Work of Art from the Museum

Work of Art from the Museum Research Essay

For the final paper assignment, select a work of art of your choosing from a museum (In-person or on their website) and write a short research paper analyzing it both visually and historically. The artwork can be in any medium and from any time period we have covered. The quality of your writing should make it clear that you have examined the work. Your paper should be equal parts of visual analysis of the work and exploration of its historical context. Spend time looking carefully at your artwork. Take notes on its appearance and its various compositional elements (e.g. use of colour, line, light and shade, scale, size.) You will need to illustrate the work in your paper. Think about how the formal characteristics of the work combine to present the subject matter. What can be deduced about the artist’s intentions in its presentation of form?

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Format for the Paper:

Four to five pages, 1200 word limit, (not including title page, if you use one, the image of the artwork, or the bibliography), black ink, double spaced, 12 pt. type (Times New Roman only), 1” margins. Make sure you proofread your papers for incorrect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other errors. In addition, make sure your paper includes a thesis statement. Your grade will reflect your ability to follow these guidelines.

In the first paragraph, called the introduction, you will include:

The name of the artist (if known), title (which is underlined or italicized every time you use the title in your paper), date, medium (if known), and Museum
What you think is the subject
A very brief description of the work
Thesis statement – usually the last line or so of your first paragraph.

While formulating your approach for the paper, think about the following questions:

What are the circumstances of the work’s creation? Where does the work fit into the artist’s oeuvre? Is it typical of his/her work or something different?
How are the facts and interpretations that you discover about the artist and the work supported or refuted by what you see in the artwork itself? Stick to solid historical fact and scholarly sources rather than be distracted or romanced by arcane theoretical interpretations. Use the work as your guide when determining which sources or arguments to incorporate into your paper.
What are the themes explored in the work and how might they relate to the artist and his/her time period?
Where does the work fit into the broader spectrum of art historical movements and developments? How does its style and mode of presentation correlate or diverge from to the prevailing artistic norms of the culture and period in which it was made?

Remember to use the third person in your paper. This is art historical research, not art criticism. Also, be selective about the sources you use for your research. Use your judgment when reading the scholarship; do not simply reiterate someone’s else argument unless you are planning to refute or elaborate upon it. I will be looking for intelligent use of sources, not a wholesale repetition or antagonistic nitpicking.

You can use any format to cite your sources, as long as it contains an author’s name, the title of the cited work, its publication information, a date, and a page number. Please be consistent in your formatting. Any edition of Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, is a good place to go if you do not have a preferred format in mind. The following two links are citation guides for the MLA and APA formats. Please cite your sources in your bibliography.

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