How to Cite a Painting or Artwork in APA, MLA, or Chicago

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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. Name of the website
  3. Date the page was published
  4. Date you accessed the page (if needed)

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. Name of Website, URL.

Example:

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851. The Met, www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417.

In-text citation:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in an in-text citation:

(Artist Last Name)

(Leutze)

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 by writing the name of the website where you accessed the painting in italics. And finally, include the URL of the artwork’s webpage, starting with “www.” Add a period at the end of the citation.

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. URL

Example:

Leutze, E. (1851). Washington crossing the Delaware [Painting]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, United States. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417

In-text citation:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in an in-text citation:

(Artist Last Name, Year)

(Leutze, 1851)

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/unknown, 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 the United States, put the abbreviation for the state followed by a comma, and then put United Staes 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 direct URL for the webpage where you viewed the painting, including https://www. You should not put a period after the URL.

Citing a painting you see online in Chicago (notes-bibliography style)

Format: 

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

Example:

Leutze, Emmanuel. Washington Crossing the Delaware. 1851. Oil on canvas. 149 x 255 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417.

Note:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in the note:

1. Artist’s First Name Last Name, Title of Painting, Year painting was created, description of materials, dimensions, Museum, City, URL.

1. Emmanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, oil on canvas, 149 x 255 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, https://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 from 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:

Lastly, put the URL (including https://www) at the end of the citation followed by a period. Note that Chicago style does not require an access date unless there is no listed publication date for the source. If you do need to include an access date, it should be formatted as follows: Accessed Month Day, Year.

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 replace the name of the website with the name of the gallery/museum (not italicized) followed by a comma and the city where the museum is located.

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.

In-text citation:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in an in-text citation:

(Artist Last Name)

(Leutze)

Citing a painting you see in person in APA

Follow the format for citing a painting viewed online, but end the citation after the city and state/country information of the museum. However, even if you saw the painting in person, if it is available online, you should still include the URL, and the citation will be the same as the citation for viewing a painting online in APA.

Format: 

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

APA example:

Leutze, E. (1851). Washington crossing the Delaware [Painting]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, United States. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417

In-text citation:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in an in-text citation:

(Artist Last Name, Year)

(Leutze, 1851)

Citing a painting you see in person in Chicago (notes-bibliography style)

Follow the same format as for a painting viewed online, but omit the URL.

Chicago style citation format: 

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

Example:

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

Note:

Here’s how the above example would be cited in the note:

1. Artist’s First Name Last Name, Title of Painting, Year painting was created, description of materials, dimensions, Museum, City.

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

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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How do I cite a painting in APA?

To cite a painting in APA style, it is important that you know some basic information such as the name of the artist, title, name of the museum, place, and URL (uniform resource locator). The templates for in-text citation and reference list entry of a painting, along with examples, are given below:

In-text citation template and example:

Narrative:

Artist Surname (Publication Year)

Thomas (1921)

Parenthetical:

(Artist Surname, Publication Year)

(Thomas, 1921)

Reference list entry template and example:

Artist Surname, F. M. (Year of Publication). Title of the painting. Name of the museum or gallery, place of the museum or gallery. URL

Thomas, A. H. (1921). Formes et couleurs: vingt planches en couleurs contenant soixante-sept motifs decoratifs [Painting]. The Met Museum, New York, NY, United States. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/591870?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ft=Art+Deco&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=3

Note that the first name and middle name, following the author’s surname, are abbreviated and separated by a space. The title of the painting is set in italics, followed by the word “[Painting]” in brackets.

How do I cite a painting in MLA format?

To cite a painting in MLA style, you need to have basic information including the artist, title, and museum name and location. The templates for in-text citations and works cited list entries of a painting along with examples are given below.

In-text citation templates and examples

For citations in prose, use the first name and surname of the artist in the first occurrence. In subsequent citations, use only the surname of the artist. In parenthetical citations, always use only the surname of the artist.

Citation in prose examples:

First mention: François Boucher

Subsequent occurrences: Boucher…

Parenthetical template:

(Artist Last Name)

Parenthetical example:

(Boucher)

Works cited list templates and examples

Viewed online

Template:

Artist Surname, First Name. Title of the Painting. Year of creation, Name of the Museum or Gallery, City of the museum or gallery. Title of Website, URL.

Example:

Boucher, François. Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist and Angels. 1765, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. The Met, www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435744?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ao=on&od=on&ft=painting&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=29.

Viewed in person

Template:

Artist Surname, First Name. Title of the painting. Year of creation, Name of the Museum or Gallery, City of the museum or gallery.

Example:

Matisse, Henri. Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat). 1905, Museum of Modern Art, New York City.