Tips for Object Research
One of the best ways to find primary sources is via secondary sources (books and articles). Primary sources, or excerpts from primary sources, may be reprinted and/or cited in secondary sources such as books and journal articles. This is an excellent way to determine which primary sources will be most relevant for the research topic you are studying.
Encyclopedias and other reference works (tertiary sources) are especially helpful for finding primary source documents in art history. So even as you are just starting your research, pay close attention to any primary source material that is being cited.
Another way to find possible primary sources is via Sourcebooks. Hint: use the keyword "sources" or "sourcebook" or use “diaries” or “letters” and for example Gauguin when using OneSearch.
For those new to art history (and for general inspiration for everyone) discipline-specific guides to art research and writing about art can be very useful. Here are a few, and places to find more:
A classic text on writing about art, first published in the early 1980s with many later editions and still an excellent guide, is Sylvan Barnet's A Short Guide to Writing About Art. This work is one of the classics of the field.
Andrei Pop's How To Do Things With Pictures: A Guide to Writing in Art History is downloadable guide created as part of the Harvard College Writing Project.
NYU Department of Art History - Tools for Formal Analysis is another great source.
The museum website where the object is housed can be a great first stop for information on your object. The Metropolitan Museum's website offers basic label information as well as more in depth information on its collections. Click on the image below to view the Metropolitan Museum's web page on this painting.