Citing artwork in academic papers

August 13, 2013

In a paper for which we’re currently handling the revisions, I and Matt cite several pieces of artwork, including Knight’s classic Brontosaurus and Burian’s snorkelling Brachiosaurus.

All we have for the references are:

  • Knight CR (1897) Restoration of Brontosaurus.
  • Burian Z (1941) Snorkelling Brachiosaurus.

But a reviewer asked us:

Please edit the reference list with additional information, e.g.: “on the NE wall of the AMNH Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs” or whatever is appropriate for [these references].

I don’t really have any idea what the right way is to cite artwork — does anyone?

And does anyone have the necessary information? We all know that Zallinger’s “Age of Reptiles” mural is on the wall of the YPM dinosaur hall, but where are the originals of the Knight Brontosaurus and the Burian Brachiosaurus?


32 Responses to “Citing artwork in academic papers”

  1. Andy Farke Says:

    It looks like there are two options you might pursue–one to cite where the artwork is shown in a book, and the other is for artwork in a museum. So, modifying from the MLA style, you might have:

    Knight CR (1897) Restoration of Brontosaurus. Oil on canvas. American Museum of Natural History, New York.

    or something like that. Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, you could contact the archives department at the relevant museums (if they have one), and see if the artwork is formally cataloged. Then you could just cite that, perhaps?

    I suspect you can probably use a fair bit of flexibility in how you cite, as long as the relevant details are there.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yeech, what a waste of time. I guess you’re right, though. I’m hoping somewhere here knows where the original pieces actually are — I certainly don’t. (On the other hand, does it matter? Knowing that hardly helps anyone.)

  3. Mike, the point I was thinking about when I wanted more info was not that you should waste time, but make clear what work you are referring to. “on the wall of the YPM dinosaur hall” will do! The reason for this is that many famous paintings have been copied and re-printed, sometimes from photos, and such copies may be distorted, cropped, etc. So it MAY be important to know what copy you use. And if you happen to have a catalogue number handy – the better! No extra legwork for that required, but do give the info you have anyways.

  4. gfvegheads Says:

    For the Knight image, I believe his granddaughter maintains a website that bears his name. She might be able to point you in the right direction.

  5. John McKay Says:

    Sadly all my style books are in storage. I think Andy’s sample is the best way to go for a purist.The safe way to go is to locate their art in a print work and cite it. For both Knight and Burian, there are published collections of their work. I’m pretty sure good images of all Knight’s major art can be found. Burian is more spotily covered, but you just linked to a published version of the specific work you want.

  6. John McKay Says:

    As I said, all of my style books are in storage, but I just sent your question out to some editor friends of mine. We should have an authoritative answer by morning (west coast). I asked for APA style; I assume that’s what you need.

  7. Allen Hazen Says:

    I’m always annoyed by citations that give the date of a recent edition rather than the original publication date — sometimes it makes a difference, but usually its just a barrier to understanding — but sometimes it makes sense. Where did YOU get the image, and just cite that (Knight, repr. in…).

  8. Allen Hazen Says:

    … Sorry, don’t have any really good suggestions about how one cites art-work: that last was just a thought about how to get a referee off your back. … There has been at least one book published about Knight: if your library has a copy you could check to see if it mentions particular works and if so how they are cited.

  9. Allen Hazen Says:

    One-minute Google search to see if anything helpful came up with
    Includes a gallery, if you need to verify that one painting you referto is really in the AMNH. (Despite having lived in the AMNH for much of my youth, I fear my memory now confuses Knight’s paintings with Zallinger’s at the YPM!) And, at the risk of opening another whole can of worms, an e-mail address of an art dealer who handles sales for his estate: contacting them, of course, might lead to a request for royalties if your paper includes an image.

  10. Nathan Myers Says:

    Were you standing in AMNH studying a canvas there, or did you look at a repro in a book? If the canvas, cite the location and date. (Why do academic papers avoid dates so assiduously, on anything but references?) If the book, cite the book. If the canvas or a particularly obscure book, add a pointer to where a reader who cannot easily get to the AMNH or find the book may find a reproduction.

    I understand that providing information potentially helpful to the reader risks earning you a demerit at your local guild hall. Defy them! Wear their demerits as a badge of honor. If you’re not upsetting the local guild, you’re not trying hard enough.

  11. Bryan Riolo Says:

    I think Knight’s Brontosaurus is at the AMNH. Ask Donald Glut. Burian’s Brachiosaurus? Don’t know!

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks to all for helpful comments. I think we have the Knight Brontosaurus nailed down now: This page confirms that it’s at the AMNH, and gives a negative number of 2417. I have also now confirmed to my own satisfaction that it’s mounted in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, below the neck of the skeletal mount: you can see the right 1/3 of it at bottom left of this photo, and the top left corner here. (Though if anyone has better photos I’ll be pleased to see them!)

