2. How to search for data on works

Table of contents:

2.1 About work information

Work information refers to a variety of data related to a work of art, including the name of the work, the name of the artist, period, size, medium, and collection location. When searching for a work of art, people often use the title of the work or the name of the artist as a keyphrase. However, it is necessary to search carefully as names of works and artists and the way they are written in Japanese (especially for foreign works and artists) often vary. It is important not to give up when the data cannot be found immediately. Try changing the keyphrase, continue searching diligently, and double check.

2.2 Finding descriptions and images of works

This section is an explanation about how to search for works and images using reference books.

We mainly present research methods using books of artworks, exhibition catalogs, and catalogues raisonnés with the names of artists as keyphrases. However, because the MOMAT OPAC only searches for materials kept in the MOMAT Art Library, a search for materials not kept at the MOMAT Art Library will naturally not yield any results. Conversely, any materials that are found are materials that are kept at the MOMAT Art Library, and are by no means all of the relevant materials that exist in the world. To search through more materials, search the OPAC in other museums or use reference books.

The following are materials and methods that are useful for finding what kind of books there are that include images and descriptions of works, as well as where in which books you can find such images and descriptions.

2.2.1 Books of artworks, catalogues raisonnés, and exhibition catalogues

In this section, we introduce you to tools used to find books of artworks, catalogues raisonnés, and exhibition catalogues.

a) Books of artworks

There are books with many images of works of art published as a single book or as part of a series of books (such as Gendai Nihon bijutsu zenshū (Shūeisha) and Nihon no meiga (Chuokoron‐sha Inc.)). Books of artworks and photographs can be searched from Complete List of Books of Paintings, Drawings, and Photographs in Japan below. Bibliographic information can be found from the author’s name, subject, and theme.

b) Catalogues raisonnés (overview illustrated books of works)

A catalogue raisonné is a catalogue that categorizes and sorts the data and images of all works by an artist by period and subject.

To learn about a specific artist’s work, start by checking the artist’s catalogue raisonné if one has been published. A catalogue raisonné differs from a book of paintings. The images are often black and white and are usually not accompanied by descriptions. The reason for this is that catalogues raisonnés are edited with the primary focus on providing data about works rather than for art appreciation. They mainly contain basic information about the works such as size, period, medium, materials, and provenance. As the practice is not well established in Japan, there are few complete catalogues raisonnés that cover Japanese artists, and catalogues raisonnés for foreign artists are most often written in languages other than Japanese.

In this section, we introduce tools that can be used to check whether there are published catalogues raisonnés or books of artworks for particular artists. The following contains a list of bibliographies of catalogues raisonnés in alphabetical order of artist name.

The following includes compilation genres of catalogues raisonnés in addition to bibliographic information.

The two sources below also depict the book covers of some catalogues raisonnés. They also allow you to search by theme (such as impressionism, forbism, etc.) and books of artworks sorted by country.

The following website operated by the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) enables you to check the publication status of published materials and catalogues raisonnés that are being prepared for publication.

  • 「IFAR Catalogues Raisonnés (IFAR)」(http://ifar.org/cat_rais.php)

Finally, we will introduce a tool used to search for catalogues raisonnés of artists who are active in the field of printing. In Japanese, it details the catalogues raisonnés of 100 modern print artists from Japan and abroad. From the artist index at the end of the book, you can look for publications by artist name (written in both English and Japanese).

Managed by the Print Council of America, the following website enables you to check the catalogues raisonnés of each printmaking artist.

  • Index to Print Catalogues Raisonné (IPCR)(http://www.printcouncil.org/search/)

c) Exhibition catalogues

Exhibition catalogues are invaluable for finding data on works of art. Exhibitions may be named after individual artists, or they may be named after themes, so searching using artist names as keyphrases on OPAC will not always yield results. In such cases, we recommend you refer to “1. Finding information about people”, and try searching using keyphrases other than the name of the artist, such as the artist’s associated organizations and active periods. For more information on tools for searching exhibition catalogs, see “3. Finding exhibition information“.

