuality (including among other things Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, and "the other").

Clark Stacks  N5303 M55
Sawyer Stacks  N380 .M556 2001


Nelson, Robert S., and Richard Schiff, editors.  Critical Terms for Art History.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2003.

The best handbook of its kind, with lengthy essays (each with a substantial bibliography) on such terms/concepts as representation, sign, word and image, narrative, meaning and interpretation, avant-garde, body, gaze, gender, ritual, identity, postmodernism and postcolonialism, and visual culture/visual studies.

Clark Reference  N34 C75 2003
Sawyer Stacks  N34 .C75 2003


Pointon, Marcia R.  History of Art: A Student’s Handbook.  London:  Routledge, 1997.

A short, intelligent, witty book that guides students through engaging with art, art history as a discipline, how art historians work, the language of art history, and the literature of art history; a combination of “intellectual map and compendium of practical hints.”

Clark Stacks  N5303 P65 1997
Sawyer Stacks  N380 .P56 1994


Preziosi, Donald, editor.  The Art of Art History:  A Critical Anthology.   Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009.

“The meatiest of the art history anthologies,” with selected readings on the art-historiography of art as history, aesthetics, style, history as an art, iconography and semiology, modernity, gendering, deconstruction and the limits of interpretation, and “the other: art history and/as museology.”  Each section has a substantial critical introduction, and each essay has bibliographic notes.  

Clark Stacks  N5303 A786 2009
Sawyer Stacks  N7480 .A79 1998


Vaughn, William.  Arts of the 19th Century, Volume One: 1780 to 1850.  Translated from the French by James Underwood.  New York:  Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
Cachin, Francoise.  Arts of the 19th Century, Volume Two: 1850 to 1905.  New York:  Harry N. Abrams, 1998.

Documents the innovations and discoveries of the turbulent years of the 19th century, and the flowering of the arts (painting, sculpture, graphic arts, decorative arts, and architecture and planning) that resulted.  The book is not a social history of art, nor is it merely or only an aesthetic evaluation; it is “an attempt to illustrate and shed light on the variety, profusion, and inexhaustible fecundity” of art from 1780 to 1905.  Lavishly illustrated.  Includes short biographies of important 19th-century figures (not just artists) and a bibliography.

Clark Stacks  N6450 V38a
Sawyer Stacks  N6757 .V38 1998 (Volume 1)

Surveys of art theory

Barasch, Moshe.  Modern Theories of Art, 1: From Winckelman to Baudelaire.  New York:  New York University Press, 1990.

———.  Modern Theories of Art, 2:  From Impressionism to Kandinsky.  New York:  New York University Press, 1998.

Lucid survey of modern theories of art.  Thematic arrangement: the early 18th century, the beginnings of the new age, unity and diversity of the visual arts, the symbol, the artist (Volume 1) and impressionism, empathy, discovering the primitive, and abstract art (Volume 2).  Bibliographical essays on pages 391-407 (Volume 1) and pages 371-381 (Volume 2).

Clark Stacks  N70 B36m
Sawyer Stacks  N70 B2 1990


———.  Theories of Art: From Plato to Winckelman.  New York:  New York University Press, 1985.

Introductory survey of the major stages in the development of European art theory, through the early 18th century.  Sections on antiquity, the Middle Ages, the early Renaissance, the late Renaissance, and Classicism and the Academy.

Clark Stacks  N70 B36
Sawyer Stacks  N70 .B22 1985


Harrison, Charles, Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger, editors.  Art in Theory 1648-1815:  An Anthology of Changing Ideas.  Oxford, UK; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
Clark Stacks  N70 H365ar

–––– .  Art in Theory, 1815-1900:  An Anthology of Changing Ideas.  Oxford, UK: Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
Clark stacks  N70 H365
Sawyer Stacks  N6450 .A779 1998

Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood, editors.  Art in Theory, 1900-2000 an Anthology of Changing Ideas. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2003.
Clark Stacks  N70 H365a
Sawyer Stacks  N6450 .A7167 2003

Anthologies of abridged texts provide students of art, art history, and aesthetics with "a substantial and representative collection of texts, drawn from a wide variety of sources" that together provide an overview of the development of art and art theory during the modern period.  Many texts are difficult to find elsewhere or have not previously been translated into English.


Patin, Thomas.  Artwords:  A Glossary of Contemporary Art Theory.  Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1997.

Includes 400+ terms and phrases “that have recently entered the discourse on visual art.”  Entries are substantive (the article on “feminism” covers several pages, for example) and include key writers and practitioners; they also include cross-references.  Selected bibliography.

Clark Stacks  N6490 A1 P38
Sawyer Reference  N71 .P32


Smith, Paul, and Carolyn Wilde.  A Companion to Art Theory.  London:  Blackwell, 2002.

Essays by eminent scholars on theories of Western art, beginning with the roots of modern art theory in Renaissance Italy and extending, roughly chronologically, to 20th-century theoretical themes.  Includes sections on tradition and the academy, modernism, critical theory and postmodernism, and interpretive theory.  Does not cover visual culture, feminist theory, or film and photographic theory.

Clark Stacks  N70 C626
Sawyer Stacks  N7475 .C59 2002

Bibliographic guides to the literature of art history

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 to find historical guides to art and art history, and surveys of art theory.

Arntzen, Etta, and Robert Rainwater.  Guide to the Literature of Art History.  Chicago:  American Library Association, 1980.

Landmark bibliography of reference and basic research resources in the field of art history; a classified listing of bibliographies, directories, periodicals, auction sales material, visual resources, dictionaries and encyclopedias, iconography, historiography, sources and documents, histories and handbooks, and key resources in “the particular arts” i.e. architecture, sculpture, drawings, painting, prints, photography, and the decorative arts.  See also Marmor & Ross’ GLAH2, below, which continues but does not supercede GLAH1.

Clark Reference   ZN5300 C4 1980
Sawyer Reference  N380 A75


Marmor, Max, and Alex Ross.  Guide to the Literature of Art History 2.  Chicago:  American Library Association, 2005.

Continues but does not supercede Arntzen & Rainwater’s GLAH1, above, and follows the same classified organization of reference and research resources in art history.  Includes some electronic databases but does not include websites.

Clark Reference  ZN5300 C4 2005

Ammi Phillips, Portrait of Harriet Campbell

Ammi Phillips.  Portrait of Harriet Campbell, 1815.  Oil on canvas.  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA.