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Visual Arts & Photography: Background/Reference Sources 

The purpose of gathering background information is to help you understand your topic in more depth, or perhaps think about a different view or a subtopic that you had not previously considered.

Reference Books | Electronic Reference Resources

Using reference sources in the library's Reference Collection can be very useful.

After looking at the titles that follow, you can use the reference collection to help you locate additional information on your topic in the circulating collection by searching for books listed in any bibliographies or works cited. You can also note the call number of a Reference book that is useful for your topic. Drop the REF and use the remaining initial letters and numbers as a guide to finding similar material that circulates.

For example, if you wanted to find circulating books similar to the American Artists, you would go to the third floor and browse the N 6512 section.

Subject Specific Reference Books

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries of Art in General | Artists
Movements/Periods/Geographic Locales | Guidebooks/Directories
Art & Design/Decorative Arts/Everyday Things as Art
Drawing/Comics/Graphic Arts/Print Making
Ceramics/Pottery/Sculpture | Photography

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries of Art in General

Facts on File Encyclopedia of Art
REF. N 31 .F33 2005
In five color-illustrated, glossy-paged volumes, this encyclopedia "covers the entire history of art, chronologically and by region, to provide an overview of major artistic movements, the works associated with these periods, and the material culture that gave rise to such artistic expression."
Art Speak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords 1945 to the Present.
REF. N 6490 .A87 1997
"Art Speak is a key to specialized vocabulary. It identifies and defines the terminology essential for understanding art made since World War II. That language is made up of art movements, art forms, and critical terms explained here in short, alphabetically arranged essays. Many, but not all, of the entries are divided into the journalistic categories of who, when, where, and what." It begins with a timeline from 1945-196 of world history paralleled against art history, includes entries for art movements and trends, and is fully indexed.
The Dictionary of Art
REF. N 31 .D5 1996
Although called a dictionary, this 20 volume set with 45,000 entries is more like an encyclopedia which covers biographies, achievements of cultures where individual artists were difficult to pinpoint, world's civilizations and peoples, articles on every modern country recognized by the United Nations, cities and towns with significant artistic traditions, sites of archaeology or monuments, styles, schools, groups, movements, forms, themes, subject matter of art, building types, materials and techniques of art, and history of art patronage. Cross-referenced and a full index, with each article having a bibliography and mentioned author.
The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms
REF. N 33 .L75
"This dictionary is designed to serve as a field-guide to he arts." Compact and comprehensive, it covers terms pertaining to fine arts, architectural vocabulary, non-Western terminology, has a wide chronological spectrum, includes a table of dynasties, along with illustrations and diagrams.
Praeger Encyclopedia of Art
REF. N 33 .P68
Containing nearly 4,000 alphabetically arranged entries and 5,000 illustrations, this encyclopedia contains biographies that "document the activity of artists from all cultures and periods. Concise chronological surveys are provided in articles on the art of indivudial nations. These are further complemented by articles on periods, styles, schools, and movements." There are also "survey articles dealing with civilizations for which no artists' names are known."
A Dictionary of Art Titles: The Origins of the Names and Titles of 3,000 Works of Art
REF. N 33 .R56 2000
Pretty much like the title says, this "new dictionary seeks to explain the origins of the titles of around 3,000 works of art, mainly paintings and sculptures, but also including such modern developments as performance art and video installations." Entries are arranged in alphabetical order by title, but there is an index of author names at the end of the book.
The Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols
REF. N 7740 .L3 1993
Divided by geographic location and also chronologically, this volume shows illustrations of different symbols used in cultures over time and explains their meaning very briefly.