2.2.2 Complete works collections

When looking for images and descriptions of works, it is important to check complete works collections. However, it is difficult to find the images you are looking for in such enormous collections. You can use reference books and indexes of complete works collections to aid you. By using indexes, you can find out where the images you seek are within the complete works of art.

2.2.3 Searching from reference books

This section primarily introduces reference books that can be used for finding the location of images and descriptions printed in complete works of art. You can use reference books to find information about the complete works in which an image of the artwork in question is printed. However, not all complete works are kept at the MOMAT Art Library. For complete works that are not kept at the MOMAT, it is necessary to find out which institutions have copies.

a) Japanese artworks

Title Index to Each Complete Series of Japanese Art is split into editions for paintings, sculptures, crafts, structures, ceramics, and calligraphy. Listed are the names of works in kana syllabary order for Japanese and alphabetical order for English, the name of the complete works that contains the page, and the image number. You can search by artist name in the indexes at the end of each volume.

Using Modern paintings as an example, the range of the compilations in each volume and the total number of titles of referenced complete works collections is indicated in the following way.

Example: Modern paintings

  • Compilation scope: Approximately 17,000 works produced since the Meiji period from about 1,530 artists (excluding Meiji period ukiyo-e)
  • Referenced complete works collections: 60 titles

b) Western and Eastern paintings

Compilations include books of complete works of Western art (51 titles/species, published in the 1950s and 1997) collected by the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library. This is an index tool that enables you to search for paintings created by approximately 3,100 Western artists as well as about 46,000 images. This tool is also available on CD-ROM. The work names are arranged by artist (listed in kana syllabary order of last and first name). If you do not know how a name is written in Japanese, you can find the Japanese notation by looking for the foreign language spelling in the index at the beginning of the book. You can also check the works of unknown artists. There is an index of names of works (Japanese/original spelling) at the end of the book.

Refer to the source below when you want to check the variation in titles that arise due to differences in katakana notation and translation for Western art works. Although this dictionary is used to check Western paintings and works data, the fact that its listings, which are sorted by artist name, include common names, alternative names, and subtitles in addition to the original names and Japanese names of works makes it a useful reference for keyphrases to use when searching. The dictionary is a compilation of artists from the 13th to 20th centuries.

c) Searching by name of model

You can search using the names of people who acted as models for portraits. Included works are portraits from ancient times to the present day in Japan, the East, and the West.

d) Works from ancient civilization

This is a series of reference dictionaries that can be used to search images included in complete works collections published since 1945 for the four cradles of civilization; ancient Greece and Rome; the Incan, Maya, and Aztec civilizations in Central and South America, and the Jomon, Yayoi and Kofun period civilizations of Japan.

2.2.4 Searching from the combined indexes of complete works collections

This section explains how to look up information about works from the comprehensive indexes of complete works collections.

New History of World Art, [Western art] is sorted by theme and covers Western art from 10000 BC to the present age, with representative works presented chronologically. Maps, historical chronologies, major artists chronologies, glossaries, references, and indexes are included at the end of each volume. The comprehensive index is a separate volume. For images published in all 28 volumes, the artist names are generally sorted as headers (in kana syllabary order of last and first name) and titles of works sorted as subheaders. Additionally, representative works from each volume are presented at the beginning of the book, which is convenient if you are to browse through all volumes. The chronology of volumes and chapters, index of materials, and index of authors at the end of the volumes that indicate the connections between the eras and the subjects of each volume may also be of use.

An Eastern edition has also been published. It covers Eastern art excluding that of Japan from prehistoric times to the early 20th century. The book is structured in the same manner as the Western edition.

Nihon bijutsu zenshū covers the history of art from the Jomon period to the 20th century by era, and introduces the characteristics and differences of each period using images and descriptions. There are chronologies for each era at the end of each volume. The comprehensive index and the materials themselves are separate volumes. The comprehensive index indicate both the titles of the works and the names of the artists. In addition, “Materials: List of Collected Writings and Color Artwork Data” includes an introduction to each volume and a guide to color images.

