Citation style: Art history writing assignments  
Chicago Style

Fine arts and art history publications tend to be uniform in their use of the notes-and-bibliography citation style found in The Chicago Manual of Style. Every one of you will probably be expected to adhere to the Chicago style -- in, say, essays, criticism, or personal statements that you might send to art publications. While there are a few choices concerning how The Chicago Manual lays out citations (such as the "author-text" or "notes/bibliography" styles, with variations in both: for examples, see links at bottom of this page), what follows is a brief introduction to the basics of how it is generally applied in art publications. ALL MY STUDENTS WILL BE EXPECTED TO ANNOTATE THEIR PAPERS ACCORDING TO CHICAGO STYLE: TO FAIL TO DO SO WILL RESULT IN 10 POINTS TAKEN AUTOMATICALLY FROM THE TOP OF ONE'S PAPER GRADE.


Notes represent a basic method of citing one's sources within the text itself. Notes are absolutely necessary not only when directly quoting a published source, but even when you borrow a fact, statistic, or idea from another source and restate it in your own words. To not annotate is plagiarism.  (For more information, see this brief primer from the University of California, Davis Office of Student Judicial Affairs on plagiarism and scholarship:  This handout contains some excellent information on typical issues that students often believe safeguard them from plagiarism: "common knowledge" and "paraphrasing." )

Annotating your quotes/sources involves sequentially numbering each quoted (or even slightly "reworked") passage that you've taken from someone else’s writing. You then place a corresponding number and source citation either at the end of the paper (endnotes), or at the bottom of the page on which the quote has been used (footnotes). (Word-processing programs like Word and Works will automatically do this for you: look under the "insert" toolbar and select "references," then select whether you want it to insert footnotes or endnotes and the number style.  Each time you insert a note this way, the program will automatically number and organize notes for you.)

(NOTE to the notes: Annotation does not mean numbering your sources once at the back or bottom of your paper, and just referring to these numbers over and over again. It means that each time you cite a source—no matter how many times you cited it—you must add a new note number and cite the same source again. Refer to either the sample passage below, or The Chicago Manual of Style for shortcuts to citing the same source repeatedly.)

Please make note of the sequential numbering of sources in text and footnotes in the passage below—including repeat references to the same source.  Note, too, the citation of sources/information referenced but not directly quoted by directing the reader to "see" the utilized sections of the source in the accompanying note. 

Note as well that one may SHORTEN the citation of sources after the first, full reference to include: the last name of the author/s, main title of the piece, and page number/s referenced.


According to literary scholar Marianna Torgovnick, the primitive has, in art historical scholarship as in general Western knowledge, been defined as that pertaining to an "original or ancestor." It has also referred to the "social formations within relatively isolated areas of Africa, Oceania, South America and other areas of the world" where cultures are marked by the absence of technology found in Western culture (thus associated with a simple, developing, "original" state of humanity).1 As art historian Gill Perry notes in Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction, this definition of primitivism has less to do with geographical location than a value judgment based on a Western notion of civilization, presupposing not only an undifferentiated racial category but evoking a "Eurocentric construct of the uncivilized tribe, the opposite, or 'other' to Western society."2 Providing what Perry articulates as a "fertile soil" (and the gendered, colonialist themes that the term implies), exotic non-Western locales served as sites in which the artist could escape, deviate from, and perhaps transcend the mores of Western civilization in the name of avant-garde artistic innovation. For many artists of the late nineteenth century, this meant a literal journey—or "going away"—to these (generally colonized) locations to immerse themselves in the cultures and customs of the peoples whose way of life represented an uncivilized or antiquated alternative to European society. This immersion—as best typified in the Oceanic journeys of Gaugin—was to then provide a foundation for artworks imbued with a sense of the style and spirit of the cultures that inspired them.3


1 Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1990),18, 23.

2 Gill Perry, "Primitivism and the 'Modern,'" in  Primitivism, Cubism, Abstraction: The Early Twentieth Century, ed. Charles Harrison, Francis Frascina and Gill Perry (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 5.

3 See Perry's discussion of this phenomenon in,  “Primitivism and the 'Modern,"" 3-34.

A quick how-to guide for citing your sources as either endnotes or footnotes

BOOKS: SINGLE AUTHOR: ( you see in the example passage above, the note organization of the book sources are structured as follows:)

Note number. Author's first name first, Title of the book italicized or underlined (City: Press, year in parentheses), page number/s of quoted/consulted material.

BOOKS: CHAPTERS IN EDITED ANTHOLOGIES: ( you also see above, citing a chapter or essay in a multi-author anthology goes as follows:)

Note number. Chapter author first-name-first, "Title of chapter/essay in quotation marks," name of the anthology italicized or underlined, name of editor/s first-name-first (City: Press, year in parentheses), page number/s of quoted/consulted material.

PERIODICALS: Note number. Author's first name first, "Title of the article in quotation marks," Title of the journal italicized or underlined volume number, issue number (date in parentheses), page number/s of quoted/consulted material.

(...applied to a journal article, the system works like this:)

6. Peter Buse, "The Stage Remains: Theatre Criticism and the Photographic Archive," Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 12, no.1 (Fall 1997): 77-96.

