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MLA. Help with citing and referencing in MLA: Citing visual works of art

Information and strategies to help you reference effectively using MLA 8 (8th edition of the Modern Language Association referencing style) and comply with IB Academic Honesty requirements.

Citing and referencing works of art

When you need to reference pieces of visual art, you will find that art works have different properties from print or digital (text) sources, however there are some common elements - artist (author), title, and date of creation (publication). Differences though include medium of the art work and collection or museum where the art work may be viewed. The information below will be helpful for IB Diploma Programme Visual Art students who are undertaking an Extended Essay or other research element as part of the DP.  

Paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations and photographs

For these works of art, you need as many of the following elements as are relevant or available:

  • Artist's name
  • Title of work of art
  • Date of composition
  • Medium of the art work
  • Institution (museum or art gallery) or collection where the art work is located
  • Name of the city where the institution or collection is located

If you're citing a reproduction of an art work, you need to add the publication or website where the reproduction was found. 

Here are some examples to show what the punctuation or reference format looks like:

Moche portrait vessel. c.550. Ceramic. Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, Lima, Peru. 

Marawili, Mundukul. Fish trap at Baraltja. 1947. Drawing, lumber crayon on butchers paper. RM & CH Berndt Collection, Berndt Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Western Australia, Perth. 

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. The night watch. 1642. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. 

Struth, Thomas. The restorers at San Lorenzo Maggiore, Naples. 1988. Photograph. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 


In the first example, a name of a potter is not available, so the item starts with the title (titles should always be given in italic type). c. stands for circa, because the exact date cannot be determined. If you cannot find a date when a work of art was created, use N.d. instead - this stands for 'no date'.




Film and video

When referencing works of art in film or video format, there are some different aspects to record.

  • For a film or video, the reference entry usually begins with the title of the film. 
  • However, if you're looking at the contribution of a certain individual in the creation of the film, which may be more typical for art films, you should begin with the name of the individual on which you are focusing. 
  • If the film is in another language (and you're submitting your EE or IA in the English language), you need to provide a translation of the title into English - place this immediately after the title in the original language. 
  • For commercially-released films, you need to include the director, main performers, screenwriter and producer. For independently produced art films, some of these names will not be relevant, but you should include the name of the creator or director of the film. 

Here are some examples:

Chaplin, Charles, dir. Modern Times. Perf. Chaplin and Paulette Goddard. United Artists, 1936. Film.

Viola, Bill. The Passing. 1991. Film. YouTube, 2013. Accessed 10 December 2014. <>


In the first example, the focus is on Chaplin, so his name begins the entry. 'dir.' is a shortened form of the word 'director', 'perf.' is a shortened form of the word 'performer'.

In the second example, the focus is on the video artist Bill Viola, who created the video in 1991. It was seen on an online video channel, where it was uploaded in 2013 (this information, together with the licence for making the video available on YouTube is given directly below the video screen). Although not a requirement of MLA, the IB requires students to provide a date of access and a url.