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Art: Library Resources

This guide provides search tips and information on finding topics such as art, art history, technique, illustration, and more. Learn about where you can look for recommended materials within and outside of the library.

What kind of resource do you need?

Before you start searching in the library, it's important to consider what kind of resource you are looking for. Are you in need of background information that would be available in a book or encyclopedia? What about cultural commentary on an issue from a journal article? Or, maybe an instructional video might be better suited to your needs.

Click on any of the images below to find resources for art related programs in a variety of formats.
If you need assistance with library research, see Seneca Libraries' Tutorials!

Finding Information about Works of Art

Finding Books About Artworks

Try first locating your artwork using the library search with your artist's last name and the name of the work. If you only want books you will need to add the 'Books' limit as well.

limit to books

E.g. the search below is an attempt to locate information about Tom Thomson's painting The West Wind. The keywords are his last name, Thomson, and "west wind" with quotes around it so the two words stay together.

library search results for Thomson "west wind"

Few books are written entirely about artworks, so you will have more luck seeking out books that feature your artist. When you do locate a book, typically only the best known works of an artist are featured. Be prepared to do additional searching for your artwork in the index of other books on the shelf.

You might also have some luck trying your search in Google by limiting your results to 'Books'. You may need to look under the 'More' tab to select Books as your limit.
Search in Google for thomson "west wind" limited to Books

 

Using eBooks

EBooks can be a valuable tool. While you may have to read them online, a quick search in an eBook can yield valuable results. These searches can help locate words and ideas that may not be commonly expressed in an index or table of contents.

Try searching these eBook databases for your artwork:

Why Encyclopedias and Reference Material?

Reference refers to brief, factual information that can be used as a quick lookup; e.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the like. These types of materials are best used as a starting point. Encyclopedia entries are often longer than most dictionary entries and may provide more in depth information about a person's life and work.

Try the sources below to help you locate reference materials relating to artworks. Some article databases house encyclopedia and other reference works as well. If you don't find what you need here, other databases may still yield results.

Finding Articles About Art

Articles are a key source of information in historical research. To locate articles, databases are used as search engines or search tools.

Try the following strategies for developing keywords for searches:

  • The artist's name and the name of the work. Velázquez AND Las Meninas, for example.
  • The artist's name and the medium of the work. Frank Gehry AND sculpture, for example.
  • The artist's name and the period in the artist's career. Henry Moore AND Surrealism, for example.

Try the following databases with your search:

Finding Streaming Videos

Seneca Libraries provides access to several streaming video sites. Of special note for the arts, you should take a look at Films on Demand and the National Film Board of Canada. 

The National Film Board of Canada features Canadian films, many of which fall into the subject of visual arts. Check out their list of art related content or search for your Canadian art or artist here.

Search for Videos in Our Collection

Films on Demand contains many videos on artists and their works. For inspiration or to see what types of artworks are available, check out this Films on Demand playlist: Famous Artworks (will open a new tab).

Finding Information About Artists

Finding Books

Using the library's search box, try a search with your artist's name and the word biography. For example, the search 'Paul Klee biography' is demonstrated in the image below:

 

Your results will be a multitude of formats, ebooks, print books, journal articles, book reviews, etc. Your most useful results should be at the top of the page. And you can use the filters to get more specific.

book results from library catalogue

If you only want print books, you'll need to set a limit. Select 'Available in the Library' under the 'Refine Your Results' to filter for print books. You may also limit to specific Content or Material type and select 'Reviews' or 'Newspaper articles' if you are looking for commentary on your artists works.

Library catalog filters

Can't find anything in the catalogue?  Browse the shelves!

The library catalogue does not offer searching of every word in every book held in the library. As a consequence, the library may hold a book with biographic information about a specific artist, but you may not know about it by searching the Library Catalogue.

If there are no results in your search, go to the shelves armed with some basic information about your artist (art style, which years s/he was active in, preferred medium, etc.) and browse the books directly. For art, go to the "N's", and start retrieving books on art history that look promising. Look for your artist in the index at the back of each retrieved book.

Finding Encyclopedias and Other Reference Material

Reference refers to brief, factual information that can be used as a quick lookup; e.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the like. These types of materials are best used as a starting point. Encyclopedia entries are often longer than most dictionary entries and may provide more in depth information about a person's life and work.

Try these databases to help you find information:

Finding Articles About Artists

Articles are a key source of information in historical research. To locate articles, databases are used as search engines or search tools.

Try the following strategies for developing keywords for searches:

  • The artist's name and name of a work. Picasso AND Guernica, for example.
  • The artist's name and medium. Frank Gehry AND sculpture, for example.
  • The artist's name and period in the artist's career. Courbet AND Realism, for example.

 

Try the following databases with your search:

Seneca Libraries provide access to several streaming video sites.  You can also try browsing within the following databases for more streaming videos:

If you would like to locate more videos, some museum websites have created video content for their collections; and there's always Khan Academy.

Museums 

One strategy for locating background information is to track down any museum that holds work by your artist. Many museums have developed profiles on artists in their collection. Visit the museum's website, locate information about their collection and see if you can find an artist profile.

For example, the Guggenheim has provided a brief biography for Canadian artist Jeff Wall since it houses several of his pieces.

The sites below will also help you track down artist information:

Databases & Articles

Image shared by ReadyElements, CC0 1.0

Click on the image to find recommended article databases.

Videos

Shared by PixaHive, CC0 1.0

Click on the image to find resources for streamed videos.

Books

Books by Emma Lopez, CC BY NC 2.0

Click on the image to find recommended books and e-book databases.

Visual Reference

The French Language, CC0 1.0

Click on the image to find recommended resources for visual reference.

Research Resources

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.