Best Art Encyclopedias To Us

For any eager, hungry mind, knowledge is an inexhaustible resource. Buddha believed that our soul is trapped in a vicious cycle of rebirth, and to free ourselves from that cycle, we need to gain knowledge. The knowledge and information about art may not help us avoid reincarnation, but it does free our souls and helps us to express ourselves freely.

Encyclopedias are like the ocean of enlightenment. It provides summarized knowledge and concepts regarding the topics it is based on. Encyclopedias are designed in such a way that it performs the function of providing context as to how a piece of particular information fits in an overall scheme of knowledge and facts. Below are some of the best art encyclopedias that an art enthusiast should look up to.

Paul Bril – Fantastic mountain landscape

Encyclopedia of Aesthetics

The first-ever reference work to survey the thorough arena of deliberative consensus on culture, art, and society from classical philosophy to contemporary critical theory, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics encapsulates articles and works of around 500 renowned artists, philosophers, and experts on the Classical and Renaissance to the contemporary times.

Popular art movements are represented in  the online platforms and books providing a plethora of extensive details about art, music, film, sculpture, theater, and of course the history of art movements, ranging from Orientalism to Classical Realism. Due to its ample rendition of the concept of aesthetics, this encyclopedia is now available in ebook form as well.

The Oxford Companion to Western Art

This massive encyclopedia contains more than 2600 entries. This is the result of the hard work of over 100 acclaimed art historians and specialists. It not only provides detailed coverage of Western Art and the movements, styles, eras, and genres of more than 1700 artists and their profound work, but also contains their in-depth theories and criticisms.

The Oxford Companion of  Western Art also incorporates details about the life of different artists, and even focuses on their painting techniques, patronage, eras, and the empirical examination of the materials they used. Additionally, there are lists of relevant galleries and museums provided with their locations, along with the cultural surveys of the artworks and their masters.

The Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture

Being the most compendious and inclusive, the Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture is the biggest reference resource for the visual artworks of the Classical periods. It is gleaned from the unprecedented scholarship in The Dictionary of Art (1996), and has over 600 illustrations, updated biographies, and commissioned entries on contemporary archaeological discoveries.

Apart from significant subjects such as Troy, Carthage, and the Apollo Belvedere, the resource encompasses intriguing information about the architecture, mosaics, ceramics, metalworks, and sculptures. The fact that it provides over four thousand years worth of innovation and creativity and spans different eras and civilizations makes it remarkably unique.

Oxford Art Online

The Oxford Art Online is an online reference library that offers a gateway to the most inclusive, authentic, and easily approachable art content on an online platform. Some of the art reference works that are accessible via this site include the Grove Dictionary of Art, the Oxford Companion to Western Art, the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, among many others.

The best part about this digital encyclopedia is that its search engine provides diverse options to sort and filter the source, availability, subject, and type of the search and even allows one to share, print, and save the articles for future reference. The broad spectrum of the history and culture of art that it covers, alongside the ease and comfort it entails for the user, makes it splendidly distinct.

The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts

Ranging to the prehistoric times, the era of decorative arts productions saw art objects being adorned to utilize, rather than just prized for their aesthetic qualities. The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts covers thousands of years of research throughout western and non-western cultures in the form of over 3,000 entries.

Containing over 100 colored and over 600 black and white illustrations, this book even discusses the kinds of jewelry, armors, metal, furniture, ceramics, and textiles that artists like Ray Eames and Alvar Alto used, and briefs on the different forms of art and its purposes. Its detailed description of the multiplicity of craftsmen, artists, workshops, and designers is what sets it apart.


Art encyclopedias are a paradise for every art lover whose thirst for knowledge never quenches. These reference sources cover a wide range of topics, from painting and sculpture to non-traditional media like digital and video art, and give intriguing historical and present usage of materials and methods. These encyclopedias are a must-have for anybody who studies, makes, collects, or deals in works of art.

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