How to cite a painting

To cite a painting in MLA style, you should know basic information about the picture, such as the artist, title, museum name, city, and URL.

The templates and examples below are based on the MLA Handbook, 9 th edition.

If you’re trying to cite a painting, the Chegg Writing MLA citation generator could help.

Overview of citing a painting in MLA style

Help protect your paper against accidental plagiarism with the Chegg Writing plagiarism checker and citation generator.

General note

Italicize the title of the painting and write it in title case. However, if there is no title, provide a description of the painting in sentence case and don’t italicize it.

Citing a painting seen online in MLA style

In-text citation template and example:

Works cited entry template and example:

Artist Surname, First Name. Title of the painting. Year of creation, Name of the museum or gallery, URL.

Ping, Luo. Drinking in the Bamboo Garden. 1773, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/49254.

Read this MLA format guide for more style basics.

Citing a painting seen in person in MLA style

In-text citation template and example:

Works cited entry template and example:

Artist Surname, First Name. Title of the painting. Year of creation, Name of the museum or gallery, city of the museum or gallery.

Sansetsu, Kano. Old Plum. 1646, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The number assigned to the painting is optional; however, include it if available.

For more information on citing sources in MLA, also read these guides on MLA in-text citations and MLA works cited examples.

MLA Style Guides

For more details, visit these additional guides on MLA style.

MLA Formatting Basics

  • MLA Format Overview
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Abstract
  • Block and direct quotes
  • Citing Sources
  • Footnotes
  • Headings

MLA Citation Generators & Examples

Learn to cite sources with this MLA Citation Guide, use our MLA Citation Generator or choose a source type below.

This page contains reference examples for artwork, including the following:

1. Artwork in a museum or on a museum website

van Gogh, V. (1889). The starry night [Painting]. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, United States. https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/vincent-van-gogh-the-starry-night-1889/

  • Parenthetical citation: (van Gogh, 1889)
  • Narrative citation: van Gogh (1889)
  • Use this format to cite all types of museum artwork, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, drawings, digital art, crafts, and installations.
  • List the artist as the author of the work.
  • Always include a description of the medium or format in square brackets after the title. The description is flexible (e.g., a general description such as “[Painting]” or a more specific description such as “[Oil painting]” or “[Oil on canvas]”).
  • For untitled artwork, include a description in square brackets in place of a title.
  • The name and location of the museum appear in the source element of the reference.
  • Provide a link to the artwork on the museum website if available.

2. Art exhibition

Design for eternity: Architectural models from the ancient Americas [Exhibition]. (2015–2016). The Met Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, United States. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/design-for-eternity

Martinez, J.-L., & Douar, F. (2018–2019). Archaeology goes graphic [Exhibition]. The Louvre, Paris, France. https://www.louvre.fr/en/expositions/archaeology-goes-graphic

  • Parenthetical citations: (Design for Eternity, 2015–2016; Martinez & Douar, 2018–2019)
  • Narrative citations:Design for Eternity (2015–2016) and Martinez and Douar (2018–2019)
  • Provide the curator(s) of the exhibition in the author element of the reference.
  • When the curator is unknown, move the title of the exhibition to the author position of the reference.
  • The year or range of years of the exhibition appears in the date element of the reference.
  • The name and location of the museum appear in the source element of the reference.
  • Provide a link to the exhibition on the museum website if available.

3. Informational museum plaque

[Plaque with background information about American Gothic]. (n.d.). Art Institute Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States.

  • Parenthetical citation: ([Plaque with background information about American Gothic], n.d.)
  • Narrative citation: [Plaque with background information about American Gothic] (n.d.)
  • Provide a description of the plaque in square brackets rather than the name of the artwork or item so it is clear that you are citing the plaque itself.
  • If the plaque itself is dated, use that date. If the plaque is not dated, use “n.d.” Do not use the date of the artwork or item being described.
  • Information on a plaque is likely consolidated from other sources, making the plaque a secondary source. If possible, cite the same information from a primary source that your readers will be able to retrieve.