GALLERY MATERIALS: Many people cite gallery labels and brochures in different ways, but remember that you have to cite them when you take information from a museum's educational materials. Here's an acceptable way of doing it: Note number. Museum name, indicate label or brochure, name of artist or exhibition, Name of artwork or label heading italicized, (Date the information was taken from the label).

(...this is how it might look in your paper)

1. Los Angeles County Museum, gallery label, Grafton Tyler Brown's Mount Rainier, (12 August, 2000).

WEBSITES: As you’ll see in the University of Washington handout linked below, The Chicago Manual demonstrates several ways to annotate websites, depending on whether the source is an electronic journal or a straight-up website. But (as with its bibliographic form) have generally settled on the following structure:

Note number. If stated author's first name first, "Title of page/article in quotation marks," Name of the primary source/site italicized. Issue and/or date of the publication or last date revised, if given. Full URL, or site address (Date of website access in parentheses): page numbers if any.

(...this is how a website would then be annotated:)

3. Hal Cohen, “Losing Their Faculties: At NYU, Angry Professors Talk of Unionizing,” Village Voice Online (September 12-18, 2001) (accessed September 15, 2001).

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON WEBSITES: While there is much fantastic scholarship out on the World Wide Web (indeed, many academic journals are “going electronic” as a cost-cutting measure), I am troubled by how many students indiscriminately (and exclusively) use the Web as THE source of their research—almost always using poorly-written and –researched, often factually-incorrect websites written by amateurs rather than scholars. (See this New York Times article about the problems with Web research, including seemingly credible sources such as Wikipedia. See also this Chronicle of Higher Education article about the problems with Web "authorities.") The fact is: IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE TO WRITE A CREDIBLE ART HISTORY PAPER USING SOLELY WEB SOURCES. I always tell my students, the Web is an inch-deep ocean—which means that if you rely solely on the Web for papers in which depth is the primary criterion, you are guaranteed a poor grade.

Students will find linked to my course websites research resources ranging from local libraries and archives to full-text search engines for finding scholarly articles—all of which will lead students to books, journals, and newspapers (often times, accessible on the Web!) that have been juried, fact-checked, and edited in a manner expected of thorough,responsible scholarship. Students with additional questions about Web sources are encouraged to confer with me to learn strategies for determining the veracity and quality of research on the Web—there’s great stuff out there, but it takes work (and not just Google) to find it.


Bibliographies represent the most basic use of citation that one can/should include in one's papers. Even if you have not utilized any direct quotes from a published text, if you have not used notes you must (for both academic integrity and legal reasons) follow up your papers with a list of the sources used to prepare your work. The Chicago Manual organizes bibliographic sources slightly differently than notes. The sources are organized alphabetically (by author or editor, or by title if there is no author cited) on an individual sheet at the end of the paper, with every line after the first of each new source indented at least 5 spaces from the left margin. Here are some examples of how bibliographic sources should be organized according to the bibliographic format:

The first few sources [authors A through B] from an ideal bibliography…

Anderson, Laurie. Stories From the Nerve Bible. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Bad Girls (catalogue). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.

Battcock, Gregory. The Art of Performance: A Critical Anthology. New York: Dutton, 1984.

Betterson, Rosemary. An Intimate Distance: Women, Artists, and the Body. London and New York:
     Routledge, 1996.

Bolton, Richard, ed. The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography. Cambridge and
    London: The MIT Press, 1992.

Bryson, Norman, ed. Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations. Hanover: University Press of
    New England, 1994.

Burgin, Victor. The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity. Hampshire and London:
    Macmillan, 1986.

-----. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
    University of California Press, 1996.

-----, ed. Thinking Photography. London: Macmillan, 1982.


BOOKS: Author/editor, last name first. Title italicized or underlined. Additional editors if any. Volume or edition if any. City of publication: Name of press, year of publication.

(...with this structure applied to a book, a bibliography entry would look like this:)

Frueh, Joanna. Erotic Faculties. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996.

(...a  book of essays by multiple authors edited by certain individuals would be cited like this:)

Gibson, Pamela Church and Roma Gibson, eds. Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power. London: British Film Institute, 1993.

PERIODICALS: Author's last name first. "Title in quotation marks." Name of journal, like books, italicized or underlined Volume number, issue number (Date in parentheses): page number/s.

(...with this structure applied to a recent article, a bibliography entry would look like this:)

Eileraas, Karina. "Witches, Bitches and Fluids: Girl Bands Performing Ugliness as Resistance." The Drama Review: The Journal of Performance Studies 41, no.3 (Fall 1997):122-139.

WEBSITES: If stated, author's last name first. "Title in quotation marks." Name of the primary source/site italicized or underlined. Date of the publication or last date revised, if given. Full URL, or site address (date of access in parentheses).

(...with this structure applied to an online article, its bibliography entry would look like this:)

Buszek, Maria Elena. “Oh! Dogma (Up Yours!): Surfing the Third Wave.” Thirdspace 1, no. 1 (July 2001): (accessed July 25, 2001).


For more information on citation style in art and art history, see:

The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th edition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

OR for an abbreviated guide to Chicago Style:

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. 7th edition. New York: Longman, 2002.

ONLINE sources for using the Chicago Style:

The Little, Brown Handbook website for The Chicago Manual of Style

University of California-Berkeley's Chicago/Turabian Style handout

University of Washington's Chicago Style handout

University of North Carolina Chicago Style website

Chicago Manual of Style Q & A website