If you ever visited an art museum you might have noticed that a label with several lines of text is usually displayed near each work of art. These labels can tell us a lot about what we are seeing. Museums usually display the same kind of information with art shown on their websites too. Included with the sample label below is an explanation of what each line of information means.
Jamie Wyeth—The artist’s name. If the artist’s name is not known, sometimes the label will indicate that.
(born 1946)—The year the artist was born. If an artist has died, his or her year of death is included too. Sometimes the artist’s nationality or the country in which he or she was born or died are included as well.
Kalounna in Frogtown— The title of the artwork. Sometimes the artist creates the title for his or her artwork, as Jamie Wyeth did for this painting. When the artist’s title isn’t known, which is very common, a museum curator (the person who helps to create and study the museum’s collection) may develop the title.
1986—The year that the artwork was made or completed.
Oil on Masonite—The medium or materials that the artist used to create the artwork. Here the materials include oil paint and Masonite (a type of board made of compressed wood fibers).
Image: 36 x 50 1/8 in. (91.4 x 127.3 cm)—The dimensions of the work of art. For paintings, the height and length are provided. For objects like sculptures, the width is included too. This information is especially helpful when looking at art on websites or in books, as it’s hard to understand the scale of an artwork without seeing it in person.
Frame: 41 7/8 x 56 in. (106.4 x 142.2 cm)—Sometimes the dimensions of the frame for the work of art are also provided.
Terra Foundation for American Art —The owner of the artwork.
Daniel J. Terra Collection—This part of the label explains how the artwork became part of the collection that now owns it. “Daniel J. Terra Collection” tells us that the painting was owned by Daniel J. Terra before it became part of the Terra Foundation for American Art’s collection. Sometimes one person or a family will donate works of art to a museum. Other times several individuals come together to help museums purchase a work of art. An artwork may also be on loan from another museum or private collection.
1992.163—The object number (this is sometimes also called an accession number). Each work of art is given a unique number when it enters a museum collection. This number helps the museum with its record keeping. The number usually contains the year when the artwork entered the collection. In this example, the painting became part of the collection in 1992, and was the 163rd artwork to join the collection in that year.