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Primary Sources for Modern Art: Home

About primary sources for modern art

Primary sources are materials in a variety of formats that serve as original evidence documenting a time period, an event, a work, people, or ideas.* 
For modern art they include artist's writings, interviews, correspondence, as well as sketches, photographs and the work of art itself. 

Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy. Developed by the ACRL RBMS1-SAA2Joint Task Force on the Development of Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy, 2018

Databases & Bibliographies

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Useful OBIS Subjects for finding primary sources

Select SUBJECT from the drop down menu and enter a heading:

Broad subjects:
Art, Modern
20th century
Modernism (Art)

Graphic Artists
Designers
Painters
Sculptors

Specific subjects:
African american artists
Asian American artists
Women painters
Women sculptors
Printmakers

Then look for the following sub-headings in the results:
Anecdotes
Bio-bibliography
Biography
Correspondence
Diaries
Homes and haunts
Interviews
Journals
Sources

Searching for artists in OBIS

Few books and articles about an artist?
Search for their name as a Keyword.  For example, here's a Keyword search for  Willie Cole
To reduce/remove irrelevant items limit to the location art library.  For example, here's the Willie Cole search limited to the location art library

Lots of books and articles about an artist?
Search for their name as a Subject. For example, here's a Subject search for Mendietta, Ana
Need more? Increase your results with Keyword. For example, here's a Keyword search for Ana Mendietta
Too many results? Modify/Limit keyword results to the location art library. For example, here's the Keyword search for Ana Mendieta limited to the art library

Many books and articles about an artist?
For heavily researched artists -- like Marcel Duchamp -- search by subject and then look for subheadings for primary sources, such as Correspondence, Bio-bibliography,  Anecdotes, Diaries, Homes and haunts, Interviews, Journals, Sources, etc.

Unsure?
Start with a Subject for the artist.  Remember to "invert" the name: Smithson, Robert