Art History Resources

If you love art and want to learn more about the amazing stories behind famous paintings and sculptures from around the world, you’re in for a treat! The internet is like a giant treasure chest full of cool art history stuff. It’s got everything from virtual tours of big museums where you can see famous art up close to fun blogs and websites where people talk about the adventures of artists and their creations.

We’ve put together a list of some awesome online spots where you can dive into the world of art history. Whether you’re doing a school project or you’re just curious and want to explore on your own, these links are perfect for you. You’ll get to see amazing artworks, learn about different times in history, and discover the stories of artists from all over the planet.

Art History Websites

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is a lot of quality material for art students, educators, and enthusiasts on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. Start with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History, a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of the history of art worldwide. Each timeline page includes representative art from the Museum’s collection, a chart of periods, a map of the region, an overview, and a list of key events. The timelines – accompanied by world, regional, and sub-regional maps – provide a linear outline of art history and allow visitors to compare and contrast art from around the globe at any time in history. Apart from the Timeline, there is plenty more here, including lesson plans, online workshops, collection guides, and classroom activities.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) is America’s first federal art collection dedicated to the art and artists of the United States. More than 7,000 American artists, including major artists such as John Singleton Copley, John Singer Sargent, and Georgia O’Keeffe, are represented. The featured themes and topics of the collection include Colonial portraiture, nineteenth-century landscape, American impressionism, twentieth-century realism and abstraction, New Deal projects, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, contemporary crafts, African American art, Latino art, and folk art. Today the collection consists of more than 40,000 artworks in all media, spanning more than 300 years of artistic achievement. The Smithsonian Online Exhibitions feature prize holdings from different eras in American history. The online version of American Art, the academic journal of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has articles of interest to art historians.

The Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Trust focuses on the visual arts and serves both general audiences and specialized professionals, offering an impressive array of services. For instance, the Getty Research Institute provides access to various online research tools. The Research Library is accessible to on-site and remote users and provides access to the Library Catalog, various collections, and other services. The Explore Art section allows you to browse many of the works of art on display at the Getty by name, object, theme, or topic. You can also view current or past exhibitions. Among the best are Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Sculptor of the Enlightenment, and Raphael at the Gallery. There are also lesson plans and ideas for discussing many art and art history aspects. (See the Lesson Plans & Activities section below.)

Site Officiel du Musée du Louvre

On the official website of the Louvre, there are virtual tours of many of the galleries and exhibitions. The site presents a selection of works of art from each of the seven departments of the museum.

Spartacus: Encyclopedia of British Art, 1600-1950

This Spartacus Educational UK resource offers brief essays and information on Art Institutions, Artists 1600-1750, Artists 1750-1900, Artists 1900-1950, and Architects.

Library of Congress: The American Memory

The American Memory Collection from the Library of Congress contains primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers over 7 million digital items from over 100 historical collections. Multimedia collections of photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and digitized text are included. Select collections to search, search for items across all collections, and explore teaching and learning ideas with American Memory.

Reunion des Musees Nationaux (RMN), France

The Photo Agency of the Reunion des Musees Nationaux (RMN), French National Organization of Art Museums, houses more than 100,000 color transparencies and 500,000 black-and-white negatives relating to works of art in France’s national museums: paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, drawings, and photographs. A button in the upper-right corner of the website switches the language to English.

Art History Resources on the Web

Professor Chris Witcombe of the Art Department at Sweet Briar College has perhaps the best-organized gateway to art history sites on the Web. His directory is chock-full of useful and regularly updated links. It is divided into the following categories: Prehistoric Art, Ancient Near East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Art in Early Europe, 15th-Century Renaissance Art, 16th-Century Renaissance Art, 17th-Century Baroque Art, Baroque Art, 18th-Century Art, 19th-Century Art, 20th-Century Art, 21st-Century Art and Prints & Photography. He also includes a list of museum galleries and research resources.

Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide

Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide is the world’s first scholarly e-journal devoted to the study of nineteenth-century painting, sculpture, graphic arts, photography, architecture, and decorative arts worldwide. The journal’s chronological scope is the “long” nineteenth century, stretching from the American and French Revolutions at one end to the outbreak of World War I at the other.

Mother of all Art and Art History Links Page

The Mother of All Art and Art History Links Page is available courtesy of the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. It is a good clearinghouse of links to Art History departments, research resources, and online exhibitions.

Artcyclopedia: The Guide to Museum-Quality Art on the Internet

The Artcyclopedia editors have compiled a comprehensive index of every artist represented at hundreds of museum sites, image archives, and other online resources. Artcyclopedia only provides references to sites on the World Wide Web where artists’ works can be viewed online, and the vast majority of the artists in their database specialize in painting and sculpture. They have a searchable index of over 1200 art sites and offer over 32,000 links to an estimated 100,000 works by 7,500 renowned artists. This is a great resource for researching particular artists.

AskArt offers extensive information on over 52,000 American artists. Individual artists are searchable by name.

