How to Cite a Picture in a Research Paper

Referencing your paper correctly can mean the difference between passing a class and failing it. Many students believe that referencing is limited to written sources, whether these are printed in ink on paper or electronically. Referencing a picture, painting or sculpture is often necessary, however, especially when it is used as a source of information. Use MLA style, one of the most popular standardized styles in academic writing, to ensure your references are consistent and correct.

Step 1

Type the artist's last name, followed by the artwork's name, in the main body of the text. The artwork's name should be in italics. Integrate these elements so that they flow with the rest of the text. This will be enough to identify the work in the list of works cited at the end of your paper.

Step 2

Write the artist's name with the surname first and the first name last, placing a comma in between them and a period at the end. Add them to the end of the research paper in the list of works cited. Arrange the entire list alphabetically according to the last names of the authors and artists of the referred works.

Step 3

Type the title of the piece being referenced in italics after the artist's name. Put a period at the end.

Step 4

Write the year of the work's creation and put a period at the end. If you don't know the year, write N.d. to stand for "no date."

Step 5

Type the medium of the image and put a period at the end.

For example, the artwork might be oil on canvas, marble or lithograph on paper.

Step 6

Write the collection or the museum where the artwork is displayed, type a comma, then give the name of the city. Type in a final period. In some instances, the collection may be unknown or unwilling to be identified. In this case type the phrase Private collection without a city name.

In the main text of the paper, the initial reference might read "Doe's Deer on Ice provides a..." or "In Heckman's Windblown Trees, the detail..."

The picture references at the end of your paper should look like this:

Doe, John. Deer on Ice. 1910. Oil on canvas. Museum of Art, London.

Alternatively, the picture reference should look like this:

Heckman, Albert. Windblown Trees. N.d. Lithograph on paper. Private collection.


Always put the name of the artwork in italics.