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*Art, Architecture, and Photography

Guide to resources for the study of Fine Arts at Brandeis

Creative Arts Librarian

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Lisa Zeidenberg
Farber Library, Floor 2


This guide presents a selective list of basic electronic and print resources necessary for undertaking research projects in the fine arts (sculpture, drawing, design, painting, printmaking, and engraving), the decorative and applied arts (such as arts and crafts, furniture, ceramics, and textiles), architecture, and photography. Note that some sources cover all of the visual arts, including architecture and photography, while others are more limited in scope. There may be other specialized resources appropriate for your research -- please contact Lisa Zeidenberg for additional assistance. Citations for materials listed in the guide are limited to title and call number only. For complete descriptions, see the full bibliographic record in OneSearch, the Brandeis Library discovery portal. Comments or feedback on this guide are always welcome.

Analyzing Your Art-Related Research Question

Once you have selected an area to research, the next step is to figure out where your topic fits into the existing literature.

What specific question or questions do you want to answer as you do your research? (i.e. what is your hypothesis or hypotheses? You may need to modify these as you do your research.)

If your area of research is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with too much information and will have trouble focusing on a topic to write about. Some subjects might be fine if you were writing a full-length book but would be impractical for a 10-page paper. Try limiting your research topic in terms of time period, geography, or noteworthy individuals. You may want to explore a subset of your initial area of research.

If you have trouble locating any information on your topic or find only one or two articles or just a brief mention of your topic in a book, then your area of research may be too narrow or overly focused. If this is the case, try taking a broader view of the topic you are investigating.

  • Is your area of research too broad or too narrow?


  • Modern art in the United States (too broad for a 10 page paper)
  • Discuss the interaction of the New York modernists and the American Southwest in the first half of the 20th century (this research question could be covered in a 10-page paper)
  • What disciplines might cover your area of research?

EXAMPLE: Discuss the interaction of the New York modernists and the American Southwest in art and photography of the first half of the 20th century.

You might want to look at the literature within the following disciplines:

  • Art
  • Photography
  • American Studies
  • American History
  • Women's Studies
  • Literary Criticism
  • Intellectual History
  • Dissect your topic into pieces or components. Try to think of all the possible areas you will want to explore in order to answer your research question.


  • American art, modern art, 20th-century art in the United States, painting, sculpture, artistic photography
  • Women artists and photographers, Georgia O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothy Norman, D. H. Lawrence, The Eight, Ashcan School, art patronage
  • New York in art, New Southwest, New Mexico in art, Taos
  • Primitivism in art, Native American art, Latin American influence on art, cultural context of art, cultural criticism, artistic influence
  • Avant-garde, modernism, radicalism, realism, aesthetic liberation, antimaterialism, American counterculture, social commentary