ThoughtCo: Art History

This ThoughtCo page presents dozens of good articles with biographies and stories of artists and art movements.

Voice of the Shuttle: Art & Art History

VoS is an extensive humanities database with many useful links to art history resources. Among their many art history categories are General Art Resources, Artists & Works By Chronology, Museums, Institutes, & Centers, Galleries & Exhibitions, Journals & Zines (Art & Art History), Depts. & Programs (Art & Art History), and Course Syllabi & Teaching Resources (Art & Art History).


Mark Harden’s Artchive offers over 2,000 high-quality scans of artwork for educational purposes. The museum is divided into galleries: The Artchive, Glyphs Art Reviews, The Galleries, Theory and Criticism, Juxtapositions, Art CD-ROM Reviews, and Art Links. The Artchive offers browser access in HTML format to the archive for all fine art scans. The Galleries is the entry point to the online exhibitions currently showing.

WWWVL: History of Art

The History of Art Virtual Library is a gateway of links to Art History sponsored by CHArt, the Computers and History of Art Group. This site is aimed at everybody interested in art, but it specializes on the academic study of Art History. If you are interested in art history and would like to find images online or learn more about particular artists, the sites they list may be useful to you.

Art Images for College Teaching

AICT is a free-use image resource for the educational community by art historian and visual resources curator Allan T. Kohl. AICT is intended to disseminate images of art and architectural works in the public domain on a free-access, free-use basis to all levels of the educational community and the public.

Lesson Plans, Activities and More

Art History: A Preliminary Handbook

Dr. R. J. Belton of the Department of Fine Arts at Okanagan University College has produced this excellent guidebook to Art History. Sections include Why Study Visual Culture? Evaluation in Term Papers (Research, Thinking, and Writing Skills), Further Basic Questions to Ask Yourself About the Work, Some Points for Writing Any Essay, and Academic Documentation in the Department of Fine Arts.

Getty Center: Resources for Teachers

K-12 teachers can get reference materials, lessons, and activities from the Getty Institute. In the Professional Development Opportunities section, Looking at Decorative Arts examines furniture, tapestries, porcelain, and scientific objects; Looking at Portraits offers lesson plans, suggested questions, and activities that prompt discussion and activities about six different portraits; Language Through Art helps ESL students learn new vocabulary, and practice using it by looking at and describing portraits, landscapes, and narrative works of art. Art and Language Arts are lessons by Los Angeles-area elementary teachers that use artwork in the Getty Museum collection to teach students language and visual arts skills. ArtsEdNet includes lesson plans, curriculum ideas, an image gallery, and ArtsEdNet Talk, an online community of teachers and learners.

Eyes on Art

This interactive Pacific Bell site is devoted to helping students learn how to look at art. The Teacher’s Guide section explains the rationale and criteria behind each student activity and offers ways to facilitate (students) getting the most out of the curriculum.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art has over 120 free-loan education resources. Titles range in format from color slide programs and teaching packets to videocassettes, CD-Roms, and DVDs. The varied program topics provide opportunities for use in non-art curricula such as social studies, literature, and foreign languages.


ARTSEDGE – the National Arts and Education Network – supports the placement of the arts at the center of the curriculum and advocates creative use of technology to enhance the K-12 educational experience. ARTSEDGE offers free, standards-based teaching materials for use in and out of the classroom, professional development resources, student materials, and guidelines for arts-based instruction and assessment.

Odyssey Online

The Odyssey Online project was developed to help educators teach using works of art from the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Africa. The Teacher Resource explains ways in which this project meets curriculum standards. Designed for elementary and middle school-aged students.

Portrait Detectives

This online activity is for independent readers or an educator who enjoys reading aloud. It shows, interactively, how to discern which clues in any given portrait help to put it, its subject, and often the artist all in historical context. A wonderful way to introduce (or reinforce) the concept of critical thinking in art.

Writing in Art History

A web form all about writing an art history paper from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. See also the included link on MLA Format citations.

Art History Adventures

Educational Web Adventures develops award-winning online learning activities about art, history, and science. Their mission is to create exciting and effective learning experiences. Their Art History Adventures is a fun, educational experience appropriate for elementary school children. There are also Teachers’ Resources.


KinderArt is all about making art fun for kids and easy for adults who teach art to kids. There are over 1000 art-incorporating ideas and lesson plans, an extensive library section, and many other features.

Art Teacher on the Net

This site offers ideas, lesson plans, and projects for teachers, parents, and group leaders. It also provides a spot for exchanging ideas between educators and offers information on after-school and adult education project areas.

Art History Quiz

Five questions related to art history that change monthly.

Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur

A presentation by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, this is an exhibition from the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University featuring 157 Sumerian objects that were excavated by the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley, director of the joint excavations of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum at ancient Ur in the 1920s and 1930s.

Web Gallery of Art

The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of European paintings and sculptures of the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods (1100-1850), currently containing over 15,400 reproductions. Biographies, commentaries, and guided tours are available. Furthermore, a search engine allows you to find pictures in the collection using various search criteria. The guided tours make it easier to visit the gallery and understand the artistic and historical relationship between the artwork and artists in the collection.

