Skip to Main Content

Library & Information Technology

How to Research an Artist

An introduction to finding information about artists.

What's in This Guide?

Kati Horna, Portrait of Leonora Carrington in her studio, opposite her painting Nunscape at Manzanillo, 1956 © Norah HornaThis guide is an introduction to biographical resources on artists and will provide helpful tips for starting your research.


Navigate the tabs on the left to find:

  • Books and eBooks
  • Encyclopedias and background sources
  • Magazines and scholarly journals
  • Images for research and inspiration
  • Useful websites and organizations
  • Get writing or citation help

Artistic genealogy assignments:

The biographical information you find will reveal your artist's teachers, collaborators, associates, and influences that can be used to construct your artistic genealogy. Once you have the names of your artist's influences, then search their names the same way you searched for your artist.

 Leonora Carrington in her studio, opposite her painting Nunscape at Manzanillo, Kati Horna, 1956 © Norah Horna

What's in a Name? Everything!

It is important that you know the correct spelling of the artist's last name, and/or possible variations, and at least the first initial of their first name. This is especially helpful when researching lesser known artists.

If you don't know the correct spelling of your artist's name, look in your favorite search engine. If you spell it wrong, they will often correct the spelling or ask, "Did you mean...?" and give you the correct name.

The Getty Union List of Artist Names (ULAN) is the best source for finding an artist's preferred name. It also lists influences!

Name confusion! 

Sometimes an artist may have the same name or a similar name as someone else, which can cause problems while doing research.  

For example, a search for Nick Cave in the databases will pull up articles on both Nick Cave, the American artist (on the left in this photo), and Nick Cave, the Australian musician (on the right). They are both awesome, by the way.

Or, if you are looking for the graphic designer Paul Rand, a keyword search may pull up the Kentucky politician, Rand Paul!

Usually, the trick is to add a keyword that will differentiate your artist from the other person, like adding the word "soundsuit" or "African-American" to your Nick Cave search. You can also put the name "Paul Rand" in quotes so the database will search the words in that exact order.