Welcome to our research resources page
Below is a list of resources, online archives, catalogues, and libraries, which may be useful for curators and researchers working with collections of pre-1900 European Paintings. This list was compiled as a result of the SSN workshop held at the National Gallery in June 2016. A summary of the workshop can be read here.
I would very much welcome further suggestions for websites, libraries, and resources which I can add to this post – please email email@example.com and let me know what you find most useful in your research.
Some of the below incur subscription charges, but may be accessible through your institution or local library.
- Provenance Research Toolkit
- Online art collections databases
- Art market resources
- Visual resource sites
- Newspaper and Magazine archives
- Fine Art Library catalogues and Gallery archives
- Family history records
Provenance Research toolkit
Advice on approaches to 'Immunity from seizure' and other research projects can be accessed in our Provenance Research toolkit. This contains links to useful websites, recommended reading, policies and case studies.
Online art collections databases
The RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History is a global knowledge institute and the central resource for the study of Dutch and Flemish art in the international context.
The RKD manages a unique collection of archive, documentation, and library material relating to Western art from the late Middle Ages to the present. The nucleus of the collections is made up of documentation on Netherlandish art.
RKD Explore is the online collections database of the RKD. It allows you to browse all of the RKD’s rich collections in one simple search, presenting you instantly and free of charge with information on artists, reproductions of works of art, information about portraits and archives as well as the library catalogue. RKD comprises the following databases:
- RKDartists& - biographical information about Dutch and other artists from the middle ages to the present day, as well as art dealers, art collectors and art historians.
- RKDimages - descriptions and images of mainly Dutch paintings, drawings, prints and original photos pre second world war.
- RKDportraits - descriptions and images of works from the portrait collection.
- RKDlibrary - database of books, magazines and catalogues in the RKD library.
- RKDcollections - basic information about archives and collections of artists, artists' associations, art traders, collectors, art historians, and restorers.
- RKDexcerpts - comprises c. 1,200,000 scanned index cards from the Hofstede de Groot Archive.
Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today: Grove® Art Online, the Benezit® Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.
JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. The database contains more than 1,900 journal titles, in more than 50 disciplines.
The National Inventory of Continental European Paintings paintings database gives access to newly researched information about 8,300 pictures in public collections throughout the UK. The database is available through VADS (Visual Arts Data Service).
Art UK is the online home for art from every public collection in the United Kingdom. Previously called the Public Catalogue Foundation, Art UK works in partnership with 3,000 public collections, the BBC and other organisations to showcase the art the UK owns.
Art UK already features over 200,000 oil paintings by some 38,000 artists. These artworks are in museums, universities, town halls, hospitals and other civic buildings across the United Kingdom. Most of this art is not on public view.
The Getty Research Institute is dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts. Its Research Library with special collections of rare materials and digital resources serves an international community of scholars and the interested public.
The Getty Research Portal is an online platform providing global access to digitized art history texts, including, rare books, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues, and related literature. The Portal is comprised of catalogue records that link to full, digitised texts hosted by contributing institutions.
The Getty vocabularies contain structured terminology for art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, visual surrogates, conservation, and bibliographic materials. Includes the The Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)®.
Joconde is the central database for objects in the collections of the main French public and private museums, listed as Musées de France. It was created in 1975 and is now available online, maintained by the French Ministry of Culture.
CODART is the international network of curators of Dutch and Flemish art. At present, CODART connects over 600 curators from more than 300 museums in almost 50 countries. CODART’s website is the main port of call on the internet for everything related to Dutch and Flemish art in museums. It functions as an information and meeting centre, a research tool, and as a guide to information and sources found elsewhere on the internet, such as museum websites, universities, and research institutions.
The Montias database contains information from 1,280 inventories of goods (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture) owned by people living in 17th century Amsterdam. Searches may be performed on specific artists, types of objects (painting, prints, drawings), subject matter etc. There is also extensive information on the owners, as well as on buyers and prices paid when the goods were actually in a sale. The database contains a wealth of information that can elucidate patterns of buying, selling, inventorying and collecting art in Holland during the Dutch Golden Age.
HathiTrust is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. The mission of HathiTrust is to contribute to research, scholarship, and the common good by collaboratively collecting, organising, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge. There are more than 150 partners in HathiTrust, and membership is open to institutions worldwide.
A location register of the papers of artists, designers and craftspeople held in publicly accessible collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Visual resource sites
Bridgeman Images works with museums, galleries, collections and artists to provide a central resource of fine art and archive footage for reproduction to creative professionals. Every subject, concept, style and medium is represented, from the masterpieces of national museums to the hidden treasures of private collections.
