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How many artist names are in ULAN?

Thousands of ULAN names for people and corporate bodies are added and edited every year. Most are artists or repositories of art, but some are people and corporate bodies otherwise important for cataloging art. As of May 2011, the ULAN contained around 202,720 'records' and 638,900 names.


What is the definition of "artist" for the ULAN?
The ULAN includes names and associated information about artists. Artists may be either 1) individuals or 2) groups of individuals working together (corporate bodies). Artists in the ULAN generally represent creators involved in the conception or production of visual arts and architecture. Some performance artists are included. Some patrons and donors are also included. Below are examples of roles of artists that you will find in ULAN:
















architectural engineer



architectural firm

naive artist


architectural engineer


The definition of artist hinges upon the sometimes nebulous, often controversial, constantly changing definition of art. For ULAN, artists represent creators who have been involved in the design or production of architecture or visual arts that are of the type collected by art museums. Note that these are works of visual art of the type collected by art museums. The objects themselves may actually be held by an ethnographic, anthropological or other museum, or owned by a private collector. Included are painters, sculptors, printmakers, photographers, and a host of other creators. Excluded are professionals who may play one of these roles, but whose products are not considered art. For example, a portrait painter is probably creating art, but a house painter is not. Photographers who create still photographs of landscapes, portraits, still lives, or abstract compositions with characteristics of art are included in ULAN; but photographers producing forensic photographs or military photographs are generally outside the scope of ULAN. Likewise, an engineer involved in the artistic process of designing architecture is included in ULAN; but engineers who design diesel engines and biomedical engineers are outside the scope of ULAN.

Note that the nature of a designated role may be typically artistic in one period, but not in another. A medieval mason was often involved in the creative design process, while a modern bricklayer generally is not. A cabinetmaker in the court of Louis XVI was probably producing high quality furnishings considered art, while the work of a modern craftsman who remodels your kitchen is probably is not considered art.

Creators outside the scope of ULAN include those who create in media not typically collected by art museums. For example, still photographers are included in ULAN, but, in general, cinematographers are outside the scope of ULAN. Authors, choreographers, directors of plays and movies, composers of music, dancers, musicians, singers, and actors are generally outside the scope of ULAN.

However, a creator may be included in ULAN even if his primary or most famous life role was not that of an artist. For example, Thomas Jefferson is best known as a founding father and president of the United States, but he was also a talented, innovative, and influential architect (i.e., artist). Conversely, history remembers Leonardo da Vinci primarily as a painter and draftsman (i.e., artist), but in his own time he generally considered his role as military engineer one of his most important activities.

Amateur artists may be included in the ULAN if their work is of the type and caliber typically collected by art museums. A criterion for inclusion is the availability of information for all the CORE ULAN fields, including a published source that names or discusses the artist and his work (for example, a journal article or an entry in a museum catalogue).

The scope of the ULAN also includes individuals and corporate bodies who are directly associated with an artist recorded in the ULAN, and who are important to that artist's record. Examples include teachers, patrons, famous spouses or other family members, and associated firms.

What are anonymous artists and why are they in the ULAN?
Anonymous artists are within the scope of ULAN if the hand of the anonymous artist has been identified—that is, if his or her oeuvre (body of works) is known and has been attributed to a single artistic personality. In such cases, it is common to create an identity for the anonymous person. Scholars and museums typically devise an appellation for him or her (e.g., Master of the Morgan Leaf or Monogrammist AEL). ULAN records his deduced locus of activity, roles, and approximate dates of activity. In such cases, the general locus and time frame of activity are known, but the name is uncertain.

Unidentified artistic personalities are included in a special facet of the ULAN. If the hand and oeuvre of an individual is identified, an appellation may be invented by scholars, as described above. However, if the identity of a hand is not established, the generic identification that is often devised for an object record (for example, unknown Mayan or unknown Florentine), designating a culture from which the work originated, not the identity of an individual artist. In this case, the generic identification does not refer to one identified, if anonymous, individual; but instead the same heading refers to any of hundreds of anonymous, unidentified artistic personalities.

What are "corporate bodies" and why are they in the ULAN?
Corporate bodies that are creators of art or architecture are within the scope of ULAN. Corporate bodies in ULAN include legally incorporated bodies (e.g., modern architectural firms) and other groups of people working together to collectively create art (e.g., Gobelins Manufactory or the Della Robbia family).

