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Researching Your Art (Research Guide)

Evaluation and Appraisal

Few things are as exciting as discovering a painting that's been hiding in the attic or rediscovering one that's been on the wall for years. When you find such a "hidden treasure," all sorts of questions arise: Where did this come from? Who is this artist? Are they famous? and of course, how much is it worth?!? Where do you start? While the folks on the Antiques Roadshow make it look really easy, researching art and determining its value is a highly-trained profession; however, there are a number of sources that you can use to do a preliminary search or to get a general idea.

Online Auction Records

The database is available for free only at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main. Accessing this resource from home requires a paid subscription.

Auction Sales Indexes & Price Guides

The following sources list auction prices for artists. Current volumes are available at the Reference Services desk in the Main Library. Back issues are also available as indicated.

Art Sales Index
(1978 to date; now known as Hislop’s Art Sales Index)
A widely used source. Runs from August to July. Over 100,000 sale results from 1,800 auctions per season. Covers over 27,000 artists. Drawings included from 1976. Bronzes/sculptures included from 1983/1984. Covers only works sold above a certain price.

Davenport’s Art Reference & Price Guide
(1996/97 to date)
Contains over 90,000 artists. Artists included must have sold at an auction that produces a catalog and publishes in a major reference book. Each artist contains: birth and death dates, where they lived, subject matters, average prices. Good for finding range of prices for artists’ works and lesser known artists.

Gordon’s Print Price Annual
(1996, 1999 to date)
Most authoritative and comprehensive source for prints. Contains more than 20,000 entries.

Lawrence’s Dealer Print Prices International
Not an auction sales index. Lists over 20,000 retail prices for artist’s prints.

Descriptions of most of these resources come from the New York Public Library’s Conducting Research – Art & Architecture Collection.

Artist Biographies

If you don’t find a price in the above indexes, sometimes biographical information about the artist can be helpful in learning more about a painting.

The following will lead you to information about an artist in biographical sources. Also ask for these at the Reference Desk.

Artist Biographies Master Index
Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., c1986.
rq N40 .A78 1986

Mallett, Daniel Trowbridge
Mallett’s Index of Artists, International-Biographical; Including Painters, Sculptors, Illustrators, Engravers and Etchers of the Past and the Present
New York, R.R. Bowker company, 1948, c1935.
qr 927 M29

Havlice, Patricia Pate
Index to Artistic Biography
Metuchen, N.J., Scarecrow Press, 1973.
First Supplement, 1981
Second Supplement, 2002
r N40 .H38

Biographical Dictionaries
The following is a selective list of sources that contain information about artists. They are not indexed in the sources above, so they are additional places to look for biographical information on artists.

Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs…
r N40 .B47 1976

A Biographical Dictionary of Women Artists in Europe and America Since 1850
r N6757 .D86 1989

Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers
r 927.5 B84d2 (Room Reference)

Contemporary Artists
rq N6490 .C6567 1989

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists
r N6548 .M28 1975x

Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers
rq N6536 .F5 1986

Thieme and Becker
Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Kunstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart…
qr 927 T35

Who’s Who in American Art
rq N6537 .W5

Additional Sources

Oxford Art Online (Remote Access)
Includes the Grove Dictionary of Art which contains 45,000 articles on every aspect of the visual arts – painting, sculpture, graphic arts, architecture, decorative arts and photography – from prehistory to the present day.

Pittsburgh Artist File
Clippings file and indexes to local art shows such as Pittsburgh Associated Artist and The Carnegie International as well as documentation on Pittsburgh artists.

Artist File
Clippings file and index covering nationally- and internationally-known artists.


Very often trying to find the value of an artwork is tedious and time-consuming, or your research has led you to believe that you have an artwork of value, but you’re not quite sure. That is when an appraiser can be an enormous help! You can find an appraiser by:

Looking in the Yellow Pages under Appraisers.

Contacting an association of appraisers:

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What would you like to find?