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Research Resources: Class Guides

MAT130: First-Year Seminar - Mathematics of Art

Thoughts on Researching Specific Artists

The artists that you're researching and writing about this semester fall into the two basic groups described below. The types of library resources you use for your assignments depend upon the group into which your artist falls. This is not one-size-fits-all research!

1. Artists who are established as important figures in the history of art or who are well known in the world of contemporary art. Their work is studied and written about by scholars of art history in books and scholarly (also called academic) journals, and in the case of modern-day artists (20th and 21st centuries), by critics who write for influential publications such as the New York Times, Artforum, ARTnews, etc.

2. Artists currently working outside of the gallery/museum/critic establishment. Many are highly self-promotional, showcasing their portfolios and advertising their commercial-art services on their own web sites. Others may work in academia and show their research-related visual work on a university web site. If an artist's work appears in public--such as on a sidewalk or the side of a building, or even at an event--it may attract human-interest coverage in regional newspapers, so LexisNexis News might be a good place to look for information. The artists in this category tend to have a popular-culture as opposed to art-historical following; that is, their work usually is not written about by art scholars and critics.

How to Find Books in the Library Catalog

1. Click on the yellow cat icon (lower right) on the library home page.

2. In the words or phrase search box, type in keyword searches like these:

  • art and _______________ (geometry, psychology, perception, illusion, deception)
  • (math or mathematics) and art
  • fourth dimension
  • optical illusion
  • perspective drawing
  • trompe l'oeil
  • anamorph* (the asterisk fills in for different forms of a word--anamorphic, anamorphism, anamorphosis

3. Choose a book that looks promising, click on Details, then Full Record, to find out more about the book. After you've located a couple of relevant books, consider using the Subject terms attached to the record to locate similar records.

4. Once you've chosen an artist, repeat the same catalog-searching strategy, substituting the artist's name (i.e., Salvador Dali) for keywords in the words or phrase search box.

Call Number Hints

  • Call numbers for books in the subject area Art start with N; General Science is Q; Mathematics is QA; Psychology is BF
  • "Sci" in front of a call number means the book is in Martin Library of the Sciences; "Ref" in front of a call number means the book is in Shadek-Fackenthal Reference Room; "Sci Ref" in front of a call number means...guess!!
  • Most books are in the STACKS, which really means the shelves all throughout the floors of the libraries

Art Resources from the Library's "A-to-Z List of Electronic Resources"

Article indexes and abstracts: The following article indexes and abstracts allow you to look up an art topic or artist to find out what academic journal articles have been published about that topic or artist. Click on the "A-to-Z" link in the heading above to access these resources.

Basic reference:

Image library:

Useful Non-art "A-to-Z List" or eResources

Article indexes and abstracts:

Newspaper articles:

The combined holdings of thousands of libraries in the world:

Research Exercise

1. Look up your artist in these two reference resources:
  • Bénézit, Emmanuel. Dictionary of Artists. Paris: Gründ, 2006.
    Ref N40 .D5213 2006
  • Oxford Art Online. 2007-2009. Oxford University Press.

2. Answer these questions:

  • Did you find your artist in one or both of these reference resources? If yes, what kind of information did you find, and how are you going to use it to further your research?
  • If your artist is in neither Bénézit nor Oxford Art Online, why do you think that is so? Where will you look next?

Evaluating and Citing

The Writing Center. Using Outside Sources: A Student's Guide to Paraphrasing, Quoting, and Acknowledging Sources. 10th ed. Lancaster, PA: Franklin & Marshall College, Spring 2009.

Includes an excellent section on evaluating print and online sources, as well as many sample citations in three major styles.

Writing about Art

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing about Art. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2008.
N7476 .B37 2008

Additional Help

Email Louise Kulp, art reference librarian, at or call her at 717-291-4242 for further assistance, or fill out a research appointment request form to have an extremely helpful consultation designed just for you and your project!

Updated Sept. 2011, L. Kulp

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