Footnotes - in Art History (C. Swan 2010)

Contributor: Claudia Swan, Art History,
Posted: 2010
Comments: Advice about using footnotes in art history papers


What is a footnote?

Generally speaking, a footnote (or endnote; we'll use the terms interchangeably) is a means to acknowledge a source you have consulted or quoted or paraphrased. You may use footnotes to cite your sources directly and without any discursive text, or you may offer “asides” or qualifications or further explanation in a footnote.

What does a footnote look like? 

In general, footnotes and endnotes are identified by a number or are otherwise sequentially ordered (we'll use Arabic numerals). These numbers should be placed at the end of the sentence in which you cite or paraphrase a source, and they always follow punctuation. ALWAYS PLACE FOOTNOTES AT THE END OF SENTENCES.

The body of the note will contain references to the sources consulted or cited. Footnotes allow us to cite sources as we write (rather than all together in a clump at the end of a paper), so no single note should contain an overwhelming number of sources. 

More specifically, what's in a note? 

The abstract answer to this question is: as much information as is required to locate the sources cited. In practical terms (and according to Chicago Manual of Style, whose guidelines we'll use), a footnote contains to following: 

When citing a book for the first time:

Author (first name first), Title (City where published: Publisher, date of publication), page number or numbers.

 When citing the same book again, in a subsequent note: 

Author, Abbreviated title, page number. 

 When citing an article for the first time: 

Author, "Title of article," Journal title volume number in Arabic numerals (year of pub): page number or numbers. 

When citing the same article again, in a subsequent note:

Author, “Abbreviated title,” page number or numbers. 

So wait, how exactly does this work? 

See the examples below…and remember, you can always consult (a page on the website of the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison)

What is a footnote, round II?

Here are some concrete examples:

When citing a book for the first time:

Mariet Westermann, Rembrandt (London: Phaidon, 2000), p. 17.

•    remember: first names first in notes! Also, always provide place of publication! And the close paren should be followed by a comma, then the p. # and, finally, a period. Also, remember that if you are citing a passage that runs over from one page to the next then you should cite multiple pages – for example, pp. 39-40.

When citing an exhibition catalogue:

Clifford S. Ackley et al., Rembrandt’s Journey: Painter. Draftsman. Etcher, exh. cat. (MFA Publications, 2003), pp. 237-39.

    When citing the same book again, in a subsequent note: 

Westermann, Rembrandt, p. 17.

Rembrandt’s Journey, exh. cat., p. 237-39.

* in this case, we had little choice in the abbreviation. Bear in mind that the abbreviated title should always contain the one or two or three most important words in the title.

    When citing an article for the first time: 

Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No great Women Artists?” ARTNews 70 (1971): 22-39 and 67-71. 

When citing the same article again, in a subsequent note:

Nochlin, “No Great Women Artists?” pp. 38-39.
What about websites?

[As a ground rule, remember that I will not accept citations from websites you cannot access through Electronic resources on the NUCat homepage!]


Author, “Article,” Title of Website (Publisher of Website, Accessed [Day Month Year of Access]) http://www.URL.

For example:

M. Rosenthal, “Gainsborough, Thomas,” The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, (Oxford University Press, Accessed 15 May 2004),

*nb: This format is a modified version of what the Grove recommends! Follow these guidelines!

* For citations guidelines as well as answers to more general questions about writing, I recommend: 

A wonderful writing resource, with citation guidelines, available online at: This is a page on the website of the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

In my experience, Purdue University’s on-line writing lab ( is also terrific. It doesn’t, however, provide guidelines for Chicago Manual of Style citations.