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How to Cite Pictures in MLA Style


The Modern Language Association style guide is used often in liberal arts and the humanities, so you might need to reference visual art in a research paper based in these subject areas. MLA does not have one specific format for citing pictures, and the Works Cited listing is based on where the picture was sourced from. Pictures are mostly commonly obtained from a reproduction in a printed or online publication, but MLA also provides guidance for referencing original artwork kept in an institution.

Artwork in Institutions

To cite a picture housed in an institution, such as an art museum, include the artist's name, picture name, year of creation, art medium and the institution’s name. If no creation date is available, use the abbreviation “n.d.” for “no date.” The title of the artwork should be italicized. If the work is untitled, give a brief description for it, such as “Photograph of an oak tree”; this description should not be italicized. The following example shows the format for this citation variation: Talbot, William Henry Fox. An Oak Tree in Winter. 1842. Photograph. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Print Sources

Citations of reproductions of artwork or pictures found in print sources will also include the information provided in the institution citation, but they will add the book or magazine title, place of publication, page number and medium of publication. If the print source has an editor, include the name after the source’s title. Use the following example as a guide for this type of citation: Landry, Bob. Fred Astaire (italicized). 1945. Photograph. Life Photo Collection. Life, The Classic Collection (italicized). New York City: Life. 29. Print.

Electronic Sources

Follow a similar format for pictures obtained from electronic sources, such as a website. In place of the book or magazine information, you will include the name of the website, which should be italicized, and the date you accessed the picture, written in day-month-year format. An example citation is: Rosenblum, Walter. Villagescape. 1957. Photograph. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Collections Search Center. Web. 24 July 2014.

In-Text Citations

The in-text citations in your paper refer to the listing on your Works Cited page. Basic MLA in-text citations use the author-page number format in parentheses, which you can use if your source came from a print publication. Use the artist's last name only if you sourced the picture online or institution. If you reference multiple works by the same artist, include the italicized picture title after the artist's name and a comma, as in the example: (Eisenstaedt, Marilyn Monroe).

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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