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Subject guide

Art & Art History

Overview of databases, reference works and websites for research in Art & Art History

Traditional genres, such as architecture, crafts, photography and printmaking; additionally world art, philosophy and theory of art, heritage, art in relation to society, and history of collecting
Text books, exhibition catalogues, monographies, reference works, films

The physical collection on art is located in the University Library. Most of the books are in closed stacks and can be requested through the Catalogue.

Reference collection

You can find a reference collection with primary and secondary literature on an array of subjects, bibliographies and dictionaries, on the first floor of the University Library. Items from the reference collection cannot be borrowed, it is, however, possible to make copies or scans.

The reference collection is organized by the Library of Congress Classification (LCC). Books in the field of arts usually have the following subject codes:

M Music
N Visual Arts
NA Architecture
NB Sculpture
NC Drawing. Design. Illustration
ND Painting
NE Print media
NK Decorative arts
NX Arts in general
PN 1600- Theatre
PN 1993- Film
TR Photography


Printed journals

Current issues of journals in the field of Art which are not available online are placed in the round journal cabinets at the entrance of reading room 5. Other relevant journals can be found at entrance 2 (Archeology), and entrances 3 and 4 (History). 

Books on theatre and film are located at study room 8. Books and journals on photography (TR), print media (NE) and drawing (NC) can be found at the reference libraries of the special collections department, entrance 3 on the second floor. Art in the Classical World can be found near subject code N.

Find our databases on Art and Art History in the catalogue.

To the catalogue

Art Index: indexes hundreds of journals on fine, decorative and commercial art, as well as photography, film and architecture.

Bibliography of the History of Art & Répertoire International de la littérature de l'art: for searching publications on art published between 1975 and 2007. Available through the Getty Research Institute.

Guide to the Literature of Art History 2 (Max Marmor e.a., Association of American Libraries 2004): supplement to Mary Chamberlin's Guide to Art Reference Books (ALA Editions 1959) and the Guide to the Literature of Art History (Etta Arntzen e.a., ALA Editions, 1980) containing references to publications in art and architectural history from 1977 on. Placed in the study room: Z5931 .M374 2005

Kubikat: collective catalogue of four of the eading German scholarly research institutes in the field of art history. The database contains more than 1.7 million records including 900,000 articles in scholarly periodicals, conference papers, commemorative volumes and exhibition catalogues.

Bibliography of Art and Architecture in the Islamic World. Volume 1 Art (Brill 2012 e.v.): annotated overview of books and articles from collected volumes and journals published in all European languages (except Turkish) between 1906 and 2011. Volume 2 Architecture is only available in print.

Oxford Bibliographies Art History: references for further research sorted by subject.

RKD Explore searches several RKD databases and retrieves biographical information, publications and images.

Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (Artists of the World): biographies of painters, sculptors, graphic designers, architects photographers and craftsmen.

Hall's dictionary of subjects & symbols in art (James Hall, Murray 1974). Placed in the study room: N7560 .H34126 1996.

Getty Vocabularies: contain structured terminology for art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, visual surrogates, conservation, and bibliographic materials.

Montias Database of 17th Century Dutch Art Inventories: information from 1,280 inventories of goods (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, etc.) from 1597-1681 owned by people living in Amsterdam. Drawn from the Gemeentearchief.

Oxford Handbooks and Cambridge Companions: introductions to topics giving a critical survey of the current state of scholarship.

Oxford Reference Online: dictionaries on art and architecture, amongst others the Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists, the Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the Dictionary of Architecture.

Art History

Research methodology


Ästhetische grundbegriffe: historisches wörterbuch in sieben bänden (Karlheinz Barck, Metzler 2000-2005): 170 articles on the development of concepts within art theory.

Critical Terms for Art History (Robert Nelson e.a., University of Chicago Press 2003): essays explaining and commenting on a "loaded" term, discussing the issues the term raises and putting the term into practice as an interpretive framework for a specific work of art.

Encyclopedia of aesthetics (Michael Kelly, Oxford UP 1998): comprehensive survey of major concepts, thinkers, and debates about the meaning, uses, and value of all the arts—from painting and sculpture to literature, music, theater, dance, television, film, and popular culture. Placed in the study room: BH56 .E53 1998

Books to start with

See the subject guides China Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and South and Southeast Asian Studies for information on searching literature about these regions.


Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: chronologies supplemented by essays and works of art telling the story of art and global culture. By The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Encyclopedia of World Art (Massimo Pallottino, McGraw-Hill 1959-1987): articles on artists and artist groups, concepts and descriptions of local artistic activities. Richly illustrated. Placed in the study room: N31 .E4833 1959


The Guide to Research in Islamic Art and Architecture of the Harvard University Library offers detailed information on searching for literature and images on art in the Middle East. Most named sources are also available in Leiden.

Books to start with


Encyclopedia of 20th-century architecture (Stephen Sennott, Fitzroy Dearborn 2004): contents feature major architects, firms, and professional issues; buildings, styles, and sites; the architecture of cities and countries; critics and historians; construction, materials, and planning topics; schools, movements, and stylistic and theoretical terms. Entries include well-selected bibliographies and illustrations. Placed in the study room: NA680 .E495 2004.

Reading Architecture: A Visual Lexicon (Owen Hopkins, Laurence King Publishing 2012): line drawings and extensive colour photographs illustrate the individual structural elements and materials common to different building types from the classical period up to the present.

The Greenwood encyclopedia of homes through world history (James Steele e.a., Greenwood 2009): on dwellings through the centuries and the social, political, economic and religious conditions that existed for their inhabitants. In the study room: NA7105 .S74 2009

Oxford Dictionary of Architecture (James Curl, Oxford UP 2015): this dictionary covers every period of Western architectural history.

ArchInform: database containing information on more than 84,000 built and unrealized projects from various architects and planners. Searching is on architect, town or keyword.

Built Works Registry: freely available registry of architectural works and the built environment.

Books to start with

Searching for Articles

Abstracts of International Conservation Literature (Getty Institute): database of over 145,000 abstracts of literature related to the preservation and conservation of material cultural heritage. Also includes includes selected subject-specific bibliographies.

Bibliographic Database of the Conservation Information Network: bibliographic resource for the conservation, preservation and restoration of cultural property. Coverage from up to 1955.

Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands: the CHA has a well-stocked library containing cultural heritage books and journals, dossiers on monuments and historic buildings, and photographs and drawings relating to archaeology, monuments, historic buildings, cultural landscapes, and fine and applied arts in the Netherlands. The website also publishes advisory reports and collection descriptions of museums and archives.


European Illustrated Glossary of Conservation Terms for Wall Paining and Architectural Surfaces (EwaGlos): richly illustrated glossary, including informative photos and sketches made by a consortium of European research institutes.

Reaxys: web-based tool for the retrieval of chemistry information and data from published literature, including journals and patents. The information includes chemical compounds, chemical reactions, chemical properties, related bibliographic data, substance data with synthesis planning information, as well as experimental procedures from selected journals and patents.

CoOL Conservation Online: freely accessible platform containing information on sources, organisations, mailing lists and more voor conservation professionals, maintained by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation.

Books to start with

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