Researching your ancestors' occupations

How to identify your ancestors' occupations and find more information their employment history.

State Library Victoria

The State Library Victoria holds many wonderful resources that can help to research the life of an artist. Records include books, images, exhibition catalogues, artists files and personal papers.

Search the catalogue

Search the Library catalogue for the name of the artist, a gallery or the name of an exhibition. Use the catalogue drop-down menu to limit your search to 'Pictures & photographs'. 'Journals & Newspaper titles', 'Online' or  'Manuscripts'.

For exhibition material, add the terms Australian Art and Artists file, or Australian Gallery file to narrow your search only to files and not to other content. See this search for a Gallery file for 69 Smith Street Gallery.

For biographies try searching for an artist's name and the keyword biography, i.e. Howard Arkley biography. Or search for a name together with a variation of keywords such as exhibition, criticism or photography.

Browse a list of major Australian art journals by going to this catalogue subject search - Art, Australian - Periodicals

Image of artist Mirka Mora

Mirka Mora 'Pol' shoot, 1978. Photographer Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright. H2011.2/809

Australian Art and Artists & Gallery file collection

The Australian Art and Artists & Gallery file collection, often referred to as AAA is a collection of over 30,000 files containing exhibition material related to Australian art, artists, awards and galleries. Art exhibition catalogues, invitations to exhibitions, press clippings and other ephemeral material from the 19th century onwards are held in this collection.

One of the strengths of this collection is the information it contains about Victorian art organisations such as the Victorian Artists’ Society and the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. Very often the brochures and cuttings found in these files are the only remaining evidence of the work of a particular artist or society.

Finding and accessing files

Use the Library catalogue to identify whether we hold a file on an artist or a gallery. Just type in the artist or gallery name. These items can be ordered for viewing in the Library. There may be photocopying restrictions on some items but you can use a digital camera to take photographs.

Newspaper articles

Newspapers can be an excellent source of information on artists and exhibitions.

A range of Victorian newspapers from the years 1803-1954 are available on the Trove Digitised Newspaper database. Search for newspaper articles relating to an artist, a gallery or an exhibition. When searching Trove, try searching for a number of keywords ie. Streeton exhibition or try enclosing a name or  phrase in quotation marks i.e. "Jan Senbergs"

Table talk

Some specific newspapers and magazines have significant arts coverage.

Table Talk was a magazine that was published in Melbourne from 1885 to 1939. It has been digitised and made available online on Trove. 

The magazine specialised in theatre, painting, music and all the arts and has a regular Art & Artists column.


The artist's show. The Herald, 29 May, 1926, p. 8.

If the newspaper isn't on Trove you may need to explore the collections held in the State Library's Newspaper & Family History Reading Rooms.

Newspaper databases

Our Library subscribes to a wide range of current and historic Australian and international newspaper databases. They are available in the Library and many can be accessed offsite by Victorian residents who are registered State Library members.

More information can be found in our Newspapers research guides.


Art and Artists research guide

For detailed information on how to research artists and art works please go to our Artists and artworks research guide.

Australian artists - biographical sources

The following resources may help you to find biographical information on an artist.

National Gallery School, 1935

Image of Phyl Waterhouse, Alannah Coleman and Charles Bush in a studio.

Phyl Waterhouse, Alannah Coleman and Charles Bush, (National Gallery School).1935. H2000.40/82


The Internet is a good source for biographical information on artists. Do a general search on an artist's name using a search engine.

Be aware that web sites are not always reliable.

The Library subscribes to the databases below. They are available in the Library and can be accessed offsite by registered Victorian users.

Article search

To find online articles quickly, choose the Articles option from the drop down list next to the search box. The search box is at the top of any page of our website, including this guide.

Once you have executed the search use the options at left of the screen to narrow your search. The example here is a search for Australian artist Frederick McCubbin. Including the word art* will narrow you search to find any words starting with art, like artist or artwork.