FINDING BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON ARTISTS
ONLINE AND PRINT RESOURCES
Most people prefer to begin online, but for lesser-known artists, you will probably need to consult print material after you have checked these electronic resources.
GENERAL SOURCES: ONLINE
You can start your search with Grove Dictionary of Art Online (listed under "All Databases" on the library's home page OR see the print version [Ref N31.D5 1996; 34 vols]--please note that the online version is restricted to Vanderbilt users). This source is considered one of the most reliable: entries were written by experts and are signed. Entries usually contain bibliographic citations to major books and articles on the artist, as well as exhibition catalogs and catalogue raisonnes (if they exist). Once you have that bibliography, check the titles in Acorn to see what is available in this library. You can, of course, check other catalogs (Athena, Kudzu, WorldCat) if you wish to do inter-library loan. This dictionary can also help you find information on movements and terminology to help you put your artist into his or her artistic and cultural context.
Then proceed through the biographical databases (go to the "All Databases" list on the library home page and then select "Biographical Information" from the drop down box to see the databases in that subject area). Your best bet is Biography and Genealogy Master Index, a citation index that picks up many art-related encyclopedias and who's whos. Reminder: these databases are restricted to Vanderbilt users.
You can also check in Britannica Online (listed under "All Databases" on the library home page) if the artist is fairly well known; the print version, Encyclopedia Britannica, can be found in the Reference Room (Ref AE5.E363 2002).
You might also try Artcyclopedia, a free web site that provides links to online digital images of museum-quality artwork; some of the museum web sites will contain biographical material (usually just the basics). The URL is http://artcyclopedia.com/.
Another "meta-site" [lists of links to other sites] is Chris Witcombe's Art History Resources on the Web (http://witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHLinks.html). The lists are arranged by period and/or location; within the lists, you can't rely on alphabetical order, so be sure to scroll down through the entire page to see if your artist is included.
Another free web site that provides brief biographies and bibliographies, as well as image lists, for about 200 artists is Mike Harden's Artchive: http://www.artchive.com/.
If you need to verify the spelling and dates of an artist, you can check the ULAN or Union List of Artist Names [http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabulary/ulan/index.html OR Ref N40.U54 1994; 4 vols.].
Another way to verify spelling and dates of American artists is to use the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture by going to the web site of the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (http://www.siris.si.edu/) and click on "search" under the heading of "Art Inventories." You can search by keyword or browse by artist name. This database was created as an attempt to document American paintings done prior to 1914 and sculpture, especially outdoor sculpture. While no images are online yet, this database allows you to verify the names of artists and the titles of their works, to see where those works are located, and to get a brief description of those works.
Another Smithsonian collection that might be helpful is the Archives of American Art, whose online catalog can be searched by going to the web site above and clicking on "search" under "Archives and Manuscripts." You can then switch "search all repositories" to limit to the Archives of American Art. This archival collection contains all sorts of personal papers that might help with biographical information. Most of the collection has been microfilmed; thus the microfilm reels can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
For information on contemporary artists, you might try Axis: For Information on Visual Artists (http://www.axisartists.org.uk/) ), a British web site that has a searchable database of artists' names. In addition, you might try World Wide Art Resources (http://wwar.com/), which also has a searchable database.
For a bibliography of print resources for the study of women in the visual arts, try the Resources page of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (http://www.nmwa.org/library/resources/bibtop.htm); this museum web site also has brief bibliographies for about twenty women artists (http://www.nmwa.org/library/bibs/bibsd.htm).
For brief biographies of important photographers, you might try A History of Photography from its Beginnings till the 1920s (http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory). This British site also has a short introduction to the history of photography and a brief bibliography of print resources for this topic.
ARTISTIC AND HISTORICAL CONTEXTS
For more information on the context for an artist or movement, you might try the following museum or timeline web sites:
[Unless otherwise specified, these print materials are in the 4th floor Reference Stacks.]
Reminder: If you haven't checked Grove Dictionary of Art Online, you might want to check the print edition (Ref N31.D5 1996; 34 vols).
Below are listed some print materials that focus on specific groups. The 4th floor Reference Stacks contain many more specialized indices, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and guides, all of which contain biographical material, so you may just want to browse the shelves yourself or check in Acorn.
AMERICAN ARTISTS: GENERAL
AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS
NATIVE AMERICAN ARTISTS
LATIN AMERICAN AND SPANISH ARTISTS
FOLK ART/NAIVE ART
Webpage created by Martha Kallstrom -- 02/28/2002
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