Grove Art: Letter from the Editor, March 2017

As we begin a new year, I write with warm thanks to the readers and authors of both the Grove Dictionary of Art and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists. We worked with an extraordinary group of scholars in 2016, and we’re grateful for the recent work added to OAO in areas such as contemporary art, Russian and Eastern European art, and art markets, as well as for the hundreds of existing authors who updated their entries with new research.

We find ourselves in the middle of two major multi-volume print encyclopedias as 2017 begins -- the Grove Encyclopedia of Latin American Art and Architecture and the Grove Encyclopedia of Asian Art and Architecture. The 3,000+ articles that will be added or updated as part of these print projects will publish online-first, enriching the main Oxford Art Online database. We will also be publishing new texts online in the areas of art conservation, architecture, and contemporary art. Grove Art has come a long way from its first print incarnation as the Dictionary of Art in 1996, and its structure continues to evolve to accommodate the digital environment. The in-house editors have undertaken projects to improve our article metadata and taxonomy, and in the months ahead we will be working to simplify the structure of some of our longest articles to function better in a digital environment. (Grove follows a useful hierarchical organization, but it was designed for print, and it can be hard to find major essays when they live as an obscurely titled sub-sub-sub section of a long entry. The challenge is to maintain order while increasing discoverability.) We’re always glad to hear suggestions for functionality or content that you might like to see online; please write to us any time at

Several recent projects have dispatched Grove articles beyond the OAO website. In January, we published the Grove Guide to Photography, a collection of Grove’s updated scholarship on global photography, edited by Tanya Sheehan at Colby College. This paperback volume will be the first in a series of Grove Guides, topical surveys which can be used as a course supplement or as an introduction to general readers. I remain partial to having the option of print, and we hope that these richly illustrated, curated sets of articles will be a useful addition to the available literature. Our next title in the series will be the Grove Guide to Art Markets, edited by Darius Spieth at Louisiana State University. Like the larger print works noted above, the scholarship included in these books will also publish also in Oxford Art Online. We also recently published a set of Grove articles as illustrated e-books. These Grove Art Essentials offer low-cost, handy access to some of our most popular articles to readers without subscriptions to OAO. We’re delighted that they’ve sold some copies--except Erotic Art, unfortunately, which was flagged under Amazon’s “adult content” filter, and now resides in a racier and more inaccessible set of listings.

The editors consult Grove usage data when prioritizing article updates and image acquisitions, as well as when assessing thematic commissioning projects. Many of the top 100 most-used articles remain the same from year to year, but I found some recent shifts to be of interest. Compared to 2012, top usage in 2016 included more women and modern artists, with artists like Judith Baca, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Robert Rauschenberg, and Banksy replacing artists like Nicolas Poussin, Hans Memling, Max Ernst, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Movements such as Regionalism and the Harlem Renaissance have replaced other terms such as Perspective, Conceptual Art, and Nude found in the 2012 list. For your perusal, the 2016 top usage list is available here.

I close with my sincere thanks to the board members and advisors who have guided Oxford Art Online over the past year. We benefit from the expert direction of Grove’s Editor in Chief, Nicola Courtright of Amherst College, as well as the embarrassment of riches that is our brilliant Editorial Board. I am grateful for the steadfast guidance of the projects editors for the Latin American and Asian art projects, led respectively by Tom Cummins of Harvard University and Sonya Lee of USC. My thanks and admiration too to Benezit’s Editor in Chief, Kathy Battista of Sotheby’s Institute of Art, whose recent interviews with artists Robert Whitman and Betty Tompkins offered fascinating insight on these artists’ work (and in the case of the latter, the chance to explore the limits of colorful language allowed in the press’s podcast series).

Alodie Larson
Senior Editor, Art Reference and Oxford Art Online
February 2017