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How to Cite an Online Image


Whether you're an an art student writing about a particular work or a psychology student discussing how a particular artist's psyche or personality affected his or her work, your paper is likely to reference specific images that relate to the argument. Though citations aren't required for passing references or for culturally iconic works, letting readers know where you accessed the artwork your paper discusses requires proper citation. Functional citations include the artist's name, title of the work and date of creation; many style guides also require information to indicate where you accessed the image.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style

APA style is typically applied in the social sciences rather than the arts. However, you might need to reference how a psychological illness was represented in that work or how effective advertising works to manipulate people -- just to name a couple examples. To cite an image found online in APA style, include the artist's name, title of the work, the year it was created and the website where you found the image.

For the references page, follow the format of this example:

Munch, E. (1910). The Scream [Painting]. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/asset-viewer/the-scream/eQFdRTFKDtVQ1A?utm_source=google&utm_medium=kp&hl=en&projectId=art-project

APA uses an author-date format for in-text citations. The in-text citation for this example goes like this: (Munch 1910). Readers can easily use this information to locate the entry in the references.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

Literature students might want to reference an artwork in a famous book cover, or they might discuss art by an author. Art students, who will likely find the most use for citing images, might also use this format. The MLA format for online images requires the location in which the original piece of art is housed in addition to the artist, title of the work and its creation date.

A sample works cited reference follows:

da Vinci, Leonardo. Mona Lisa. 1503. Musee de Louvre, Paris. Totally History. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.

“Totally History” refers to the name of the website where the image was sourced. You do not need to include the URL in MLA format, but write “Web” after the website’s title to indicate you found the image on the Internet. The date at the end of the citation is when you accessed the image.

“(da Vinci)” without the quotation marks would serve as your in-text citation; you do not need a page number for online sources.

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style is commonly used by various types of publications that may cover a range of fields. Chicago, the most comprehensive style guide, provides citation formats for a wide array of situations. It also allows scholars to cite artwork in captions. A professor in the humanities and arts might require you to use Chicago's caption or notes-bibliography citation system.

To cite in the captions a work found online:

Fig. 1: Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, 9.5 in. x 13 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York, http://photomc.typepad.com/bhttp://odin.demandstudios.com/ui/write/app.html#imageSearchlog/2006/05/the_persistence.html

In the footnote-bibliography system, the footnote entry does not include the URL and appears like this:

Salvador Dali, 1931, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, 9.5 in. x 13 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York.

For the bibliographic entry, you include the URL and punctuate the entry differently:

Dali, Salvador. The Persistence of Memory,1931. Oil on canvas, 9.5 in. x 13 in. Museum of Modern Art, New York. http://photomc.typepad.com/bhttp://odin.demandstudios.com/ui/write/app.html#imageSearchlog/2006/05/the_persistence.html, accessed 12 Nov. 2014.

Harvard Style

If you're a chemistry student, you might need to reference an online image while writing about the chemical makeup of paint used in a work of art or how chemistry is used in a restoration process. Harvard style is used mostly for fields like engineering and natural sciences; nevertheless, its rules have provisions for citing artwork and images on the Internet. Harvard style economizes on punctuation, as seen in this example of a citation of an image found online:

Warhol, A 1962, Marilyn Monroe, silkscreen, Tate Gallery, Britain, viewed 5 January 2015, < http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/popart/images/AndyWarhol-Marilyn-Monroe-1962.jpg>.

Harvard style also uses author-date in-text citations, as in this example: (Warhol 1962). If the artist is unknown, use the title of the work as the first component of the citation. If no date is available, abbreviate with “n.d.” for “no date.”

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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