Artists study guide

Self portrait as a young man, oil painting on pine panel by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto, Venice, Italy, about 1548. Museum no.CAI.103 (oil)

Self portrait as a young man, oil painting on pine panel by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto (1519–94), Venice, Italy, about 1548. Museum no.CAI.103 (oil)

This Study Guide describes resources and standard reference works useful for finding information about artists. All resources described here can be found in the National Art Library (NAL); many of the main published resources, both printed and electronic, are also likely to be available in academic and public libraries that hold art and design collections. Links are provided to resources freely available on the Internet. Due to licensing restrictions, some of the electronic databases referred to are only available to users in the National Art Library reading rooms.


Finding books about artists in the NAL

Search the freely available Library Catalogue, using a Name (as Author or Subject) Browse search, and enter the artist's surname first, followed by first name, e.g. Opie, Julian, or do a Name (as Author or Subject) Keywords search in any order if the name is unusual or distinctive. This will retrieve books by or about an artist, including any catalogues, letters, diaries and memoirs held in the National Art Library. This search on the NAL online catalogue will find both published and unpublished material by and about artists held in the Library.


Finding journal articles about artists

If you are in the National Art Library reading rooms, search the published electronic abstracts and indexes listed below. These published databases, available by subscription, are a particularly useful source of information for lesser known and contemporary artists, about whom books may not have been written. For further information about their scope and content, see the related guide: Journals Study Guide

  • ARTbibliographies Modern (1974–)
    Provides full abstracts of journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogues, and reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art from the late 19th century onwards, with an emphasis on lesser-known artists.
  • Art Index Retrospective/Art Full text (1929–)
    Provides abstracts of articles from art periodicals published world-wide, with full-text coverage for selected journals beginning in 1997.
  • Bibliography of the History of Art (1990–)
    Covers visual arts in all media including European art from late Antiquity to the present, American art from the European arrival to the present and Christian and/or European colonial art in Asia Minor, Africa, India, the Far East and Australia.
  • Design and Applied Arts Index (1973–)
    Provides references from more than 500 design and craft journals and newspapers with data on over 50,000 designers, craftspeople, studios and workshops.


Finding works of art by artists in the V&A Prints & Drawings Study Room catalogue

Search the digital  Study Room Catalogues  to find information on many of the works of art held in the V&A's prints, drawings, paintings and photographs collections. Click on the search the Study Rooms catalogue button and then either choose a specific catalogue or choose Global search to search all catalogues simultaneously. For best results enter an asterisk before and after an artist's surname, e.g. *Morris*.

Finding biographical information about artists

There is a wide range of printed and some electronic sources for locating biographical information on particular artists. The lists below focus on the major international biographical dictionaries of artists and on sources for British artists and women artists. If you are in the National Art Library you can find other national dictionaries of artists shelved at Ref 709.2 in the Centre Room.


International dictionaries of art: standard works


  • Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (AKL). Munchen: Saur, 1992–
    Pressmark: Ref 709.2 SAU and electronic resource available by subscription (Available in the NAL)

    Also known as the World biographical dictionary of artists and in print and online, this provides information on approximately 270,000 artists. The online version contains the complete articles from the printed volumes 1-43 (covering artists from: A - FRYDERYK). For the part of the alphabet not yet covered by the printed edition, brief biographical information from the Allgemeines Künstler Lexikon Bio-bibliographischer Index (Pressmark: Ref 709.2 SAU) is included. Also contains references to the printed works of Thieme-Becker's Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler (Pressmark: Ref 709.2 THI) and its supplement, Vollmer's Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts (Pressmark Ref 709.2 VOL). Together these resources constitute the most comprehensive international dictionary of artists, providing scholarly articles, bibliographies and locations of works of art. All articles in German.

  • Bénézit, Emmanuel, Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs de tous les temps et tous les pays. Paris: Grund, 1999. Pressmark: Ref 709.2 BEN

    Commonly known as Benezit, after AKL this is the most extensive universal dictionary of artists from the 5th century BC to the present, although its major focus is on European artists. Entries vary in length but often include facsimiles of artists' signatures, prizes awarded, sale prices realized at auction, locations of works in museums and galleries and bibliographies. All articles in French.

  • Turner, Jane (ed.), The dictionary of art. New York: Grove, 1996.
    Pressmark: Ref 703 DIC and electronic resource available by subscription (Available in the NAL).
    Also known as the Grove dictionary of art and available in both printed and electronic format, this major international dictionary of art includes articles on fairly well-known artists written by experts, with bibliographic citations to the standard works about them, including exhibition catalogues and catalogues raisonnés.


