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Art: Research Artists

This guide provides research tips for searching topics such as: art history, illustration, photography and more. It also offers search tips and tricks for finding information about an artist or artwork.

Books and DVDs

Finding Information About Artists

Finding Books

Using the library's search box, try a search with your artist's name and the word biography. For example, the search 'Paul Klee biography' is demonstrated in the image below:

Seneca Libraries home page with text 'Paul Klee biography' in search box.

Your results will be a multitude of formats, ebooks, print books, journal articles, book reviews, etc. Your most useful results should be at the top of the page. And you can use the filters to get more specific.

book results from library catalogue

If you only want print books, you'll need to set a limit. Select 'Available in the Library' under the 'Refine Your Results' to filter for print books. You may also limit to specific Content or Material type and select 'Reviews' or 'Newspaper articles' if you are looking for commentary on your artists works.

Library catalog filters

Can't find anything in the catalogue?  Browse the shelves!

The library catalogue does not offer searching of every word in every book held in the library. As a consequence, the library may hold a book with biographic information about a specific artist, but you may not know about it by searching the Library Catalogue.

If there are no results in your search, go to the shelves armed with some basic information about your artist (art style, which years s/he was active in, preferred medium, etc.) and browse the books directly. For art, go to the "N's", and start retrieving books on art history that look promising. Look for your artist in the index at the back of each retrieved book.

Finding Encyclopedias and Other Reference Material

Reference refers to brief, factual information that can be used as a quick lookup; e.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the like. These types of materials are best used as a starting point. Encyclopedia entries are often longer than most dictionary entries and may provide more in depth information about a person's life and work.

Try these databases to help you find information:

Finding Articles About Artists

Articles are a key source of information in historical research. To locate articles, databases are used as search engines or search tools.

Try the following strategies for developing keywords for searches:

  • The artist's name and name of a work. Picasso AND Guernica, for example.
  • The artist's name and medium. Frank Gehry AND sculpture, for example.
  • The artist's name and period in the artist's career. Courbet AND Realism, for example.


Try the following databases with your search:

Seneca Libraries provide access to several streaming video sites.  You can also try browsing within the following databases for more streaming videos:

If you would like to locate more videos, some museum websites have created video content for their collections; and there's always Khan Academy.


One strategy for locating background information is to track down any museum that holds work by your artist. Many museums have developed profiles on artists in their collection. Visit the museum's website, locate information about their collection and see if you can find an artist profile.

For example, the Guggenheim has provided a brief biography for Canadian artist Jeff Wall since it houses several of his pieces.

The sites below will also help you track down artist information:


Journal, Magazine, and Newspaper Article Databases

eBook Databases

Encyclopedic and Reference Databases

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