Do You Italicize Art Titles?

When you’re writing about art, do you italicize titles of paintings? Here’s a guide to help you format your writing correctly.

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Why do people italicize art titles?

It is common practice to italicize the titles of artworks, whether they are paintings, sculptures, or other forms of visual art. There are a few reasons for this. First, italics indicate that a word or phrase is special or different from the rest of the text. For an artwork, this emphasizes its status as an object with its own separate existence, rather than simply a part of the text surrounding it. Second, when an artwork’s title is italicized, it can help to set it apart visually from the rest of the text, making it easier for readers to find and remember.

There are a few exceptions to the rule of italicizing art titles. In general, shorter pieces or those with simpler titles are not usually italicized. For instance, a short poem might be titled “The Rose,” while a longer one could be titled “Roses Are Red.” Similarly, a painting called “Untitled #1” would not usually be italicized, but one called “The Red Rose” would be. Ultimately, whether or not to italicize an artwork’s title is up to the author or artist; if in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and go with italics.

The history of italicizing art titles

The tradition of italicizing art titles can be traced back to the early days of printing. In the 15th century, when printmaking was first developed, typefaces were often used to reproduce the handwritten manuscripts of scribes. These typefaces included a variety of features, such as different thicknesses and angles, that helped to create a more naturalistic effect. One of these features was the use of italics, which were used to imitate the effect of handwriting.

Italics were also used for other purposes, such as to indicate emphasis or to set off foreign words. However, it was not until the 18th century that they began to be used specifically for titles of works of art. This practice became increasingly common in the 19th century, and by the early 20th century, it had become standard practice.

There are a number of reasons why art titles are typically italicized. First, italics help to set titles apart from the surrounding text and make them more noticeable. Additionally, italics help to create a sense of unity between different works by the same artist. Finally, italics can also add a level of sophistication to art titles.

How does italicizing art titles affect art?

When considering how to italicize art titles, there are a few things you need to take into account. The first is the type of art you are talking about. For example, if you are discussing a painting, then you will need to use different rules than if you are discussing a sculpture. The second thing to consider is the context in which you will be discussing the art. For example, if you are writing an essay about a specific work of art, then you will need to follow the rules for academic writing.

The general rule for italicizing art titles is that you should use quotation marks if the title is part of a larger work (e.g., a painting that is part of an exhibition) and italics if the title is standalone (e.g., an individual painting). There are some exceptions to this rule, which we will discuss below.

When in doubt, it is always best to ask your instructor or editor for guidance on how to format art titles in your specific context.

How do different art forms handle italicizing art titles?

The Chicago Manual of Style says, “Titles of works that appear within a larger work or collection are enclosed in quotation marks” (6.20). MLA style does something similar. It suggests that titles of sections within a work—such as chapters, parts, scenes, songs, and speeches—be enclosed in quotation marks (66-67).

However, MLA recommends that when you are discussing the general work itself, you should use italics. In other words, if you are writing about War and Peace in your paper about novels, you would put the title in italics. If you are writing about a specific chapter (“ Napoleon’s Invasion”) or scene (“ Pierre’s Dreams”), you would put those titles in quotation marks.

The same is true with other art forms. If you write an essay discussing the painting America by James Whistler or the film Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein, then putting those titles in italics would be appropriate. But if your focus is on a particular exhibition of Whistler’s work (say, “Nocturnes: Whistler and the Illustrated Book”) or a single shot from Eisenstein’s film (say, “The Odessa Steps Sequence”), then using quotation marks for those titles would be appropriate.

What are the benefits of italicizing art titles?

When you italicize a title, you indicate that it should be given special emphasis. This is especially useful for titles of works of art, such as paintings, sculptures, or drawings. By setting off the title in this way, you can provide a clear and concise way to refer to the work in question.

There are a few other benefits to italicizing titles as well. For one, it can help to establish a clear hierarchy within a document or body of text. If you have a long list of titles, for instance, you may want to set off the most important ones by italicizing them. This will help your reader to see at a glance which titles are most important.

Italicizing also has a visual effect, helping your reader to see the boundaries of the title more clearly. This can be helpful if the title is particularly long or complex. By setting it off in this way, you can make it easier for your reader to follow along and keep track of what they’re reading.

What are the drawbacks of italicizing art titles?

When writing about art, there are a few different ways you can refer to the title of the work you’re discussing. You can either italicize it, put it in quotation marks, or leave it as is. Each approach has its own set of drawbacks.

Italicizing the title of a work of art might seem like the most natural choice. After all, we often italicize the titles of books and other long works. However, there are a few reasons why you might not want to italicize the title of a work of art.

First, italics can be difficult to read, especially on screens. If you’re writing for an online audience, they may not appreciate having to wade through a block of italicized text just to get to your main point.

Second, italics can also be distracting. If your goal is to get readers to focus on the content of your writing, then using italics for titles might not be the best way to go.

Finally, depending on the style guide you’re using, you may not be able to italicize the title of a work of art anyway. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style says that titles “of unpublished works and certain published works such as articles, essays, stories in anthologies or collections” should be enclosed in quotation marks rather than being set in italics.

So if you’re undecided about whether or not to italicize the title of a work of art, my advice is to err on the side of caution and go with quotation marks instead.

How do you italicize art titles?

In writing about art, there are certain rules for italicizing titles that you should follow. Whether you are referring to an oil painting, a watercolor, a sculpture or any other type of artwork, the title should be in italics if it is the name of the work itself. For example, “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo would be italicized. However, if you are referring to a general category of art such as “Renaissance art” or “Impressionist paintings,” these terms are not italicized.

How do you not italicize art titles?

There is no definitive answer, as the decision whether or not to italicize art titles is a matter of personal preference and style. Some people choose to italicize all titles, while others only do so for certain types of works (e.g., paintings, sculptures). Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but it is important to be consistent in your use of italics so as not to confuse your readers.

When in doubt, how should you italicize art titles?

It can be tricky to know when to italicize art titles. In general, you should italicize the titles of paintings, sculptures, drawings, etchings, lithographs, and photographs. The title of a work of art is usually italicized when it is displayed alone or in a larger group show. When the work is part of a larger collection, the title is usually not italicized.


Based on the information we gathered, it seems that there is no definitive answer when it comes to whether or not you should italicize art titles. While some people argue that you should always italicize them, others say that it depends on the context. Ultimately, we think it comes down to personal preference and what feels right for the specific piece of art in question.

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