International dictionaries of art: other works


  • Cerrito, Joann. Contemporary artists. Detroit: St James, 1996. Pressmark: Ref 709.20904 CON
  • McNeil, Barbara. Artist biographies master index. Detroit: Gale, 1986. Pressmark: Ref 709.2016 ART
  • Museum of Modern Art. Index to the Museum of Modern Art artist files. Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1993. Pressmark: Ref 709.2U IND
  • New York Public Library. The artists' file (10 fiche index). Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1987-1889. Pressmark: Ref 709.2U NEW and F890001
  • Vinson, James. International dictionary of art and artists. Chicago: St James, 1990. Pressmark: Ref 709.2

Academy exhibitors: British artists


  • Graves, Algernon. Dictionary of artists who have exhibited works in the principal London exhibitions from 1760–1893. 3rd ed. Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1969. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Graves, Algernon. Royal Academy of Arts: a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769–1904. East Ardsley: S.R. Publishers, 1970. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Royal Academy. Royal Academy exhibitors 1905–1970: a dictionary of artists and their work in the summer exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts. Wakefield: EP Publishing, 1970. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Royal Academy. Royal Academy exhibitors 1971–1989. Calne: Hilmarton Manor, 1989. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Bradshaw, Maurice. Royal Society of British Artists: members exhibiting 1824–1962. Leigh-on-Sea: F. Lewis, 1973-1977. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Johnson, Jane. Works exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists 1824–1893 and the New English Art Club 1888-1917. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1975. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB BRA
  • Antique Collectors Club. The Royal Watercolour Society: the first fifty years, 1805–1855. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1992. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB ROY
  • Rinder, Frank. The Royal Scottish Academy, 1826–1916. Glasgow: J. MacLehose, 1917. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Baile de Laperrière, Charles, ed. The Royal Scottish Academy exhibitors 1826–1990. Calne: Hilmarton Manor, 1991. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Billcliffe, Roger. The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts 1861–1989. Glasgow: Woodend, 1990-1993. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Stewart, Ann M. Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts: index of exhibitors and their works, 1826–1979. Dublin: Manton, 1985. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Stewart, Ann M. Irish Art Societies and Sketching Clubs: index of exhibitors, 1870–1980. Dublin: Four Courts, 1997. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB STE

Biographical dictionaries: British artists


  • Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
    Pressmark: Ref 920.041 DIC and electronic resource available by subscription (Available in the NAL).
    Contains scholarly articles on many well-known British artists.
  • Art Trade Press. Who's who in art. London: Art Trade Press, 1927. Pressmark: Ref 709.2 WHO
  • Buckman, David. Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945. Bristol: Art Dictionaries, 1998. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Engen, Rodney K. Dictionary of Victorian engravers, print publishers and their works. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1979. Pressmark: Ref 769.92 ENG
  • Engen, Rodney K. Dictionary of Victorian wood engravers. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1985. Pressmark: Ref 769.92 ENG
  • Grant, Maurice Harold. A dictionary of British etchers. London: Rockliff, 1952. Pressmark: Ref 767.092 GRA
  • Harris, Paul & Julian Halsby. The dictionary of Scottish painters 1600 to the present. Edinburgh: Canongate, 1998. Pressmark: Ref 759.2911 HAL
  • Horne, Alan J. The dictionary of 20th century British book illustrators. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1994. Pressmark: Ref 741.6092 HOR
  • Houfe, Simon. The dictionary of 19th century British book illustrators and caricaturists. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1996.
    Pressmark: Ref 741.6092 HOU
  • Johnson, Jane & A. Greutzner. The dictionary of British artists 1880–1940. [Woodbridge]: Antique Collectors' Club, 1976. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Lambourne, Lionel & Jean Hamilton. British watercolours in the Victoria and Albert Museum: an illustrated summary catalogue of the national collection. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1980. Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC
  • Mackenzie, Ian. British prints: dictionary and price guide. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1998. Pressmark: Ref 769.92 MAC
  • Mallalieu, Huon L. The dictionary of British watercolour artists up to 1920. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 2002. Pressmark: Ref 759.2 MAL
  • McEwan, Peter J.M. The dictionary of Scottish art and architecture. [2nd. ed.] Ballater: Glengarden, 2004. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Redgrave, Samuel. A dictionary of artists of the English School: painters, sculptors, architects, engravers and ornamentists with notices of their lives and work. Rev. ed. Bath: Kingsmead Reprints, 1970. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Rees, T. Mardy. Welsh painters, engravers, sculptors (1527–1911). Carnarvon: Welsh Pub. Co., [1912]. Pressmark: Ref 759.29 REE
  • Snoddy, Theo. Dictionary of Irish artists: 20th century. Dublin: Wolfhound, 1996. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Spalding, Frances. 20th century painters and sculptors. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1990. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Stewart, Brian & Mervyn Cutten. The dictionary of portrait painters in Britain up to 1920. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1997.
    Pressmark: Ref 757 STE
  • Victoria and Albert Museum. Catalogue of British oil paintings, 1820-1860. London: HMSO, 1990. Pressmark: Ref 708.21 VIC
  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham. The dictionary of 16th & 17th century British painters. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1988.
    Pressmark: Ref 759.2 WAT
  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham. The dictionary of British 18th century painters in oils and crayons. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1981.
    Pressmark: Ref 759.2 WAT
  • Waters, Grant M. The dictionary of British artists working 1900–1950. Eastbourne: Eastbourne Fine Art, 1975. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Windsor, Alan. Handbook of modern British painting and printmaking, 1900–1990. Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1992. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Witt Library. A checklist of British artists in the Witt Library. London: Witt Library, 1991. Pressmark: Ref 709.2GB
  • Wood, Christopher. Victorian painters. 3rd ed. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1995. Pressmark: Ref 759.2 WOO
  • Wood, Jeremy. Hidden talents: a dictionary of neglected artists working 1880–1950. Billingshurst: Jeremy Wood Fine Art, 1994.
    Pressmark: Ref 759.2 WOO  