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St. James Guide to Native North American Artists
REF. E 98 .A7 S8 1998
For over 350 artists arranged alphabetically, each entry includes basic biographical information, individual and group exhibitions, collections, and publications, with a short essay explaining the style. Indexes for tribe, artist, medium, and geography are included at the back.
Dictionary of Art and Artists
REF. N 31 .M8
"Restricted mainly to the arts of painting, sculpture, drawing, and the other graphic processes, chiefly in Western Europe," these paragraph long entries include biographies, techincal terms, processes, movements, and also 1,250 color and black and white illustrations for demonstration.
Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists
REF. N 40 .B535 2005
"This four volume set provides concise profiles of the world's most important artists... Each entry offers biographical data on the artist, descriptive characteristics of the artist's creative output, reaons for the significance of his or her work, career milestones, and locations where the artist's work is displayed. Thos artists whose work is recognized as pivotal in the history of art receive more extended coverage."
Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers
REF. N 40 .B94
With some black-and-white plates included of some of the artists works, this 1904 edition of the dictionary contains short biographical entries about famous painters and engravers. The sheer number of names included is impressive, with more prolific artists receiving longer entries. Each entry includes birth, death, and information about the artist's career. The text is cross-referenced from one form of the name to another.
St. James Guide to Black Artists
REF. N 40 .S78 1997
"Contains biographical and career information, as well as brief critical essays, on nearly four hundred of the most prominent black artists. About three-fourths, or three hundred, were alive at the time of publication [1997]. Also included are a small number of important artists from the nineteenth century. Illustrating the book are nearly three hundred photographs of artists and their works."
Contemporary Artists
REF. N 6490 .C6567 1996
This book "provides comprehensive profiles of over 800 of the most significant artists of our time... Each entry includes biographical data, a comprehensive list of individual exhibitions, a selection of up to ten important group exhibitions, a list of public collections that include works by the artist, and primary and secondary bibliographies... Entries also include a list of permanent public installations. Many artists have contributed a statement about their work or a bout art in general, as well as a photograph of a representive work. Finally, critical essays have been contributed by specialists in the field."
A to Z of American Women in the Visual Arts
REF. N 6505 .K59 2002
For more than 130 American women artists, this book contains biographical information, bibliographies for further reading, two subject indexes, a comprehensive index, and many photographs.
American Women Artists: A Bibliography
REF. N 6505 .T84 1984
Arranged alphabetically by artist's name, each entry is a bibliography of articles and books about the artist. Types of artists included are painters, sculptors, graphic artists, photographers, and "conceptual artists."
American Artists
REF. N 6512 .A578
Including American artists who are frequently exhibited,each alphabetically arranged entry includes such information as basic biographical data, awards won, education, plus a paragraph description of the artist's style. Black-and-white and some color illustrations.
Contemporary Women Artists
REF. N 8354 .C66 1999
"Provides biographical and career information on more than 350 of the world's most prominent and influential contemporary (20th Century) women artists. Contemporary Women Artists covers figures who have worked, or are currently working, in teh visual arts- including painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, collage, photography, ceramics, mixed media, electronic media, performance art, video, design, and graphic arts... Each entry contains basic background information, a comprehensive list of individual exhibitions, a select list of group exhibitions, a list of publ8ic collections that include works by the artist, a selected bibliography of works by and about the artist, and a brief critical essay by a specialist in the field."

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Movements/Periods/Geographic Locales

The New Century Handbook of Greek Art and Architecture
REF. N 5633 .N39
"Information on Greek sculpture and architects, painters and potters, temples and shrines. The text is enhanced with illustrations, and a 32-page insert of photographs offers a sampling of the development of the arts of sculpture and vase-painting over a period of centuries."
Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art
REF. N 7740 .H35 1996
"The main dictionary is divided into six sections, according to subject: Abstract signs, Animals (including birds and insects), Artefacts, Earth and Sky, Human Body and Dress, Plants." These first sections are illustrated, and the final section for "collective symbols," such as the Four Seasons, are unillustrated.
The Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of Impressionism
REF. N 6465 .I4 D4
"The aim of the Encyclopaedia of Impressionism is to present a concise compendium of information relating to Impressionism, it's practitioners, ancillary figures such as patrons, models, dealers and critics, as well as to relevant general themes which concern the movement as a whole, covering its social, political, economic andd general historical context."
Contemporary Art Trends: 1960-1980
REF. N 6490 .B44 1981
Rather like a bibliography of suggested books, the first part of this book gives a brief overview of the art trend and then suggests several titles that either critique or analyze the trend; the second part suggests and explains titles about countries/areas; the third lists contemporary art journals; the fourth section is a bibliography of all the books and journals mentioned throughout the book with full publication info.
The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Art
REF. N 6490 .O94
This volume "is intended as a handbook and a guide for students and others who wish to find their way intelligently through the exuberant jungle of contemporary art... The articles are of four main kinds: biographical articles, accounts of movements and associations, elucidations of special terms, and historical articles describing the development of the arts in particular countries or regions."
Phaidon Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art
REF. N 6490 P46
Includes entries about established artists within the 20th century, types of art, and artistic movements during that time.

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2005 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market
REF. N 8600 .A746 2005
"Offers you more than 2,000 listings... Ten comprehensive sections cover every possible opportunity and market- from greeting cards, gifts, posters, prints, galleries, and magazines to book publishers, syndicates, cartoon features, record labels, art representatives, websites, and advertising and design markets."
American Art Directory
REF. N 50 .A54 2007-2008
This guide provides contact and detailed information for thousands of libraries, art galleries, museums, organizations, art, art history, and architecture departments, art programs, etc. throughout the U.S. and Canada. Millikin is listed on paged 120 & 479. The second half of the book includes indexes for museums and schools abroad, state arts councils, state directors and supervisors of art education, art magazines, newspaper art editors and critics, scholarships and fellowships, open exhibitions, and traveling exhibition booking agencies. Indexes are also included naming personnel at art schools and institutions, listing art organizations, and dividing collections by subject area.

