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Art: Research Artworks

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 Works of Art

Finding Books About Artworks

Try first locating your artwork using the library search with your artist's last name and the name of the work. If you only want books you will need to add the 'Books' limit as well.

limit to books

E.g. the search below is an attempt to locate information about Tom Thomson's painting The West Wind. The keywords are his last name, Thomson, and "west wind" with quotes around it so the two words stay together.

library search results for Thomson "west wind"

Few books are written entirely about artworks, so you will have more luck seeking out books that feature your artist. When you do locate a book, typically only the best known works of an artist are featured. Be prepared to do additional searching for your artwork in the index of other books on the shelf.

You might also have some luck trying your search in Google by limiting your results to 'Books'. You may need to look under the 'More' tab to select Books as your limit.
Search in Google for thomson "west wind" limited to Books


Using eBooks

EBooks can be a valuable tool. While you may have to read them online, a quick search in an eBook can yield valuable results. These searches can help locate words and ideas that may not be commonly expressed in an index or table of contents.

Try searching these eBook databases for your artwork:

Why Encyclopedias and 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 the sources below to help you locate reference materials relating to artworks. Some article databases house encyclopedia and other reference works as well. If you don't find what you need here, other databases may still yield results.

Finding Articles About Art

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 the name of the work. Velázquez AND Las Meninas, for example.
  • The artist's name and the medium of the work. Frank Gehry AND sculpture, for example.
  • The artist's name and the period in the artist's career. Henry Moore AND Surrealism, for example.

Try the following databases with your search:

Finding Streaming Videos

Seneca Libraries provides access to several streaming video sites. Of special note for the arts, you should take a look at Films on Demand and the National Film Board of Canada. 

The National Film Board of Canada features Canadian films, many of which fall into the subject of visual arts. Check out their list of art related content or search for your Canadian art or artist here.

Search for Videos in Our Collection

Films on Demand contains many videos on artists and their works. For inspiration or to see what types of artworks are available, check out this Films on Demand playlist: Famous Artworks (will open a new tab).


Journal, Magazine, and Newspaper Article Databases

eBook Databases

Encyclopedic and Reference Databases

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