Art History

Citing Sources

It is always important to give credit to the creators of the ideas and images we use in our research. In art historical research, two citation styles are commonly used: Modern Language Association (MLA) style or the Chicago Manual Style. Ask your instructor or refer to your syllabus for the required style for your assignment. Citing images may be new to you but there are many resources to assist you. More information about citing sources and different styles is available here. If you need help with the writing process, WCU's Writing Center has tutors that can help.

Web Resources

Using MLA Citation in a Presentation

Citing Images in MLA

From Purdue OWL: MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources

Citing a Painting, Sculpture, or Photograph

Provide the artist's name, the title of the artwork in italics, and the date of composition. Finally, provide the name of the institution that houses the artwork followed by the location of the institution (if the location is not listed in the name of the institution, e.g. The Art Institute of Chicago).

Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

If the medium and/or materials (e.g., oil on canvas) are important to the reference, you can include this information at the end of the entry. However, it is not required.

For photographic reproductions of artwork (e.g. images of artwork in a book), treat the book or website as a container. Remember that for a second container, the title is listed first, before the contributors. Cite the bibliographic information as above followed by the information for the source in which the photograph appears, including page or reference numbers (plate, figure, etc.).

Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Gardener's Art Through the Ages, 10th ed., by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Harcourt Brace, p. 939.

If you viewed the artwork on the museum's website, treat the name of the website as the container and include the website's publisher and the URL at the end of the citation. Omit publisher information if it is the same as the name of the website. Note the period after the date below, rather than the comma: this is because the date refers to the painting's original creation, rather than to its publication on the website. Thus, MLA format considers it an "optional element."

Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800. Museo del Prado,

Citing Images in Chicago

From Purdue Owl CMOS Style and Formatting Guide/ Miscellaneous Sources


This entry can be applied to paintings, sculptures, and all forms of visual art.  As usual, these must be cited with title, creator, and date as available, but the nature of these sources requires that you also provide medium, dimensions, and physical location, as follows:


3. Firstname Lastname, Title, date, medium, height × width × depth (unit conversion), location.


Lastname, Firstname. Title. Date. Medium, height × width × depth (unit conversion). Location.

There is some flexibility in portions of this citation. “Date” can be as simple as the year the piece of art was completed; it can be specific enough to include a season, month, or even a day. There might also be complications to acknowledge. In analog photography, for example, the date the photo was taken and the day it was developed into the print you are referencing are probably different; you might acknowledge that with something like “Spring 2013, printed 2018.” You may also have to give a date range if the specific year is unknown. “Location” might be a museum where it is on display, a private collection, or a publication in which it is reproduced; though, if possible, you should always cite the original rather than a reproduction.

You may find “Dimensions” unfamiliar, but most museums and the like will provide you with the medium and dimensions as part of the display or their website; these are standard attributes by which artwork is catalogued. Note that, when dealing with two-dimensional pieces such as paintings or photographs, you will use only height and width; “height” refers to the vertical dimension when the painting is hung on the wall in its correct orientation. Three-dimensional pieces will also include “depth.” Note that it is encouraged to provide dimensions in both imperial and metric units – use whichever the displaying institution gives, then follow it with a conversion in parentheses.

If images of the piece are available online, you should provide a URL at the end of your citation. 


4. Caspar David Friedrich, Der Mönch am Meer, 1808–10, oil on canvas, 110 cm × 171.5 cm (43 in × 67.5 in), Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany,

5. The Swimming Reindeer, 11th millennium BCE, mammoth ivory, 20.7 cm × 3 cm × 2.7 cm (8.1 in × 1.2 in × 1.1 in), British Museum, London, England. 

6. Ivan Frederick, The Hooded Man, 2003, photograph, The Economist, cover, May 8, 2004.


Friedrich, Caspar David. Der Mönch am Meer. 1808-10. Oil on canvas, 110 cm × 171.5 cm (43 in × 67.5 in). Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany.

The Swimming Reindeer. 11th millennium BCE. Mammoth ivory, 20.7 cm × 3 cm × 2.7 cm (8.1 in × 1.2 in × 1.1 in). British Museum, London, England.

Frederick, Ivan. The Hooded Man. 2003. Photograph. The Economist, cover, May 8, 2004.

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