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Researching Art Objects: Home

Researching objects in a museum. Step-by-step.

Researching Art Objects

Researching an art object requires research on the artist who created the object, and the style and period during which the object was created. You must first establish a foundation of knowledge about who and what influenced the making of the art object. This means spending time reading biographical material and topic overviews about the style and period associated with the object. This kind of background knowledge is crucial to understanding the deeper more scholarly sources you are expected to incorporate in your writing. 

Example Object at PMA

Landscape painting in the Post-Impressionist style

Mont Sainte-Victoire

Made in France, 1902-4

Paul Cézanne, French, 1839 - 1906

Oil on canvas
28 3/4 x 36 3/16 inches (73 x 91.9 cm)


The George W. Elkins Collection, 1936


Outline for Researching Art Objects

Step 1: At the Museum

  •  Your object is your primary source and viewing it in person gives you an intimate understanding of its qualities.
  •  The information you gather at the museum will make the rest of your research easier. 

Step 2: Background Information

  • Encyclopedias
  • Museum Website

Step 3: Find Books

  • Search Diamond (the libraries' online catalog) to find books on your topic.
  • Diamond is a database of the libraries' physical holdings (books, movies, periodicals, etc.). 

Step 4: Find Articles

  • Journal databases provide articles related to your object.
  • Search the databases by keywords, artist, movement, period, style, and other keywords.

Step 5: Find Related Images

  • Looking at and writing about related objects by your artist, of the same style/period, or containing similar subject matter can strengthen your argument.

Step 6: Writing Help

  • Writing about art requires a solid thesis statement stating your argument.
  • You will want to include a visual analysis of the object.

Step 7: Cite Your Work

  • Cite all quotes and paraphrased references used in the body of the paper. 

Notes on Researching & Writing About Art Objects

Researching and writing about art objects: 

  • Requires contextualizing your object within the history of art, and the artist’s body of work.

  • Requires connecting the dots between the stylistic and artistic influences of your object.

  • Requires researching beyond your specific object.

  • is NOT like writing a book report.

  • is NOT merely summarizing several sources you’ve read that explain your object.

Ask the Librarian?

Jill Luedke
Paley Library

Rm. 317, 3rd Fl.

Tyler Reference Desk

Tues & Weds 11:30 - 1:00p.m.
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Subjects:Architecture, Art