Quick Guide to Citations

Quick Guide to Citations for Art Historical Writing1

Citing your sources is more than an application of rules or the insertion of quotes. Citation is a “social interaction” that walks a line between originality and humility within the discipline and helps you construct your argument.2 This means that citation is fundamental to art historical writing and the production of art historical knowledge.

Citation in art history is usually done with footnotes according to the Chicago Style rather than the in-text parenthetical citation frequently used in English or the sciences.3

Footnotes are sequential (1, 2, 3, 4, etc, even if you repeat a source) and should be added using the “insert footnote” button in Word, or similar function in your word processing software. The first footnote has a full citation (which is different than the bibliographic format). When you cite a source a second time, use an abbreviated citation.4

Do not simply make a small number and a list at the end. During editing and rewrites these will likely get out of order, whereas an inserted footnote will stay with that text and renumber when others are inserted or deleted.

Citation styles are informed by the writing practices of scholars and are a disciplinary decision, not just arbitrary sets of rules, signaling the discursive norms of a particular form of writing.5

In art history it is not customary to cite artworks in the text the same way as you would textual sources, but you should include the name of the artist along with the full title and date when you first mention the work.6 If you include an image, a full caption with additional information like dimensions, materials, current collection or museum, and image credits is customary.

Citations are also used differently depending on how you are engaging a particular source. Integral citations mention the name of the author in the sentence whereas non-integral citations do not. Integral citations, therefore. When writing this assignment, where you will be engaging with different author’s voices, you will most likely make frequent use of integral citation through paraphrasing main points.

Direct quotes should be used sparingly, and long quotes only when the entire passage is essential and analyzed closely in your main argument. If you do need to use a long quote, it should be single-spaced in indented, per Chicago Manual of Style.


1. Many of these ideas are inspired by the presentations of Elizabeth Wardle at the Howe Faculty Writing Fellows meetings in spring 2019.

2. Ken Hyland, Disciplinary Discourses: Social Interactions in Academic Writing (University of Michigan Press, 2013), 21, https://muse.jhu.edu/book/22712.

3. “The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed March 6, 2019, https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org.

4. “The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition.” This is an example of an abbreviated citation (as is the footnote below), and other examples can be found in the Chicago Manual of Style guide. 

5. Hyland, Disciplinary Discourses, 22. Art historical writing, for example, does not want to distract from the flow of the prose and description, so references are placed in footnotes. Art historical writing also often contains a wealth of information, and footnotes are a space where the author can supplement the ideas in the text without taking away from the main points in the body text. 

6. In Chicago Style, it is also customary to italicize the titles of artworks, as well as books and movies.