Books on the visual arts have had a place within the Library's collection since its early days. Copies of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the painters and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Treatise on painting were acquired in those first years, and since that time the art research collection has grown to become one of the great strengths of the Library.
The history of Australian art from the earliest times to the present day holds a special place here. This covers not just painting but sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, ceramics and other forms.
Along with books, journals, electronic databases, manuscripts and audiovisual material, we also hold thousands of files of ephemeral material related to Australian artists and galleries in our Australian art and artists collection.
Alongside the Australian collection is a vast array of material related to art from around the world, covering all periods and styles. While it would be fair to say that western art has formed the basis of the collection, the arts of non-western cultures are increasingly represented, with a particular focus on the Asia–Pacific region.
From prehistoric to pop, the world of art is central to the Library's collections.