Genshoku gendai Nihon no bijutsu introduces Japanese art since the Meiji period categorized by field. An index has not been published as a separate volume, but a “List of Authors and Works” can be found in some of the supplementary monthly reports. This list is somewhat difficult to search through as artists are sorted by birthplace. If you are searching for a post-modern artist and you already know his or her relevant field(s), it is recommended that you look at the chronologies/artist introductions/collected image catalogues at the end of each volume.

2.3 Finding the first exhibit in which a work was featured

If you are searching for works using the MOMAT OPAC and you know the name of its first exhibition (the exhibition in which the work was first exhibited/uncovered), look for the exhibition catalog first. For solo exhibitions, try using the artist’s name as a search keyphrase.

2.3.1 Searching for materials related to art groups

If the first exhibition of a work was a group exhibition rather than a solo exhibition, look for a group exhibition catalogue (hereinafter referred to as group catalogue). When searching for a group catalogue, try using the group name as a search keyphrase. When researching, you may want to check other materials such as group history and group exhibition records in addition to group catalogues.

2.3.2 Group catalogues (reprints and compilations)

This is a series of reprinted/compiled catalogues by group for exhibitions held between the first year of the Meiji period and before World War II. The title of each volume is supplemented with the name of the group.

2.3.3 Group histories

Group histories are often published as the “XX Year History” or “XX Commemorative Exhibition” of the group. Nittenshi and The 100 Years of the Nippon Bijutsuin are two representative histories. They are both large compilations that span multiple volumes.

a) Nittenshi

This record the Nitten Foundation (reorganized as Nitten) covers the Nitten exhibitions from the first Bunten exhibition (1907) to the Imperial Art Exhibition or the Teiten, and Shinnitten exhibitions, and so forth to the present day. This source can be used to check award winners and reviews as well as the catalogs of exhibitions and images of exhibited works.

For the 1st Bunten exhibition in 1907 to the 13th Nitten exhibition in 1957, two catalogues have been published—Zen shuppin mokuroku, which lists works exhibited by genre, and Shuppinreki sakuin, which lists works by the artist name. These are important tools for learning about art movements in the art world apart from Nitten.

The evolution of the Nitten exhibition is indicated in a simple table in Bunten teiten shin bunten nitten shuppinreki sakuin: meijishijūnen shōwasanjūninen.

You can use the National Diet Library Research Navi to easily track the evolution of Nitten.

  • National Diet Library Research Navi, Nitten (The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition), Guide (National Diet Library)(https://rnavi.ndl.go.jp/research_guide/entry/theme-honbun-101097.php)

b) The 100 Years of the Nippon Bijutsuin

With a focus on images and catalogues of exhibitions held by the Japan Art Institute (commonly known as “Inten”) from the days of Okakura Tenshin in 1898 to the present day, the end of each volume covers a variety of information related to the Japan Art Institute, including artist introductions and chronologies as well as retrospectives, recollections, and exhibition reviews of deceased colleagues. A separate volume contains a combined tables of contents index, personal name index, and an image index. You can check what works are listed for each type of image in kana syllabary order of last name and first name.

2.3.4 Yearbooks

Year book of Japanese Art is a basic tool that can be used to learn about art movements and major news in the art industry over the course of a year. For details, refer to “1.4.4 Yearbooks.”

Content may vary somewhat depending on the period, but information such as profiles and exhibitions of each group, illustrated books, and article information are included in addition to lists of major groups. Until the 1973 edition, images of notable works unveiled that year were published along with the names of the exhibitions they were featured in (group exhibition name/number). Be aware of the difference between the year of compilation and the year noted in the title of the materials. It is important to check the legend. For example, the 2017 (2017 fiscal year) yearbook covers January to December 2016.

Year book of Japanese Art is available in PDF format at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties – Publication Repository.

2.3.5 Magazines

For exhibitions of major groups, articles may have been published in art magazines of the period. You may be able to find more detailed information by searching art magazine indexes and tables of contents from the period.

Reviews of major group exhibitions are published in Gekkan Bijutsu.

2.4 Finding collection locations

Information about where a work is collected can be useful for identifying a particular work when there are multiple works of the same title by the same artist. For example, old paintings and scrolls are known by their (former and current) collection location and history, and are thus distinguishable from others of the same name. This section introduces comprehensive catalogues and collection catalogues that can be used to search for collection locations.

a) Finding collection locations in Japan

Many museums publish their own collection catalogues and masterpiece catalogues.

Collection catalogues and illustrated books are edited as lists of collected works at each museum. If you already know where a work is collected, first check the collection catalogues.

The following source is a specific example of collection catalogue from the Tokyo National Museum.

You can check whether a member museum of the Japanese Council of Art Museums has published its collection catalog from the link below.

  • Zenkoku bijutsukan kaigi kaiinkan shuzohin mokuroku sōran 2014 (https://www.zenbi.jp/data_list.php?g=93&d=13)

Information about newly collected works may be included in annual reports published by museums.

The following is a list of the main catalogs that can be used to search for collection locations in Japan. Each source only contains basic information such as the name of the work, the name of the artist, size, medium, and collection location.

b) Finding collection locations overseas

The World ’s Master Paintings lists the names of collected works and the museums where they are collected for Western paintings from the 13th to the 20th century. To find the museum where a Western painting is collected, you can also use A dictionary of European and American Paintings.

Benezitt’s Dictionary of Artists is an artist dictionary that also contains lists of museums where works are collected and records of major auctions, and can therefore also be used as a tool to find information about works.

The Museums of the World contains representative works collected by each museum. It contains many images, so it can be useful if you know the museum where a work is collected beforehand. The 100th issue contains a “General Index of Works by Painter” and “General Index of Works by Region”.

2.5 Information about national treasures and important cultural properties

In terms of information about works, national treasures and important cultural properties are indexed the same way. In the last several years, many art works created since the Meiji period have been designated as important cultural properties.

This section introduces representative materials containing information on works that are designated as national treasures and important cultural properties.

a) Nationally designated cultural properties (up to the 1998 fiscal year)

The following sources contain basic data and images for all nationally designated treasures/important cultural properties. The data is not accompanied by descriptions. Works in Kokuhō jūyō bunkazai taizen. bekkan are indexed by owner and title.

The following is a list of art and craft works that have been deemed important cultural properties (including national treasures) in accordance with the Cultural Properties Protection Act. They have been catalogued as of June 1998 and are listed by prefecture. Images are not included.

b) Nationally designated cultural properties (since the 1998 fiscal year)

Accompanied by descriptions, lists of works that were designated as cultural properties each year can be found in the May to July issues of the magazine Gekkan bunkazai as well as the July and August issues of Bunkacho geppo.

For example, the article for the designation of “South Wind” (1907) by Wada Sanzo as an important cultural property can be found in the 657th issue of Gekkan bunkazai (published in June 2018).

Note that you can search for Gekkan bunkazai articles in the National Diet Library’s Japanese periodicals index. The print version of the Gekkan bunkazai was discontinued after the 510th issue, published in March 2011. Issue 511 (April 2011) and later were published on the Agency for Cultural Affairs website, but they were discontinued after the release of the 546th issue (March 2014). Past issues can still be viewed on the agency’s website.

c) Online

ColBase can be used to search the collections of national museums. From e-Kokuho, you can view images of national treasures and important cultural properties collected by four national museums, accompanied by descriptions.

  • ColBase, Integrated Collections Database of the National Museums, Japan (National Institutes for Cultural Heritage) (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/)
  • e-Kokuho (National Institutes for Cultural Heritage) (http://www.emuseum.jp/)

Some cultural properties can be viewed with images and descriptions at Cultural Heritage Online, which is operated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. You can also use the Japanese Designated Cultural Property Database to search by name, location, or owner to find information on cultural properties that were designated, registered, and selected by the government in accordance with the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

  • Cultural Heritage Online (Agency for Cultural Affairs) (https://bunka.nii.ac.jp/)
  • [Japanese Designated Cultural Property Database] (Agency for Cultural Affairs) (https://kunishitei.bunka.go.jp/bsys/index_pc.asp)

Japan Search is a national, integrated and cross-sectoral portal website that you can use to search metadata of digital archives of various spheres including books, cultural assets, and media arts. A beta version has been available since February 2019.

  • Japan Search (BETA) (National Diet Library)(https://jpsearch.go.jp/)
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