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    Here are three more photos that nearly, but not quite, prove that the Knight painting is in the AMNH hall of saurischian dinosaurs.

    Amazing how the painting is obscured in every single shot.

  14. Mike Taylor Says:

    Aha! this, at least in conjunction with the previous photos, is pretty much a smoking gun for the Knight painting.

    Now, what about the Burian?

  15. Schenck Says:

    This all seems relatively silly, you’re not doing an artistic criticism of the piece no? You’re not sitting there with a /particular/ print of it, from a book or a numbered print, nor sitting in from of it at a gallery somewhere. You’re probably googling the image every so often to look at it, and probably making general comments about it.
    If you also mentioned the mona lisa, would anyone reasonably expect you to properly site it? Or if you talked about a reconstruction of a theropod where one foot as lifted up in running pose, would you cite this:

    Here’s a set of ways to cite an artistic work:
    Notice that they make a distinction between original works, reproductions, etc. But your level of analysis has nothing to do with that at all no? Merely supplying the picture in the article accomplishes anything that citing it would. Indeed, what good is it to anyone to cite the gallery location, for someone who’s never seen the work? These standards are for the artistic literature, not the scientific literature. An article in an art journal might refer to Einstein, or Quantum Mechanics, etc, as relating to art, but they wouldn’t necessarily provide a citation. Or consider Classical studies, which use a weird manuscript citation system, they wouldn’t necessarily cite any particular paper when discussing Aristotelian physics.

    I understand Mallison’s reasonable desire to have something more than just “Author, name of work”, but I think that might be an out-of-place application of a science journal standard.

    Anyway that’s my 2 cents.

  16. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m not even doing that. Our manuscript just says “Elevated posture was depicted in most (though not all) life restorations of sauropods, including the classic works of Knight [8], Zallinger [9] and Burian [10]”. That’s it. SO far I’ve spent about four hours on this.

  17. Mike, you’re doing the wrong thing here, and far too much of that!

    forget the reference tag, change the text to
    “of Knight (AMNH dinosaur hall mural), Zallinger (YPM mural)…” etc (I am going by memory here, may be wrong)

  18. google, less than 45 seconds, I find this:

    simply give this as ref for zallinger. I’m happy.

  19. Mike Taylor Says:

    The Zallinger ref. was always OK — everyone knows that’s in the YPM (and kind of hard to move). It’s Burian that’s giving the trouble.

  20. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yep, I’m familiar with that page. Says nothing about where the original is or where it it was first published.

  21. Augusta, Joseph; illustrated by Zdenek Burian. Prehistoric Animals. London: Spring Books, [1957]
    that’s the one, that will do! You are after all not interested in a specific (potentially cropped) version of the pic.

  22. by now I wish I had NOT asked you to provide more info; I did not know you’d turn that into a crusade ;)

  23. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, I didn’t mean it to be a crusade. I am just wired to be very thorough.

  24. Mike Taylor Says:

    Update: Steve Cohen, a volunteer “fossil explainer” at AMNH, has sent me a nice photo he took that clearly shows the Knight original the position just below the neck of the mounted skeleton, where all those other pictures I linked just hint at it. He also tells me that the medium is “guache on artist board”. Many thanks to Steve: the Knight case is now closed.

    But we are still not where we want to be on Burian. We know a book that carried a reproduction of the picture (thanks, Heinrich), but not the location of the original artwork. Anyone?

  25. Stuart Pond Says:

    I’ve got Burian’s brachiosaurus in a book called ‘Prehistoric Animals’, the first edition of which is dated 1960. I can send a photo of the image if that’s helpful.

    The Blackwell guide to citing references gives the following example for citing illustration using the Harvard style:

    SANDBY, P., 1746. A Bandit with a halbert. Pen and Ink. At: London: British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings. Register number 1889-9-11-1773

    This could easily be adapted for a book, magazine or online illustration (etching, lithoprint etc) or photograph.

  26. Heteromeles Says:

    Off topic, but I think the web is calling out for a debate on sauropod necks (well, io9 is):

  27. Mike Taylor Says:

    Wait — when did sauropod neck posture become off-topic for this blog?!

  28. Heteromeles Says:

    It didn’t, but I’m not trying to hijack the thread.

  29. Dino Says:

    Burians original artwork is of course here in the Czech Republic, most of the paintings in the gallery of the Zoological garden in Dvůr Králové nad Labem:

  30. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Dino! In the end, I went with this citation:

    Burian Z (1941) Snorkelling Brachiosaurus. Reproduced in: Augusta, Joseph (1957) Prehistoric Animals. London: Spring Books.

    But it’s good to know where the original is.

  31. Hi, I love the old illustrations for their emotive power and painterly skill; Prehistoric Animals was and remains a favourite from childhood.
    A puzzling disparity: I see Knight’s name with 98 below it in the lower left corner of that image; is 1897 given here as its year because (perhaps) it was commissioned or commenced then (but maybe only completed and signed in 1898)?

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