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Art & Design/Decorative Arts/Everyday Things as Art

The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts
REF. NK 30 .F54 1989
Alphabetically arranged, this dictionary contains short entries for almost everything that is considered decorative arts. It has entries for artist names, movements, periods, places, things...
The Design Encyclopedia
REF. NK 1370 .B93 2004
Design is separated from fine art by the definition, "the design of an object that has a function. " This volume includes entries on "designers and craftspeople, design studios, consortiums, partnerships, noteworthy manufacturerss or editors of products, significant historical periods and styles, and materials."
The Encyclopedia of Furniture
REF. NK 2205 .A7
From 1940 (so don't look in here for Mod), this volume includes entries on various aspects of furniture including movements, decoration pieces, furniture components (like spindles, scrolls, etc...), famous designers and producers, and names for furniture pieces and styles.
Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator, and Historian.
REF. NC 1280 .R52 2000
An Encyclopedia of collected stuff, with entries about all the little items that people save (tickets, adverdisements, catalogs, cards, etc... Fully indexed and including illustrations. "Collectively, however, the entries in this encyclopedia define ephemera even more effectiely, since they include manuscript and printed matter, records of the past and present(both humble and prestigious), items designed to be thrown away(bus tickets) and to be kept(cigarette cards), and documents of considerable importance through to the trivial."

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Drawing/Comics/Graphic Arts/Print Making

The Encyclopedia of American Comics
REF. PN 6725 .E64 1990
Fully indexed, "the articles in this book are arranged alphabetically and fall into two basic categories: biographical entries on the peole of the comics field (artists, creators, packagers, writers) and entries on the comic strips or books themselves." It includes some color and black and white reproductions of selected comics.
The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons
REF. NC 1766 .U5 L46 1990
"This book is designed as the ultimate cartoon fan's guide. It features detailed information on every animated cartoon production, series or program exhibited theatrically or broadcast on television-on networks an cable- in the United States (foreign cartoon imports from Japan, Canada and elsewhere are included) from 1911 through the 1989-1990 television season."
The Animated Movie Guide
REF. NC 1765 .B367 2005
Includes every animated movie ever released in the United States. "Every film listing includes reviews, four-star ratings, back ground information, plot synopses, accurate running times, consumer tips, and MPAA ratings." Also discusses the animated film genre in general.
The Encyclopedia of American Comics
REF. PN 6725 .E64 1990
Fully indexed, "the articles in this book are arranged alphabetically and fall into two basic categories: biographical entries on the peole of the comics field (artists, creators, packagers, writers) and entries on the comic strips or books themselves." It includes some color and black and white reproductions of selected comics.
Encyclopaedia of Drawing: materials, techniques, and style.
REF. N 33 .A58
Like the title says, this book discusses the materials, techniques, and styles of drawing, giving background information and interesting details. With color and black-and-white illustrations.
A Technical Dictionary of Print Making
REF. NE 850 .B4213 2000
Exactly as the title says, this dictionary explains print-making terms with great detail, like an instruction book for printmakers.

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Illustrated Dictionary of Pottery Form
REF. TT 919.5 .F67
This dictionary illustrates and explains the many shapes of pottery. A great sourcebook for potters looking for inspiration to try something new.
Dictionary of Ceramics
REF. TP 788 .D6
Includes descriptions, definitions, physical and chemical data for "Pottery, Glass, Vitreous Enamels, Refractories, Clay Building Materials, Cement and Concrete, Electroceramics, Special Ceramics."
Dictionary of Modern Sculpture
REF. NB 50 .D53
Works as a biography for artists who did sculpture in the 1960's. Each entry also contains "technical information and criticism."
Encyclopedia of Pottery & Porcelain 1800-1960
REF. NK 3920 .C36
Arranged alphabetically, this book contains entries on the makers of ceramics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Also defined are "materials, techniques and stylistic movements, but patterns are dealt with only in relation to the factories that used them."

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Macmillan Biographical Encyclopedia of Photographic Artists & Innovations
REF. TR 139 .B767
"The function of this biographical resource is twofold: it strives to inform the reader about the world of photography as well as the photographers in it... Included amont the more than 2,000 biographees are approximately 500 nineteenth and twentieth-century photographers. Among those of an earlier time are all the giants, all the initiators and innovators." For each artist is included basic biograhical information, publications, collections, address, and influences.
Encyclopedia of Photography
REF. TR 9 .I24
Including myriad photographs, "the 1,300 entries describe the current state of the aesthetic, communicative, scientific, technical, and commercian applications of photograpy; it describes how the medium developed; and it identifies the photographers, scientists, and inventors who have been and are responsible for this development."
Encyclopedia of Twentieth- Century Photography
REF. TR 642 .E5 2006
Arranged alphabetically, this comprehensive guide to photography contains entries on the history of "photography, concepts, terms, themes that have evolved over the century", "the role of institutions and publications in the shaping of that history..., the development of the medium in specific countries and regins around the world..., and information on names, terms, concepts, processes, and countries."

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL