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Art & Art History: Research an Artist

Resources in support of Clemson's studio arts degree programs and General Education art/architecture survey courses

Research an Artist "from the canon"

can-on1 /'kan ən/    n
2.[c.] the list of works considered to be permanently established as being of the highest quality...                     [New Oxford American Dictionary, 2011]

TIP: The most efficient catalog search for books by or about a well-known artist looks like this:

screenshot demonstrating included name variations

Use "OR" to combine all three strategies--keyword, subject, author--into a single effort. You can replicate this strategy in most databases, too. (Exhibition catalogs often show the artist as "author".)

Find Biographical Resources in Print: Two Strategies

  1. Use this search to locate all available biographical dictionaries or encyclopedia on a specific group of artists. Add your 'focus' term in the third box, using AND (examples: women, Chinese, Jewish, Caribbean, Asian, contemporary, etc.:

    screenshot demonstrating first strategy

  2. Use a broad category as a subject term, then use a keyword combination in the second search box to focus your search:

    screenshot demonstrating second strategy

Online Biographical Resources for Established Artists

Examples of Bio Sources in Print for Established Artists

TIP: Start your search for biographical dictionaries by browsing the Gunnin Library Reference Collection, on the main level.

Best Online Resources for Contemporary Artist Biography

Examples of Bio Sources in Print for Contemporary Artists

Research a Contemporary Artist

Finding biographical and critical sources on a contemporary artist can be a challenge, simply because the pace at which scholarly or authoritative work is produced and published is slow compared to the pace of today's art scene. Reputations are made over time; legitimization can be hard won, especially for artists who adopt new technologies or work in more ephemeral media. For whatever reasons, it often takes years of effort before an artist is 'discovered' and considered seriously by the "art world" and its press.

The newer the artist, the more you will have to depend upon newspapers, art magazines and newsletters (vs. art journals), blogs, periodicals that cover cultural events (e.g., The New Yorker, The Village Voice), and the Internet for information. Not all of these sources will be completely accurate or verifiable, so exercise caution!

Cast a wide search net in order to snag good information. Prepare a list of search terms that captures important facets of the artist's life and work. Consider locale, medium, subject matter, collaborators & influences, and the artist's associations with a particular style, group, or movement. Use information you gather along the way to expand your search.

Examples of biography 'facets':

Name (and any pseudonyms): Rashaad Newsome
Locales: New York City
Medium: collage, performance, video
Subject matter: hip-hop, rap, African American pop culture, European heraldry
Major works: Shade Compositions (2005); The Conductor (2010-)
Major shows: MoMA PS1 "Greater New York" 2010; Whitney Biennial 2010; Prospect.1.5 (New Orleans) 2010-2011; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT) 2011; Galeria Ramis Barquet (NYC); Marlborough Gallery (NYC) 2011; Performa 2012
Education/training: ?
Collaborators: ?
Mentors or patrons: ?
Affiliations: ?
Influenced by: ?
Contemporaries: ?
Influence upon others: ?
Collected by:?
Interviews/published statements: ?