Cleopatra: A Multimedia Guide to the Ancient World

Cleopatra is an interactive guide to the Ancient Art collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Stories” accompany the objects, and there are lesson plans for grades 4-12.

Huntington Photographic Archive of Buddhist and Related Art

The John C. and Susan L. Huntington Photographic Archive of Buddhist and Related Art of the College of the Arts, Ohio State University, contains nearly 300,000 original color slides and black and white photographs of art and architecture throughout Asia. Countries covered in the collection include India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar (Burma). Works range from approximately 2500 B.C.E. to the present, and documentation includes contemporary religious activities in various parts of Asia. The Archive documents the art and architecture of these countries in situ, as well as works of art found in most major Asian, European, and American museums. This broad yet detailed collection contains predominantly Buddhist material, including Hindu, Jain, Islamic, and other works.

Perseus: Greco-Roman

The Perseus Classics collection integrates textual and visual materials from the Archaic Classical Greek, and Roman worlds. The collection contains extensive and diverse resources, including primary and secondary texts, site plans, digital images, and maps. Art and archaeology catalogs document a wide range of objects: over 1,500 vases, over 1,800 sculptures and sculptural groups, over 1,200 coins, hundreds of buildings from nearly 100 sites, and over 100 gems.

ABZU: Guide to Resources for the Study of the Ancient Near East Available on the Internet

Abzu is a guide to the rapidly increasing and widely distributed data relevant to the study and public presentation of the Ancient Near East via the Internet. Abzu has been available on the Internet since 5 October 1994. View items recently added to ABZU. The editor of Abzu is Charles E. Jones, Research Archivist and Bibliographer at The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

Theban Mapping Project

This impressive site focuses on the Theban Necropolis, the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Rameses II, and Egyptology. It offers maps, a timeline, Q&As, and updates on the KV5 (Rameses tomb) archeological expedition. The main website is down due to lacking funding, so the provided link leads to a temporary mirror.

Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Creating French Culture from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France traces the history of power and culture from Charlemagne (b. 742?-d. 814) to Charles de Gaulle (b. 1890-d. 1970), through the prism of more than 200 “magnificent treasures.”

Vatican Museums, Vatican City

This site offers online tours of the collections of art and antiquities at the Vatican museums. Collections include the Gregorian Egyptian and Etruscan Museums, Raphael’s Rooms, the Pinacoteca (Art Gallery), and the Ethnological Missionary Museum. Visitors can examine various rooms in the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel. Visitors may also take a virtual tour of each room.

Islamic Art

This website is conceived as a companion to the Islamic galleries at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Intended as a general introduction to Islamic art, it draws upon examples from the museum’s comprehensive collection, which includes works from an area extending from southern Spain to Central Asia, ranging in date from the seventh through the nineteenth century.

American Photographs: The First Century

The Smithsonian American Art Museum offers a broad selection of photographs from The Charles Isaacs Collection of American Photography. The images include Civil War images by George Barnard and the Mathew Brady Studio and Western landscapes by Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson. The mix of familiar and lesser-known photographers and styles of work explores ideas about the influence of photographic culture in America from 1839 to 1939.

The Digital Michelangelo Project

Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Washington are attempting to advance 3D scanning technology and use it in the service of the humanities by creating a long-term digital archive of important cultural artifacts. The project focuses on some of Michelangelo’s sculptures, including the famous David statue. Check out two photographic essays about a physical replica of David and download ScanView, a program that lets you “fly around” models of Michelangelo’s statues.

The Great North Museum

The Great North Museum is a museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne focusing on natural history and ancient civilizations. It was formed in 2009 from the merger of the Hancock Museum and the Museum of Antiquities. It is the principal archaeology museum in northeast England and teaches about the region’s history, especially Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman frontier. It has a renowned collection of artifacts, models, and archives relating to the Wall and a full-scale reconstruction of the Temple to Mithras at Carrawburgh. Other displays illustrate the variety of life in the region from early prehistory to the 17th century. A virtual gallery of special exhibits, including Hadrian’s Wall and Flints and Stones, has nice images and explanatory text. Also offers an Object of the Month.

The Biography Channel

Biographies of Impressionist artists such as Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pisarro, and Renoir are found here.

Treasures of the World: Mona Lisa

Part of the PBS Treasures of the World Series, Mona Lisa is cast as a masterwork of art in an engaging story of crime and discovery. The section revolves around the Mona Lisa’s disappearance in 1911, but its true focus lies in Leonardo’s technique and the myth of Mona Lisa. Visitors, particularly students, should gain a greater appreciation of the Da Vinci masterpiece.

Rodin-Web purports to be the world’s largest website on Auguste Rodin. It contains an overview of approximately 220 public Rodin collections, biographical data, an extensive bibliography, an image database, links to useful resources, and an email network. Rodin-Web constitutes an art-historical database, an Internet guide, and an online forum simultaneously.