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*Art Research

Updated 8/25/2021

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

A primary source is the work itself being discussed, and also, in research, materials written or created about it during the time period in which it was created.  Even though Van Gogh died in 1890, his work was still contemporary in 1904. Primary works can include exhibition catalogs, reviews, diaries and letters of the artist and his/her collaborators, interviews, and speeches.

You can find books and articles and limit their publication date to your artist's/work's/movement's time period using SuperSearchJSTOR is especially helpful because it offers historic coverage going back to first issues of journals. So you can find early reactions to Van Gogh's works, when a museum writer characterized the public's perception of them 'obscure enigmas.'  F. L. (1904). Notes from Holland. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 5 (15), 328-329. Retrieved from

The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs

Secondary Sources

These include critiques and analysis not from the lifespan or shortly thereafter of an artist, or more broadly, the time period of a movement. Journal articles and books that provide overviews fall into this category.  Analyses of a particular work over time- iconographic treatments detailing a cultural or political aspect, offering the author's interpretation are secondary sources.

Periods and Movements

You can search any art movement or time period across the library's collections, and find representative works in Artstor using the Advanced Search and choosing Style or Period as your search index. Remember, you need to set up an Artstor account!


Image result for art movements timeline

Iconographic Analysis

"Iconographic analysis is used to establish the meaning of a particular work at a particular time.  To identify the subject of an altarpiece as a Madonna and Child, however, explains nothing about the use of the altarpiece, how it fit into the surrounding culture, its economic import, or what it may reveal about social and political issues of the period. These questions apply most naturally to the study of objects from the past, but the same methods can be applied to contemporary art.  What matters is the way the context is described and what kinds of relationships are established between it and the work or works being studied.  This type of analysis is richest when it creates a web of very specific connections. To juxtapose a few generalizations about a historical context with a work from the period without suggesting any particular relationships between the two does not reveal very much." - from Writing About Art by Marjorie Munsterberg

As you approach your work, consider your point of view- are you bringing cultural perspectives on gender, economics, colonialism, or religion to the work?  How do your initial interpretations relate to those of art historians? Consider how the work is reflective of the social milieu in which it was created: was there a specific event, like the bombing of Guernica, that inspired it?  Was it a work of patronage that incorporated subversive elements based on power structures of that time?

Exhibitions & Collections

Searching for Exhibition catalogs as a subject in SuperSearch will bring you all of the catalogs available here in the library.  You can also search Ft. Collins Morgan Library to find and borrow catalogs that are owned there. SuperSearch also contains records for materials at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center Ryals Library. The Library does not lend materials, but you are welcome to visit and do research there. Their collections focus on southwestern and Native American art.