New Art History Resources Online

Several resources of art historical interest have recently become available online, with a special relevance to those studying British art history.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition catalogues from 1870 to 1939 have been digitised and are now available on the Royal Academy of Arts Collections website. When the Royal Academy moved from Somerset House (the same premises now occupied by the Courtauld Institute of Art) to its current home in Burlington House it initiated the series of winter loan exhibitions to complement the already well-established summer exhibition. It was these winter exhibitions that would eventually grow into the current blockbuster exhibition programme.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition Catalogues website

Browsing this online resource allows you to see the evolution of the catalogues from simple lists of works to fully illustrated publications with scholarly introductory essays as well as sometimes fascinatingly of-their-era advertisements.  The interface is intuitive and you can search the full text of each catalogue, cross-search all the catalogues at once or consult the cumulative indices. The Courtauld Book Library also has a large number of the original exhibition catalogues in hard copy.

The cover of the 1919-20 winter exhibition catalogue


The Walpole Society have recently published their guide to British Art History Resources. The guide spans both well know resources, such as the Burlington Magazine online index, and the more obscure, such as a blog about British picture frames. While not comprehensive, the guide is a useful starting point which gives a clear and well-structured overview of a range of important sites for individual artists, thematic research, collections, sales catalogues or aids for finding primary materials, such as archives of art historical interest. The guide includes only resources that are freely available on the internet so does not cover some of the Courtauld’s relevant subscription resources, such as the Bibliography of British and Irish History or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Understanding British Portraits website


One of the resources highlighted by the guide is the newly launched Understanding British Portraits website, the product of a research network of professionals working in the field. Among the most useful sections are a selection of toolkits giving guidance on interpretation and how to research portraits as well as providing guidance for museum professionals on developing learning and participation programmes. Other features include a blog, events news, and research funding opportunities as well as an enquiry service where users can upload an image and receive expert advice as to attribution, sitter identity and provenance. The ability to browse through previous enquiries as well as the inclusion of links to case studies and research papers make this a valuable addition for researchers at all levels.

These and other freely available resources that may be of interest to Courtauld staff and students are listed on our useful links page. If you’d like to make a suggestion please send it to serials (at) Courtauld (dot) ac (dot) uk.