Corporate bodies in ULAN must be organized, identifiable groups of individuals working together in a particular place and within a defined period of time. Generic reference to a cultural group is not considered a corporate body, and is outside the scope of ULAN. A workshop may be included in ULAN if the workshop itself is a distinct personality collectively responsible for the creation of art (for example, the 13th-century group of French illuminators, Soissons atelier).

Generic attributions to studios or workshops are outside the scope of ULAN. For example, when a painting is attributed to some unknown hand in the workshop of a known artist (e.g., as might be expressed in an object record as workshop of Raffaello Sanzio), this is outside the scope of ULAN. In such cases, workshop of is more properly a qualifier for the attribution to Raffaello Sanzio in an object record.

ULAN also includes repositories of art works, primarily museums and other collections. They are identified through their role.

What are relationships in the ULAN?
Like the AAT, the ULAN includes equivalence, associative, and hierarchical relationships.

  1. Equivalence Relationship. All relationships between names within the same ULAN record are equivalence relationships. In the example below, all names refer to the same fourteenth-century Italian artist.

    Among all the names that refer to a single artist or corporate body, one name is chosen as the preferred name, comparable to the descriptor in the AAT. The preferred name in ULAN is the name used most often in scholarly literature. If there is an English version of the name, it will be the preferred name. The preferred name is the indexing form of the name; that is, it is listed in inverted order with the last name first, if there is a so-called "last" name. For relatively modern artists who have a last name, the natural order display name may also be included (as in the example below); this is the name appropriate for wall labels and other displays. If an institution wishes to use ULAN as an authority, they may consistently use the ULAN preferred name for the artist.

    Variant or alternate names include variations in spelling, names in other languages, names in natural and inverted order, pseudonyms, nicknames, full names, and former names. Misspellings may appear if they occur in published sources.

  2. Associative Relationship. Associative relationships may exist between and among people and corporate body records in ULAN. For example, an artist may have a student/teacher relationship with his master. Also, corporate bodies and other groups of individuals may be related to single individuals, as a workshop or architectural firm should be related to its members. An architectural firm that has reorganized with new partners may have a relationship with the original firm. In the example below, relationships with Albrecht Dürer's teachers and other people are recorded.

  3. Hierarchical Relationship. There may be hierarchical relationships between corporate bodies in the ULAN. Corporate bodies may have hierarchical administrative structures, and these hierarchical relationships are recorded by making separate ULAN records that are linked. For example, Feature Animation is a part of Disney Studios, which in turn is part of The Walt Disney Company. The example below illustrates a manufactory that had several separate studios. The hierarchical part/whole relationships are indicated with indention.


Why doesn't the ULAN show me works of art by the artists?
Comprehensively illustrating the artists' records with works of art is currently outside the scope of the ULAN. The ULAN is not an encyclopedia of artists; it is a vocabulary, which includes names, relationships, and a limited amount of biographical information. However, links to URLs of selected works are being added to the records of many artists over time, in order to provide examples of the artists style and types of works.

Why and how do ULAN records and terms change over time?
The ULAN data changes with every year's publication, as has been true throughout its history. Such changes are tracked automatically in the Revision History, so it is possible for licensees to analyze changes in a systematic way with each year's publication. In fact, when the data is available via APIs, they will be able to check changes regularly throughout the year.

ULAN records are changed primarily for these reasons:

- Loading contributions from Getty projects or other contributors
- To add new records (called "subjects" in the database) or to add new names to existing subjects.
- To reflect changes in scholarship or usage of names and biographical information.
- To make the data more consistent throughout. Legacy data and incoming contributed datasets occasionally require changes to existing records in order to maintain the logic and consistency of the whole.
- To correct legacy data where names were incorrectly parsed (each name should occupy a separate field, without parentheses) or where different names in a single record do not represent a single artist (e.g., where the name of an identified artist and an anonymous master have been combined in one record, even though scholarship does not agree that they are the same person).
- To correct outright mistakes, either arising from contributed data or from editors' past mistakes.

The ULAN has a very small staff. We rely upon the user community to grow the ULAN, and we welcome users pointing out errors or inconsistencies.

Go to the general F.A.Q. for the Getty Vocabularies.

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Last updated 23 May 2011

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