Cornell University Library maintains a major research collection covering pre-historic to contemporary art, although the collection concentrates on the art of the western world and specifically on the period from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection is strong in traditional western subject areas such as the art of the Italian Renaissance, western art of the 19th
centuries, contemporary global art, and criticism. The library has extensive runs of periodical literature devoted to art and visual studies and supports doctoral-level research.
The art collection serves the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Art Department in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the curatorial staff of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and to a lesser extent, the Departments of Classics, Near Eastern Studies, and Design and Environmental Analysis in the College of Human Ecology. The History of Art Department is a small department with few undergraduate majors and few graduate students, but a large undergraduate population taking history of art courses. The Art Department has undergraduate majors and graduate students working in studio courses in painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and photography. The Fine Arts Library is the largest art library in New York State outside the New York City metropolitan area and serves as a resource for anyone interested in the visual arts for much of upstate New York.
The art collection dates to before 1900, and includes a strong collection of journals. Other strengths include exhibition catalogs from major museums around the United States and Europe, academic monographs, as well as catalogues raisonné
for western major artists, and selected videos on art. Subjects covered extensively include history of art, general art, theory and criticism of art, painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, decorative arts.
The collection includes scholarship on historical and contemporary art of global stature. Particular strengths include art of the United States and western Europe (concentrating on France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain); to a lesser extent Spain, Eastern Europe, Russia, Latin America, Canada, Australia, and Scandinavia. Marginal, but growing coverage of the art of Africa, the Middle East and contemporary Far East if published in English.
The collection emphasizes contemporary and 20th
-century research materials.
The following subject areas are generally not collected: art education, aesthetics, antiques and "collectibles," crafts, set design, archaeology, numismatics, textiles, arms and armor, auction catalogs, conservation of works of art, jewelry, dissertations, "how-to" books, Native American art, juvenile literature, and lifestyle books.