Walking though the galleries of your favorite museum can generate many questions about the lives of the artists whose works are on view. Artist biographical dictionaries can help answer these questions. Researchers visiting the Reading Room of the Frick Art Reference Library find cabinets dedicated to the lives of American and European artists, including such gems as The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists (1996) and An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (1998).
When unsure how to start researching an artist, Emmanual Bénézit’s (1854–1920) Dictionary of Artists (2006) makes a great first stop. Recognized by librarians and art professionals around the world, this latest edition includes entries for more than 170,000 artists active from antiquity to the present day. Entries vary in length and may include—in addition to basic biographical information—bibliographic references, auction records, monograms, signatures, and listings of institutions that own artists’ works. All four New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) libraries hold at least one of the French-language editions of Bénézit. Copies of the 2006 English-language edition can be found in the reading rooms of the Frick and The Metropolitan Museum of Art libraries.
Besides Bénézit, there are many other biographical resources concerning artists that are available in print and electronic formats at NYARC institutions. For a complete listing of resources held or accessed at the Frick and the other NYARC partners, see the Arcade and WATSONLINE online catalogs.
Elizabeth Lane, Assistant Reference Librarian, Frick Art Reference Library