The MLA system helps with citing works of art in your research papers.
The MLA system helps with citing works of art in your research papers.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is a system for formatting academic papers and citing sources. It is important to understand general MLA style for formatting your writing. As a standard rule, MLA formatting guidelines require a 1-inch margin on all sides of the paper and a 12-point font, in a highly readable style, such as Times New Roman. You also want to make sure there is a clear contrast when the font is set to italic. Use only one space after a period and indent half a space for each new paragraph.

Giving Credit

While students may enjoy on-demand access to relatively unlimited information, it is important to be clear about what content you generate, and is your own original idea, and what content actually belongs to someone else. It is very important for you to give credit to the sources you used for several reasons.

According to MIT Libraries, giving credit to your sources is important because it shows that you have actually done thorough research, and by doing this you are giving credit for the idea or content to its original author. Also, by citing works, you are making it clear that these are not your original ideas, therefore not plagiarizing the information. Lastly, citing your sources gives the reader information about the origins of the work, so they can find the original source if needed.

How to Cite Art

MLA is predominantly used in literature and humanities classes required for just about every major. It is important to understand the specific requirements for citing historical artwork in an academic paper. You may choose to include the exact image within the body of the text. If so, label the image as a numbered figure and give a brief caption (ex., Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.) It is important to note that if the caption under the image within the paper is a complete citation, it is not necessary to add the citation into a works cited list at the end of the paper.

To cite a piece of artwork, such as a photograph, painting or sculpture, apply the following MLA guidelines: Artist’s full name(last name first), complete title of the artwork in italics, date of creation, medium (i.e., oil painting, sculpture, photograph), name of institution that currently houses the piece and location of institution.

MLA Examples

An example of MLA citations would look like this:

Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. Aristotle with a Bust of Homer. 1653, Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Finally, the works cited list goes at the very end of the paper, after any final notes. You should start the list on a new page and follow the general MLA formatting guidelines for margins and font.