Artwork references are covered in Section 10.14 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

This guidance is new to the 7th edition.

One moment while we gather the info for your citation.

Form Glossary

Annotation

Additional notes or comments. For citations, annotations usually include a brief description of the content and what you think of it.

Date Accessed

Date (day, month, and/or year) the source was accessed or viewed online.

Electronically Published

When the source was electronically published. Sometimes, the date is not readily available.

Place of Publication

Name of the city, state or country where the publisher of a source is located. For written sources, this can usually be found on the title page. It is not always required, depending on the style.

Publisher or Sponsor

The organization, company, individual, or other entity that published, sponsored, or issued the content.

Suffix

In the citation forms, this refers to any additions to the end of a name that tells us more information about the contributor. Examples: Jr., Sr., II, III, Esq., etc.

Title

What a source is called or its name. In the absence of a title, some styles may ask for a summary of the source.

The address of a web page. URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. Example: www.citationmachine.net

Medium

Way the content or information is communicated, shared, or published. Below are examples for two source types.

  • E-book: Other: PDF, JPEG file, Powerpoint, etc.
  • Painting/Artwork: Graphite on paper, Marble, Oil on canvas, etc.

Contributor

Person or organization that assisted in creating content, a performance, or a resource. Examples include a translator, book editor, screenwriter, singer, etc.

How do you write the title of a painting in an essay?

A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work.

How do you format the name of a painting?

For names of artwork, always use italics or underlining: ex. We have a copy of Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks in the Writing Center lobby.

How do you shorten a title in text citation?

If the source title is longer than four words, shorten it to the first word or phrase in the in-text citation, excluding any articles (a, an, and the). The shortened title should begin with the word by which the source is alphabetized in the Works Cited.

Where does your name go in APA format?

All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced. The author’s name (your name): beneath the title, type the author’s name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (Ph. D).

Do you keep the words running head in APA?

Ensure the running head is no more than 50 characters, including spaces. Do not include the label “Running head:” on the first page (or on any other page) of your manuscript.

How many lines down is the title in APA format?

What is a Level 1 heading apa?

There are five levels of heading in APA Style. Level 1 is the highest or main level of heading, Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, and so on through Levels 4 and 5. The number of headings to use in a paper depends on the length and complexity of the work.

What should a title page look like?

The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. A professional paper should also include the author note. A student paper should also include the course number and name, instructor name, and assignment due date. Your title may take up one or two lines.

How do I not put a page number on the first page?

Remove the page number from the first pageGo to Insert > Header & Footer.SelectOptions on the right side, and then select Different First Page.Select Options again, and then select Remove Page Numbers.To see your page numbers and confirm deletion of the number from the first page, go to View > Reading View.

Does the work cited page count as a page?

Aug research papers on vietnam · As a general rule the works cited page does not count towards the total number pages. Like the rest of an MLA format paper, the Works Cited should be left-aligned and double-spaced with 1-inch margins. Double-space the list Does APA have a page titled works cited – Answers.

Does Work Cited have to be on a separate page?

Basic rules Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper. The citation entries themselves should be aligned with the left margin.

By the time you reach college, you are probably aware of the correct way to cite basic and commonly used sources such as periodicals and books, but you might need to draw information from a wider variety of sources, such as paintings. The MLA and Chicago style offer guidelines for correctly citing paintings.

Citing a Painting in MLA Style

Step 1

List the painter’s name, followed by a period. For example: Picasso, Pablo.

Step 2

List the title of the painting in italics, followed by a period.

Step 3

List the year the painting was completed, followed by a period.

Step 4

List in italics the name of the institution that houses the work, followed by a comma. For example: The Smithsonian,

Step 5

List the city in which the institution is situated, followed by a period.

Step 6

The finished citation should read: Picasso, Pablo. Man and Blue Guitar. 1936. The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

Citing a Painting in Chicago Style

Step 1

List the name of the painter, followed by a period. For example: Picasso, Pablo.

