About Our Collections

With over 185,000 volumes, the Kohler Art Library is considered a large public art library.  It houses a broad range of traditional and non-Western materials on world-wide art history, material culture, and the making and practice of art.  The library’s collections complement research and teaching predominantly in the Art History and Art Departments and the Chazen Museum of Art, but supports all campus units with interests in visual culture.

Types of materials include monographs, periodicals, exhibition catalogues, artists’ books, auction catalogues, catalogues raisonnés, Festschriften, and art-related videos. The collection covers all periods of art, including painting, drawing, architecture, sculpture, graphic arts, photography, and decorative arts. Online resources include a growing array of ebooks, article databases, and image databases such as ARTstor.

The art reference room has an extensive collection of art bibliographies, dictionaries of art terminology, biographical dictionaries, exhibition records and histories, encyclopedias, directories of museums and galleries, iconography reference books, signature and monogram identifications, and auction record indexes, among many other types of resources.

Using the Collection

The majority of our collection can be checked out and taken home. Circulating materials are located in one of two main sections of the library:

  • regular shelving (by the entrance)
  • oversize shelving (near the reading room windows)

Non-circulating materials, which can be requested at the circulation desk, can be used only in the art library. In the Library Catalog these items will be marked with a location such as:

  • cage, flat, locked
  • L130 (and L130 oversize), 160a
  • Reference  (these do not need to be paged)

Artists’ Book Collection

Over 1,200 artists’ books representing over 175 presses and artists from around the world, including Wisconsin book art. A repository of finely crafted and visually stimulating books, the Artists’ Book Collection is a significant resource for students of art, poetry, and design. The collection can be partially explored online in the Artists’ Book Collection Database through UW Digital Collections.



Illuminated Manuscript Facsimile Collection

Over 100 illuminated manuscript facsimiles of texts from pre-9th through the 15th centuries (Medieval, Renaissance and Mesoamerican).  Examples include the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, the Joshua Roll, the Vienna Genesis, the Gospel Book of Otto III, the Codex Borgia, the Codex Dresdensis Maya, and the Codex Colombino, among many others).



Artists’ Sketchbook Facsimile Collection

The art library has over 50 artists’ sketchbook facsimiles of work by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, John Constable, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Prendergast, Jackson Pollock, June Leaf, Richard Serra, and others.



Other Collection areas of strength

  • Contemporary Chinese art
  • African art
  • Decorative arts, especially ceramics and furniture
  • Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School
  • 20th century German and Austrian art
  • Medieval art and architecture


Artists’ Book Collection

Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Arts Collection

Dominy Craftsmen Collection