Art market resources
Artnet is an online resource for the international art market and a destination to buy, sell, and research art online. Resources include a Price Database, which offers an archive of over 10 million auction results spanning over 30 years, including a total of over 1,700 auction houses and 320,000 artists; Market Alerts, which informs users of buying opportunities; the Gallery Network, which is an online platform that connects galleries and collectors from around the world; and more.
Newspaper and Magazine archives
The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's vast collection over the next 10 years.
The British Newspaper Archive contains around three million pages of newspaper content and includes news articles; family notices; letters; obituaries and advertisements.
The Guardian and Observer archive contains articles dating back to 1791.
The Times Digital Archive is an online, full-text facsimile of more than 200 years of the Times, with every page of every issue from 1785 to 2010.
Fine Art Library catalogues and Gallery archives
Copac brings together the catalogues of c.90 major UK and Irish libraries (and growing). In a single search you can discover the holdings of the UK’s national libraries, including the British Library, many University libraries, and specialist research libraries. Researchers and educators use Copac to save time in their research, to quickly and easily discover and locate resources, to check document details, review materials in their field, and assess the rarity of materials etc.
The National Gallery Research Centre supports the Gallery’s research strategy and ensures that its research resources are made available to the widest possible audience, including both national and international visitors and digital users, as well as Gallery staff.
The Research Centre is open to visiting academics and post-graduate students from Tuesday to Friday, 10am-5pm. Visitors are required to make an appointment in advance. Visit the website for further information and contact details.
The National Gallery Archive contains records of the Gallery's activities from its foundation in 1824 to the present day. The archive holds public records generated by the Gallery itself, and private papers relating to individuals or activities closely associated with the Gallery.
The National Gallery Library contains around 100,000 printed volumes relevant to the study of the history of paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to the early 20th century. Please note that the Library does not offer a general art library service, which is provided by the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Researchers are welcome to contact the Research Centre for information about individual items in the library's collection which may not be reasonably accessible in other libraries.
The National Art Library is a major public reference library for the fine and decorative arts. The online catalogue provides access to over 750,000 records.
Making out-of-print source material on Medieval and Renaissance studies freely available online through the Warburg Library catalogue and classification system. Entries are also organised in thematic collections to enable users to search by subject matter.
Gallica is the digitised library of the BNF (Bibliothèque nationale de France), for digitised French journals, sale reports, newspapers.
The Wallace Collection Library contains approximately 30,000 books, including periodicals, exhibition catalogues, and auction sale catalogues. It also includes on long-term loan the De Walden collection, consisting of rare fencing books from the 16th to the 19th century.
The Wallace Collection Archives hold records relating to the founders of the collection and the history of the museum from its foundation in 1897. The Wallace Collection also collects archives which relate to its subject specialist areas of French eighteenth century art, princely arms and armour and the history of collecting.
The Wallace Collection archive catalogue is now available online and contains full descriptions of three catalogued archives:
- Herbert Bier, art dealer: papers, 1912 – 1997
- Samuel Rush Meyrick, arms and armour collector and scholar: papers, 17thcentury – 1884
- Sir Francis Watson, former director of the Wallace Collection: papers, 1932 – 1996.
The library is a specialist research level collection of over 50,000 books, exhibition catalogues and sale catalogues on Western art covering most of the major European schools of painting from the early Renaissance to twenty-first century, the history of collecting, and also some Byzantine art.
The collection includes:
- Books and catalogues raisonnées, guide books and pamphlets
- Exhibition catalogues, dating back to the eighteenth century
- Catalogues of permanent collections from galleries around the world
- A major collection of early rare Sales catalogues from major auction houses dating back to the late seventeenth century
- Current subscriptions to Sothebys and Christies sales catalogues
- Over 350 books published before 1850 on architecture, art topography, biography of artists and the history of collecting
- Over 150 periodicals titles, of which approx.100 are current
- A small collection of videos
- Networked and stand alone electronic resources
- A substantial proportion of items are in the original language of publication, mainly in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish
- Rare catalogues acquired by Ellis Waterhouse
Family history records
1 billion searchable UK family history records. Ancestry.co.uk’s collection enables members to explore their family history using censuses, the fully indexed birth, marriage and death records, passenger lists, the British phone books, military and parish records.
Free, searchable indexes of births marriages and deaths.