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Arts of the Western World: ART 0808: Home

Guide for researching objects in a museum. Uses an object at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as example.

Example Object at PMA

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 Articles and Books

  • Journal databases provide articles related to your object.
  • Search the databases by keywords, artist, movement, period, style, and other keywords.
  • Search the "Books" tab to find books on your topic. 

Step 4: 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 5: 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's picture
Jill Luedke
Paley Library, Rm. 317, (3rd floor, west side)
(215) 204-3166