Step 2

List the title of the painting in italics, followed by a period.

Step 3

List the year the painting was completed, followed by a period.

Step 4

The finished citation should read: Picasso, Pablo. Man and Blue Guitar. 1936.

How to cite a painting

One question typically goes something like this: “If a photograph is in a reference book or field guide, can I legally use it to create a painting?” The answer is not an easy one, and it really depends on how you are using the photo. Is it purely for reference or are you copying it while you paint?

Using a Photo as a Reference

In most cases, the photographer has expressly permitted for the photo to be reprinted in that specific publication. They are there only to provide information, most often to the readers who wish to identify things in nature and they should not be copied.

To truly use a photo as a reference, you would use it to learn about the characteristics of your subject. For instance, the shape of a particular tree, the texture of a rock, or the colors on a butterfly’s wings. As an artist, you can certainly use that knowledge in your original compositions and paintings.

When It Becomes a Derivative

Quite often, the distinction most people don’t make is the difference between using something for information (as a reference) and copying the image. When you are, for example, finding out how far the orange feathers of a bird species extends down the chest, that is a reference. If, however, you take that same photo and paint it onto canvas, that is copying it and making a derivative.

A derivative artwork is frowned upon, both ethically in the art community and the legal world. Some people argue that if you change 10 percent (the number varies), then it’s yours, but the law doesn’t see it that way. The 10 percent “rule” is one of the great myths in art today and if someone tells you this, don’t believe them.

To put it plainly, a field guide is not produced so that artists can make derivatives from the photos. However, there are books and websites available that are filled with an artist’s reference photos. These types of publications are produced with the intention that artists use them to paint from. They will state this very clearly.

It’s About Respect for Other Artists

One question you might ask yourself is, “How would I feel if someone copied my work?” Even if they did change it, would you be okay with someone else doing to you what you’re considering?

Beyond the legal issues, that is the reality, and what it comes down to, a photographer or another artist creates each photo, illustration, and artwork we see. It is unfair and disrespectful to them and their work to make derivatives of them.

If the painting is just for yourself, you can argue that no one will ever know. When you start to sell paintings or even share them online, in a portfolio, or anywhere else, it’s an entirely different game.

If you’re truly using someone else’s photos or illustrations as a reference, you’re collecting information and applying it to your painting. It’s exactly like applying your knowledge of color mixing. When you use someone else’s work in a full-scale painting, as the background of a collage, etc., that is not using it to gain knowledge.

Finding Photos You Can Use

There are many ways that you can find great images to legally use as a reference for your paintings.

First of all, it’s best to err on the side of caution and ask before you copy a photo. Many photographers are happy to permit the use of their photos while others will want a fee. You can also find a source that allows for derivatives.

There are a number of websites that allow photos to be used in a variety of ways. One thing you’ll want to look for is the Creative Commons license. Websites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons allow users to share images with a variety of permissions under this type of fair-use license.

Another good source for photos is Morgue File. This website includes images that photographers have released, and they’re actually meant to be adapted to new work. One of their previous taglines explains it all: “free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.”

When writing reports and essays during your high school and college years, you may be required to perform some research. Often, you have to cite the sources within a “Works Cited” page, a bibliography or footnotes. Though you may have the basic citation style down for things likes books and newspapers, there are several less-traditional resources you may not know how to cite. Citing works of art in a museum may be one of them. Luckily, citing these particular references takes as much time and effort as citing the more traditional references.

Citing in MLA Style

Discover some important information about the artist to be used in your Works Cited page. You want to find out the artist’s full name, the title of the artwork, the year the artwork was created and the museum’s name and location.

Create your citation entry for the artwork by listing the information you found in the following arrangement: Artist’s Last Name, First Name. The Title of the Artwork (in italics). The Year Artwork was Created. Name of Museum, Location of Museum.

Indent all lines by an inch after the very first line in your entry. Place your entry on the Works Cited page according to alphabetical order.

