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Researching Art or Artists

Search the Libraries’ Catalog


Getting Started

The Ryerson & Burnham Libraries' Catalog will lead you to books, exhibition catalogs, or pamphlet files for the artist. 
For best results, use the Library Catalog search scope, and enter the artist's name last name, first name (example: Monet, Claude). 

Catalogues Raisonnés

Look for a piece in the most comprehensive catalog of the artist’s known works. Please note these are not available for all artists. The International Foundation for Art Research maintains a free database of published and forthcoming catalogues raisonnés.

In the library catalog, search the Library Catalog scope for:  [Artist’s name; Last Name, First Name] – Catalogues raisonnés (example: Hopper, Edward – Catalogues raisonnés).

Pamphlet Files

The Ryerson & Burnham Libraries have over 35,000 pamphlet files, which contain small exhibition catalogs, checklists, clippings, images, and fliers for artists, galleries, museums, and art schools.

These are described in the catalog:  the location and material type is Pamphlets. See also the New York Public Library’s artists file on microfiche (call number 1990 3).

Biographical Reference Resources

  • Who’s Who in American Art
    Reference Desk:  N6536 .W5 
  • Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975
    Open Shelf:  N6536 .W49 1999 (also at Reference Desk)
  • Dictionary of Artists (Bénézit)
    Open Shelf:  N40 .B4713 2006
  • Allgemeines Kunstler-Lexikon
  • Contemporary Artists
    Open Shelf:  N6490 .C6567 1996

Ryerson Index

Look for articles on an artist, particularly if the artist was in the Chicago area and was active in the early 20th century. This includes references to the Art Institute of Chicago Scrapbooks.

Full Title:  Index to Art Periodicals (1962)

Signature Directories

If you do not have the name of the work you are researching, but it has a signature, try one of these resources.

  • American Artists: Signatures & Monograms, 1800-1990
    Open Shelf:  N45 .C37 1990
  • Marks & Monograms: The Decorative Arts, 1880-1960
    Open Shelf:  N45 .H37 1995
  • The Visual Index of Artists’ Signatures & Monograms
    Open Shelf:  N45 .J33 1991
  • Artists’ Monograms & Indiscernible Signatures: An International Directory, 1800-1991
    Open Shelf:  N45 .C374 1991

Articles on Art, Artists, and Related Topics

These resources provide citations and some full-text articles on art, artists, and related topics. Unless otherwise noted, they are available at the Art Institute of Chicago, the SAIC campus, or from other locations with an ARTIC username and password.

These resources are accessible in the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries via the Art, Architecture, and Design Resources Page.

Newspaper Databases

The Libraries subscribe to online regional and national newspaper databases, which can be used to locate biographical or exhibition information. 

These resources are accessible in the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries via the Newspapers Resources Page.

Auction Databases

The Libraries subscribe to a number of auction databases, most of which cover auctions from the last 20 years.  

These resources are accessible in the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries via the Auction Resources Page.

Researching Works in a Museum Collection

Objects currently on display in the Art Institute galleries can usually be found in Collections Online. The record may include an image, information from the wall label, and occasionally an exhibition history and bibliography of titles that mention the artwork. CITI is the museum's internal collection database, which includes information on all artworks in the Art Institute's collection. If an item is not on display in the galleries, this may be the best starting point. Please ask at the reference desk for CITI access.


For objects that are on display in other museums and institutions, the subscription ARTstor database, available online contains a growing survey of major works of art, as well as specialized image collections.

 Search by museum collection, artist, or keyword. ARTstor is available from the Image Databases page.