How to Cite a Painting You See in Person or Online

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When writing a research paper it is important to properly cite your sources. But what if the source you want to cite isn’t a book or website, but a painting? And does it make a difference if you see the painting in person at a museum, or through a secondary source like a webpage? This article will tell you how to cite a painting you see in person or online in MLA, APA and Chicago styles. In the spirit of Independence Day, the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware is used for examples.

What you will need

Citing a painting typically requires a bit more information than citing a book. The information you will need is:

  1. Current location of the piece
  2. Size dimensions 
  3. The medium (e.g., sculpture, painting, etc.)
  4. Artist’s name
  5. Title of the piece
  6. Date the painting was created

If you’re citing a painting you viewed online, you’ll also need:

  1. Website URL
  2. Website URL
  3. Name of the website
  4. Date the page was published
  5. Date you accessed the page

Citing a painting you see online in MLA

MLA citation format:

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Title of Artwork OR description. Year of creation. Museum, City. Title of Website, Link starting with www.

Example:

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Metmuseum.org, www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417.

Formatting notes

Artist’s name: 

Write the artist’s name with their last name first followed by a comma and then their first name, just as you would the author of a book. If they have a middle initial or name list it after the first name. Put a period after the first name or middle name/initial if one is given. If the artist is listed or described as “Anonymous,” put Anonymous. If no artist is credited for the work, just start with the next step, the title of the work.

Title of the piece: 

After the author’s name, put the title in Italics, followed by a period. Capitalize nouns, verbs, pronouns and adverbs. If there is no title given, provide a short and un-italicized description with regular sentence capitalization. For example, you could write “Untitled portrait of King Henry VIII” or “Red rose on yellow background.”

Year and location: 

Next you will need to write the year the painting was made followed by a comma. Then put the piece’s current location, first writing the name of the museum or gallery followed by a comma and the city followed by a period.

Citing a painting you see online in APA

APA citation format: 

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Initial. (Year). Title of painting [Description of material]. Museum, City, State Abbreviation/Country. Name of source website (date page was published or n.d. if no date is given). Retrieved from: full URL of website.

Example:

Leutze, E. (1851). Washington crossing the Delaware [Oil on canvas]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY. The Met (n.d.). Retrieved from: //www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417.

Formatting notes

Artist’s name:

Write the last name of the artist followed by a comma and then the first initial and middle initial if one is given followed by a period. If the artist is unknown, then skip this step and start the citation with the title of the work as described in the next step. If the artist is listed as Anonymous, use that as the name.

Year and title of the piece:

After the artist’s name put the year the painting was created in parentheses followed by a period. Then put the title of the painting in italics using sentence case. Then put the medium or materials used in brackets, followed by a period.

Location:

After the medium put the name of the museum where the piece is currently on display followed by a comma. Then put the city where the museum is located followed by a comma. Next, if the museum is in North America, put the abbreviation for the state followed by a period. For all other countries, put the name of the country instead of the state followed by a period.

 Website:

Next add the name of the source website followed by the date the page was published and a period. If no date is given, put “n.d.” for “no date.” Then put “Retrieved from:” followed by the direct URL for the webpage where you viewed the painting, including //www.

Citing a painting you see online in Chicago

Format: 

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Title of Painting. Year painting was created. Description of materials. Dimensions. Museum, City. Accessed Month Day, Year. URL.

Example:

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851. Oil on canvas. 149 in. x 255 in. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Accessed July 4th, 2019. //www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417.

Formatting notes

Artist’s name:

Start with the last name of the artist followed by a comma and then the first name and a period. If the author is listed as Anonymous, use that as the name. If no artist is credited simply skip this step and begin the citation with the title form the next step. 

Title of the piece:

After the name and a period, write the title of the painting in italics followed by a period. Use title case, so capitalize all nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adverbs.  If no title is given, you may simply skip this step. You do not need to provide a description or write “Untitled.”

Year:

Next list the year the painting was completed followed by a period. If no date is provided, put “n.d.”

 Medium and size:

List the materials used to make the artwork in sentence case followed by a period. Then put the dimensions followed by a period. You may use metric or imperial measurements, just be sure to keep it consistent throughout your paper. If this information is not available, simply leave it out.

Location:

Put the name of the museum where the piece is currently housed followed by a comma and the city where the museum is located.

Website and access date:

Finish with the URL of the website where you viewed the painting followed by a comma. Then put “accessed” followed by the date you most recently viewed the webpage in day-month-year format without commas, followed by a period.

Citing a painting you see in person in MLA

To cite a painting you see in person in MLA style, simply follow the same format as online, but leave off the website name and URL.

Format:

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Title of Artwork OR description. Year of creation, Museum, City.

MLA example:

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. 

Citing a painting you see in person in APA

Follow the format for APA website citation, but end the citation after the city and state/country information of the museum.  

Format: 

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Initial. (Year). Title of painting [Description of material]. Museum, City, State Abbreviation/Country.

Example: 

Leutze, E. (1851). Washington crossing the Delaware [Oil on canvas]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY.

Citing a painting you see in person in Chicago

Follow the format for a website citation, but leave off the URL and accessed date.

Chicago style citation format: 

Artist’s Last Name, Artist’s First Name. Title of Painting. Year painting was created. Description of materials. Dimensions. Museum, City.

Example: 

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851. Oil on canvas. 149 in. x 255 in. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 And there you have it! Now you know how to properly cite a painting you see in person or online using the three most common styles of documentation.


For your next essay, get a free grammar check with up to 5 free suggestions at EasyBib.com! In addition, you can also read the EasyBib grammar guides and learn how to properly use possessive nouns, linking verbs, an adverb clause, and other parts of speech. 

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