Women artists

See also the relevant Study Guide: Women artists Study Guide

  • Bachmann, Donna G, Women artists: an historical, contemporary, and feminist bibliography. Metuchan: Scarecrow Press, 1978. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 BAC
  • Baile de Laperrière, Charles, ed., Society of women artists exhibitors 1855-1996, Wiltshire: Hilmarton Press, 1996. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 SOC
  • Dunford, Penny, A biographical dictionary of women artists in Europe and America since 1850, New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1900
    Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 DUN
  • Emmett Publishing, Contemporary women artists in the Women Artists' Slide Library, Haselmere: Emmett, 1992. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 CON
  • Gaze, Delia, ed., Dictionary of women artists London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 DIC
  • McCracken, Penny. Women artists and designers in Europe since 1800. New York: G.K. Hall ; London: Prentice Hall, 1998. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 McC
  • Petersen, Karen, and Wilson, J.J, Women artists: recognition and reappraisal from the early Middle Ages to the twentieth century. New York: New York University Press, 1976. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 PET
  • Petteys, Chris, Dictionary of women artists: an international dictionary of women artists born before 1900, Boston: G.K. Hall, 1985. Pressmark: Ref 709.2082 PET

Finding information on artists' signatures and monograms

There are a number of dictionaries useful for identifying artists' signatures, monograms and marks.

  • Caplan, H.H, The classified directory of artists signatures, symbols & monograms. London: Paul Grahame, 1987. Pressmark: Ref 702.78 CAP
  • Goldstein, Franz. Monogrammlexikon 1: internationales Verzeichnis der Monogramme bildender Künstler seit 1850. 2nd. ed. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999
    Pressmark: Ref 702.78 MON
  • Lampe, Louis. Signatures et monogrammes des peintres de toutes les écoles: guide monogrammiste indispensable aux amateurs de peintures anciennes. Bruxelles: A. Castaigne, 1895-98. Pressmark: Ref 700.278 LAM
  • Nagler, Georg Kaspar. Die Monogrammisten. Nieuwkoop: de Graaf, 1966. Pressmark: Ref 700.278 NAG
  • Pfisterer, Paul. Monogrammlexikon 2: internationales Verzeichnis der Monogramme bildender Künstler des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995. Pressmark: Ref 702.78 MON. Continues Goldstein above.
  • Pfisterer, Paul. Signaturenlexikon. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999. Pressmark: Ref 702.78 PFI
  • Ris-Paquot. Dictionnaire encyclopédique des marques et monogrammes, chiffres, lettres initiales, signes figuratifs ...Paris: H. Laurens, 1893. Pressmark: Ref 702.78 RIS. A standard work on various types of makers' marks, including artists' marks.

Finding auction sale prices for works of particular artists

There is a large number of sources useful for finding information on sale prices paid at auction for works of art by particular artists. For an extensive list of these, see the related Study Guide: Art Auctions and Sales Study Guide

Finding primary source material on particular artists

An essential guide for finding primary source material such as the personal papers and correspondence of particular artists held in publicly accessible repositories in the UK is the Artists' Papers Register, a freely available resource on the Internet.

Finding information about artists on the Internet

Increasingly, information on artists can be found on the Internet. Use any of the search engines, such as Google, Lycos or Yahoo, to search for artists' own official websites. You may also find commercial websites or the websites of museums and galleries which feature the work of particular artists. These can often include brief biographical information or a selection of images of their work.

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