Citing in Chicago Style

Find some information on the artwork. This includes the artist’s full name, the title of his piece, the medium he used to make the work (oil, watercolor, etc.) the date it was created, and the museum’s name and city.

Organize the information in a citation entry in the following order: Artist’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Artwork,” medium, c. Year of Creation (Name of Museum, City).

Place the entry in your footnotes or end notes according to the order in which you presented in within that page. For instance, if you cited the work of art first on the page, you would number the entry “1.” then follow it with other references you cited after it.

Citing in APA Style

Figure out the following information concerning the work of art: the artist’s full name, the type of artist she was (painter, sculptor, etc.), the year the work was created, the title of the artwork and the type of work (such as Impressionist) the piece falls under.

List the information you found in a citation entry to be used in your References page. Organize it in the following order: Artist’s Last Name, First Initial., (Type of Artist). (Year of Creation). Title of Artwork [Type of Work].

List your entry within your References page according to alphabetical order. Indent any lines following the first line in your entry by one inch.

If the location of the museum is apparent in its name, you do not have to write out the city of the museum in your citation.

How to cite a painting

One question typically goes something like this: “If a photograph is in a reference book or field guide, can I legally use it to create a painting?” The answer is not an easy one, and it really depends on how you are using the photo. Is it purely for reference or are you copying it while you paint?

Using a Photo as a Reference

In most cases, the photographer has expressly permitted for the photo to be reprinted in that specific publication. They are there only to provide information, most often to the readers who wish to identify things in nature and they should not be copied.

To truly use a photo as a reference, you would use it to learn about the characteristics of your subject. For instance, the shape of a particular tree, the texture of a rock, or the colors on a butterfly’s wings. As an artist, you can certainly use that knowledge in your original compositions and paintings.

When It Becomes a Derivative

Quite often, the distinction most people don’t make is the difference between using something for information (as a reference) and copying the image. When you are, for example, finding out how far the orange feathers of a bird species extends down the chest, that is a reference. If, however, you take that same photo and paint it onto canvas, that is copying it and making a derivative.

A derivative artwork is frowned upon, both ethically in the art community and the legal world. Some people argue that if you change 10 percent (the number varies), then it’s yours, but the law doesn’t see it that way. The 10 percent “rule” is one of the great myths in art today and if someone tells you this, don’t believe them.

To put it plainly, a field guide is not produced so that artists can make derivatives from the photos. However, there are books and websites available that are filled with an artist’s reference photos. These types of publications are produced with the intention that artists use them to paint from. They will state this very clearly.

It’s About Respect for Other Artists

One question you might ask yourself is, “How would I feel if someone copied my work?” Even if they did change it, would you be okay with someone else doing to you what you’re considering?

Beyond the legal issues, that is the reality, and what it comes down to, a photographer or another artist creates each photo, illustration, and artwork we see. It is unfair and disrespectful to them and their work to make derivatives of them.

If the painting is just for yourself, you can argue that no one will ever know. When you start to sell paintings or even share them online, in a portfolio, or anywhere else, it’s an entirely different game.

If you’re truly using someone else’s photos or illustrations as a reference, you’re collecting information and applying it to your painting. It’s exactly like applying your knowledge of color mixing. When you use someone else’s work in a full-scale painting, as the background of a collage, etc., that is not using it to gain knowledge.

Finding Photos You Can Use

There are many ways that you can find great images to legally use as a reference for your paintings.

First of all, it’s best to err on the side of caution and ask before you copy a photo. Many photographers are happy to permit the use of their photos while others will want a fee. You can also find a source that allows for derivatives.

There are a number of websites that allow photos to be used in a variety of ways. One thing you’ll want to look for is the Creative Commons license. Websites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons allow users to share images with a variety of permissions under this type of fair-use license.

Another good source for photos is Morgue File. This website includes images that photographers have released, and they’re actually meant to be adapted to new work. One of their previous taglines explains it all: “free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.”