Grove Art Online at First Glance
As mentioned above, Grove Art contains over 45,000 articles on every aspect of the visual arts (both fine and decorative) from prehistory to the present, around the globe. All are written by scholars, and one often notices the author's surname and initials listed next to a citation. The bibliographies included are sometimes of astonishing length and scope, and serve as excellent points of departure for those needing more detailed research on a given topic (which is, truly, hard to imagine - unless one is writing a thesis).
Topics include art history by culture or civilization, country, period, style, movement or medium - to name just the highlights. Should an article go beyond a paragraph or two, the piece is presented in outline form, with the fully-hyperlinked outline neatly displayed on the left. The section on Africa, for example (with its many dozens of indices and sub-indices), would seem overwhelming if not for said outline.
A large part of the Grove Art offerings come in the form of biographies (over 21,000 of them), covering not only artists and architects, but patrons, collectors, dealers, scholars and, yes, even critics.
I mentioned that every article is cross-indexed to related articles. Additionally, every article has its own list of offsite links, mainly to images (some 30,000 of them), and a list of "diagrams" (lots and lots of maps) and images within the Grove Art site. Both of these appear as article links whenever applicable - a situation that occurs with admirable frequency.
As if all of this wasn't enough, Grove Art has partnered with The Bridgeman Art Library to make another 100,000+ images available to subscribers. A click of the mouse on any page takes one directly to the Bridgeman's fully-searchable database.
Grove Art's layout is extremely intuitive. A great deal of thought seems to have been given to different user styles. The database is searchable in four different ways: Boolean, "Concept" (related terms), Free-text and something called "Pattern Match", which is useful when a term or name's spelling is uncertain. I haven't encountered problems finding anything, even obscure terms used as a sort of test.
There is a Quick Reference Users Guide available for download, and every single page has the "Help" link prominently displayed. Should you find yourself stymied, after all of this, Grove Art has a 24-hour email answering system, as well as toll-free (U.S. only) telephone support during the business week. Kudos must be awarded here, too. I had some password difficulty for my trial use, and found customer support swift and obliging. This for a non-paying "customer", during the holiday season when staffing is notoriously shorthanded.
Grove Art offers both individual and institutional (either concurrent or unlimited user access) subscriptions. To be honest, I had wondered if the subscription price for an individual user was justified. After poking around in here, I'll now find myself digging into my own pocket.