Thesis to Book: Images

Have you thought about reproducing images in your publications? Dr Alice Eden has written posts about the literary journey in her post ‘Thesis to Book, however another important part of writing art historical publications is the inclusion of images. When you come to publish, this can be a whole new area to discover…

As per my previous blog series, I am writing an art historical publication for Routledge. This will include approximately 60 black and white images and 8 colour plates. Art historians regularly apply for funding for the inclusion of such images in their work and in my case, for a recent funding application, I needed to develop a list of images with potential costs.

A friend said to me, ‘but surely that’s easy – it’s all the ones you already listed in your thesis?’ Looking back at the illustrations in my thesis, many were reproduced from secondary books or catalogues. For the purposes of the thesis, a caption which cited the publication as the source of the image was sufficient. However, for a book publication, it is necessary to look at these images and seek the appropriate permissions or licences to reproduce them from original sources. Don’t be deceived by the idea that this is a quick process!

Gather Information as Early as Possible:

It would be worth contacting your PhD supervisor, peers or departmental contacts for initial guidance. There are also likely to be notes in a departmental handbook which covered referencing and images for submission of written work during your PhD. You will also be in touch with art galleries and curators who can advise on gaining rights to use their images. I have found art galleries have been very helpful, not only advising on potential costs but also processes and legal aspects concerning image reproduction and licensing.

Another avenue you may explore is meeting with descendants of artists’ or owners of artworks in private collections, as I have done. On these occasions you can view artworks that families own and possibly ask permission to photograph them. I have also visited auction houses (e.g. Christie’s and Sotheby’s) and viewed works which are being auctioned in upcoming sales. You can offer to provide information for their catalogue entries from your research.

When you Cannot Trace an Image

For the artists I have researched there are many artworks which were exhibited at the Royal Academy and other major galleries at the time they were created but their location remains unknown today. Instead of listing details for provenance (history of ownership) they may be described in books or catalogues as ‘untraced’. One option would be to contact academic libraries, like the British Newspaper Archive or the V&A National Art Library regarding reproducing images of such artworks from contemporary journals.

Your Image Wish List

I have published on several occasions and sought rights to reproduce images. However, every publication has been different and in the case of my forthcoming book there have been specific factors to consider:

  • I am writing on three artists working from 1880s to 1930s and will aim to include a good representation of their works.
  • The main case studies were inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters (the PRB was formed in 1848). Therefore, works by some of these painters from the 1840s have appeared on my wish list.
  • The artists were also inspired by Old Masters paintings – re-creating old motifs, reworking spiritual symbols with modern meanings. Thus, some older works from the 1500s have gone into the list to be sourced and costed.
  • The artists needed contextualising with their peers in the period 1880-1930 to support parts of my argument to do with their central place in British art and culture. So I have had to think, what other paintings could I include and can I locate these images to reproduce? This section of the list started very lengthy and began to shorten as I thought about which precise images would work well with those selected for ’my’ three artists and how many I could include.
  • I also considered what other images I might include to provide evidence of associated visual cultures and tell a bigger story? In your publications, you could consider including social and historical documents or letters from the archives.


Balancing the costs of various images will also be a factor in your selections. Some art galleries have allowed me to reproduce images for free for my academic publication whilst others have quoted varying costs. For your own publications it is well worth gathering all this information as soon as you can so that you can re-evaluate and consider a well-balanced list for your publication. There is a lot to think about and various avenues for researching, locating and sourcing images for reproduction.


I would love to hear your stories of experiences sourcing images, visiting private collections or the auction houses? How did you choose the images to be included? What stayed in, what got left out and why? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at, or leave a comment below.


Alice Eden is an Early Career academic and Associate Tutor in the History of Art department, University of Warwick. Her primary interests are modern British cultural history, spiritualities and feminisms, with expertise in Victorian and Edwardian art history. She currently works in educational administration and is writing a book based on her PhD thesis (see future posts!). Alice can be contacted via email and followed on twitter at @Alice_Eden4.


Cover image: alone-art-gallery-caucasian-3031258 / rawpixel / CC0 1.0

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