Fine Arts Questions

Fine Arts Questions

This summer, we’ve been examining the tools available to you to perform the best possible research at IU East – from broadly applicable general techniques to in-depth tools for specific disciplines.  This week, we’ll explore the fine arts.

Fine arts is a broad subject, including the graphic arts, music, and performance art.  You might be looking at a specific creator, or a creation.  Or, you might be exploring a technique, instead.  We have plenty of good arts databases for examining theory, execution, or artist.  Some, like JSTOR, Humanities International Index, or ProQuest Arts are good for any of the fine arts.

Others are more specific – ones like International Index to Performing Arts, Film Index International, Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online, or International Index to Music Periodicals are all excellent choices.  And the Oxford databases – Oxford Art Online and Oxford Music Online – include detailed artist biographies (and extensive galleries of artwork), in addition to articles on theory, technique, style, or time period.  They also have digitized versions of major reference sources like Grove Dictionary of Art, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, the Grove Dictionary of Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, The Oxford Companion to Music, and the Encyclopedia of Popular Music.  All of our arts databases are listed here.

oxford art online

So, if we had a question about technique like “What prompted the use of metal plates in the development of intaglio printmaking?” we might form a search like this:

(intaglio OR engrav*) AND (history OR develop*) AND (plate* OR copper OR zinc)

You can see that we are searching for the three main concepts in the question, although we are using several synonyms to make sure we don’t miss good articles.  We would use the same structure for a question about a person or artwork as well – so if our question was “What were some of the effects of the ‘Mighty Five’ group of composers on Russian music (but not their effect on music elsewhere in Europe)?” this would be a good search:

(mighty five OR russian five OR balakirev circle) AND (music* OR compos* OR symphony) NOT europ*

Russian Five

Although it looks more time-consuming to type in a search this way, the quality of your results will be much closer to what you want than just typing “intaglio” or “mighty five” and hoping for the best – so you’ll save a lot of time searching through irrelevant results.

But, of course, the study of fine art has needs that are unique to the discipline – after all, of what value is a three thousand word essay on a symphony or piece of artwork, if you can’t hear or see it?  So there are several special sources for this type of material.


Looking at an artwork in sufficient detail is critical to art appreciation and criticism, and finding good examples can improve your art papers and your own understanding of an artist or movement.  Aside from the galleries in databases like Oxford Art Online, there are a number of free image searches on the web, and many of the major search engines have dedicated picture modules.  Chances are, you’ve already used something like Google Image Search, Bing Images, or PicSearch – all three allow you to limit to only large, high-resolution images.  Or, try something more experimental and ‘draw’ your search with Retrievr.  And if you already have a low-resolution image and want to find a better version of it, Google Image Search, Retrievr, and TinEye allow you to upload a picture (or supply a URL to one already online) and look to see if a larger version of it is available elsewhere on the web.



While you’ve no doubt listened to many popular songs on YouTube, there’s a lot of material that is much harder to find, especially for composers that are not part of modern pop culture.  Naxos Music Library is a great resource for full audio for classical music – the NML is the largest online classical music database in the world. Currently, it offers streaming access to almost 100,000 CDs with nearly 1.5 million tracks, including a staggering number or rare or out-of-print songs. Hundreds of new CDs are added every month.  Chances are, if you are studying music, you’ll spend a lot of time with this database.


Sometimes you need to play a piece of music yourself, or see exactly how the notes are arranged.  Sheet music is ideal for this.  Library Music Source is one database for this, featuring hundreds of thousands of pages of classical music, which can be downloaded in PDF.  But there are other, more specialized collections, too – if you need American music, the Library of Congress offers tens of thousands of songs in a variety of historical periods. Other sources of sheet music available freely online include the Julliard School’s manuscript collection and Music Scores.  They are less comprehensive, but can still be valuable tools in your music scholarship.

With so many fine arts databases available to you, you’ll be able to do great research for any project.  But if you have any questions, please contact us at!

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