Sources of information

A selective list of resources useful for researching the history of works of art, especially paintings, which prioritises digitised resources publicly accessible online. A few require registration or subscriptions. Many historic books listed are accessible on one of the digitised book websites included below.

Cataloguing standards

Spectrum: the accepted UK standard for the cataloguing of museum objects (as well as other collection management tasks). Most commercially available cataloguing software is compliant with Spectrum.

The Getty Research Institute: access to the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA) and Répertoire international de la littérature de l'art (RILA); Getty ULAN; Getty Provenance Index

Research methodologies

Tate Papers: an online journal that published scholarly articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today. 

Search Tools and Databases (The Getty Research Institute). The Research Guides and Bibliographies are particularly useful.

Online books and periodicals

BnF Gallica: Bibliothèque nationale de France's digitised books, periodicals and newspapers (including Salon catalogues)

Burne-Jones catalogue raisonné

Google Books

Hathi Trust Digital Library

Internet Archive

Nazi Era Provenance of Museum Collections: A Research Guide (Jacques Schuhmacher, with a foreward by Edmund de Waal, pub. date 23 May 2024)

Exhibition catalogues I: Royal Academy, London

Royal Academy catalogues: the annual Summer Exhibition from 1769 to the present, and Winter Exhibition from its inception in 1870 through to 1939. 

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018 (living artists)

Royal Academy Notes, 1875–1882

Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors … 1769–1904, 1905–1906 (vols I–VIII): vol. I (A–C); vol. II (C–D); vol. III (E–H); vol. IV (H–L); vol. V (L–N); vol. VI (O–R); vol. VII (S–T); vol. VIII (T–Z).

Exhibition catalogues II

The Society of Artists of Great Britain (Algernon Graves, The Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1760-1791; The Free Society of Artists, 1761-1783, 1907)

The British Institution (Algernon Graves, The British Institution: a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from the foundation of the institution, 1908)

The Royal Cambrian Academy, Plas Mawr catalogues 1882–1892

Royal Hibernian Academy 

Royal Scottish Academy, 1826–1916 (members only)

Other links

Allied Artists Association, 1908–1911

Artist Biographies: British and Irish artists of the 20th century

Artists, their materials and suppliers: Jacob Simon, National Portrait Gallery online resources

British Newspaper Archive (British Library)

British Women Artists 1750–1950

Clergy of the Church of England Database

Contemporary Art Society Annual Reports

Cornwall Artists Index

Dangerous Women Project (artist and sitter biographies)

Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME): European Paintings and Drawings 1905–1915

De László Catalogue Raisonné

Frick Collection Photoarchive

Grace's Guide to British Industrial History

IFAR (International Foundation for Art Research)

JSTOR: access to scholarly journal articles, books, images and primary sources 

Khan Academy: Asian art and culture, a beginner's guide

Modernist Journals Project biographies: a research and teaching resource on the rise of modernism in the English-speaking world, with a central focus on periodical literature (by Ancestry): historical newspapers from the 1700s to the 2000s

NICE Paintings (National Inventory of Continental European Paintings, see also VADS)

Oxford Art Online (Grove Art Online | Benezit Dictionary of Artists)

Oxford Portraits I, II, III (Rachel Emily Malleson Poole, Catalogue of Oxford Portraits, Oxford, 1912–1925)

Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive

RAW (Rediscovering Art by Women)

Richard Eurich Catalogue Raisonné

Royal Collection Trust

Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

Russian Icons: a catalogue of the Russian icons in the British Museum

Suffolk Artists: promoting Suffolk associated artists, many of whom are unknown or unappreciated

TinEye reverse image search

VADS (Visual Arts Data Service): links to a wide range of special collections

Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute (2 million reproductions of works by 70,000 artists): closed in 2023 owing to the refurbishment of Somerset House; the entire collection is in the process of being digitised

European sites

Albums photographiques des Salons de 1864 à 1901 (Archives nationales, Base de données ARCADE)

Catalogue Illustré du Salon: an illustrated French language catalogue of the Paris Salon, an annual art exhibition begun in 1667 and administered from 1881 onward by the Société des Artistes Français. The title has varied somewhat over time.

Fondazione Federico Zeri: University of Bologna research centre and photo archive

Joconde: artworks in French public collections

kubikat: the collective catalogue of four of the leading German scholarly research institutes in the field of art history (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Max-Planck-Institut; Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich; Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte / Centre allemand d'histoire de l'art in Paris; Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome)

RKD: Netherlands Institute for Art History



MyHeritage (covers US censuses)

FindmyPast (in association with National Archives)



French Sculpture Census: French sculpture 1500–1960 in North American public collections

Mapping Sculpture: mapping the practice and profession of sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951

A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660-1851

War Memorials Register (Imperial War Museum)

Pastels (the online version of Neil Jeffares' Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, 2006)

Prints and Drawings

British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings

Collectors' marks (Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes)

Terms in print addresses: abbreviations and phrases on printed images 1500–1900 (


Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840–1940


Architects of Greater Manchester 1800–1940

AHRnet Biographical Dictionary of British and Irish Architects 1800–1950

Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1660–1980


National Archives (UK)


 J. W. Papworth and A. W. Morant, Ordinary of British Armorials, 1874, requires specialist knowledge of armorial terminology

A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (James Parker, A Glossary of Terms used in Heraldry, 1894)


British Telephone Directories, 1880–1984 (via Ancestry)

Burke's Peerage: Burke's Landed Gentry from 1833, information on heraldry and arms (online by subscription)

Debrett's: royal family, peerage and baronetage, British and Irish family trees, houses, estates and coats of arms

Scottish Post Office Directories, 19th–21st century (via

University of Leicester Historical Directories: trade and local directories from England and Wales from the 1760s to the 1910s


National Art Library

Paul Mellon Centre for British Art

Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London (the afterlife of antiquity and the survival and transmission of culture, with a particular emphasis on Medieval and Renaissance studies)

Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art (over 2 million reproductions of works by 70,000 artists)

Yale Center for British Art