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Art Analysis Paper Preparation 1


Works of art are the subject of various scholarly interpretations that often yield multiple meanings depending on the scholar and their methodology. This assignment will enable you to practice art history by investigating an artist or art historical topic that interests you through the detailed analysis of a painting, sculpture, drawing, print, or photograph in the collection of a local art museum. While museums are all closed due to the coronavirus, this is an opportunity to take a virtual visit via the museum’s website. The purpose of visual analysis is to increase your ability to see, describe, and analyze works of art while contextual analysis will provide insight into the culture of the time. The final assignment requires you to do a 3-page paper that is a visual and contextual analysis of a work of art. If you have any questions, please email me.

This assignment will increase your ability to see, describe, and analyze works of art. Conducting research and evaluating sources and arguments are key 21st century skills you can use both in your academic career and in your professional life. You will hone your writing skills as you synthesize a variety of sources and improve your ability to use proper citations and bibliographic formats.

This assignment focuses on works of art from the periods we study in ART 2 helping you to better understand renaissance to modern art and the role art continues to play in our society. When doing research, how do you find sources beyond a google search? How do you evaluate the credibility of your research sources? Become familiar with the LBCC library databases and internet sources about historical art.

PROCESS PART I – Virtual Museum Visit and Bibliography

1. Virtually visit one of the museums listed below.
Pick a work of art done from the 15th through the 19th centuries (1400-1899).

1. Virtually visit one of the museums listed below.

Pick a work of art done from the 15th through the 19th centuries (1400-1899).

Look at this list of Question as a guide and take notes when closely viewing the art work you select.A) Getty Center, Los Angeles. European art 15th – 19th centuries www.getty.edu

B) Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena. European or U.S. art, 15th – 19th centuries. www.nortonsimon.org

C) Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. European or U.S. art 15th – 19th centuries. www.lacma.org

D) The Huntington, San Marino. European or U.S. art 18th – 19th centuries. www.huntington.org

2. What is Visual Analysis?

Meaning or content in a work of art is conveyed in the language of art. A visual or formal analysis of a work of art is based on this language of art elements, as well as the media and techniques used by the artist to produce the work. Carefully study the object. You are looking at the style and form of the work, as well as the subject, to determine its meaning. Answer the list of questions in your own words as you analyze the artwork. Describe what you see as fully as possible including:

1) Art elements: line, color, shape, spatial depth, light, texture, movement, etc.

2) Composition and Design Principles: How the elements relate to one another as well as balance, scale and proportion.

3) Subject (if there is one) and mood or feeling of piece

4) Size, medium (or materials), and techniques used

Copy the following information from the museum label to put at the top of your paper:

Artist’s name, (birth and death dates in parentheses),
Title of the art (in italics), date the art was created, medium.

3. Conduct Research
The secondary purpose of this assignment, beyond your own visual analysis, is also to become familiar with different sources about works of art and the basic methods of citing these sources in footnotes and bibliography. You must use at least 4 sources. Select from books, exhibition catalogues, magazine articles, and scholarly journals. (Wikipedia is NOT an acceptable scholarly source.) Research should help you support your own thoughts, not be a substitute for them. Read what others have written about your art work and its culture and choose the evidence that supports your own ideas. When doing a database search, Arts & Sciences (JSTOR), EBooks, EBSCO, Gale, ProQuest, SIRS Renaissance all have art related articles. Click to include peer reviewed journals which include Art Bulletin, Art Journal, Modernism/Modernity for examples. Museum websites are also good sources.

LBCC Library Guides

Curbside Book Pickup (Links to an external site.)
Using Article Databases (Links to an external site.)
Using Internet Sources (Links to an external site.)

Professional Art History publications use a variety of citation formats. You can use either MLA or Chicago Manual of Style, but not APA. Here are examples of Bibliography citations using Chicago Manual. They would appear in alphabetical order, but not need the type of source listed (book, journal, website, etc.)

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Journal article:
Mitchell, Dolores. “The ‘New Woman’ as Prometheus: Women Artists Depict Women Smoking.” Woman’s Art Journal 12, no. 1 (1991): 2-9.

Strudwick, Nigel. Egyptology Resources. The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University, 1994. http://www.newton.com.ac.uk/egypt/. date accessed.

Online exhibition:
Urtiaga, Gabriela. curator. OaxaCalifornia: Through the Experience of the Duo Tlacolulokos. Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA. 2020.

For Citation Guides of footnotes (or endnotes) and bibliography see the following websites:

LBCC Library MLA Citation

Owl Purdue MLA Citation Guide
Chicago Manual of Style Online Guide

WHAT IS DUE? – Virtual Visit and Bibliography.
You need to turn in 1 page of notes based on your observation of the art elements and composition in answer to the Questions. At the top, include the artist, title, date, and medium of the art and at what museum you saw it. Also include a bibliography in proper format (not just URLs) of 4 sourcesthat are about the historical context for the artwork.

Here are the Guidelines that will be posted again for the Contextual Analysis and Writing the final paper.

Process Part II – Contextual Analysis

1. What is contextual analysis?

How does your artwork reflect the culture that produced it? Consider some aspect of the social, cultural, political, technological, religious, or economic circumstances of the time period. The following questions would be a good starting point.

  • What is the subject matter of the art work?
  • For what purpose was it created?
  • How does the work reflect the historical era in which it was produced?
  • Where was the artwork meant to be seen? How would the setting affect our perceptions?
  • What role(s) do patrons and or audience play in the creation of the work?

Process Part III – Format of the paper

Based on your observations and your reading, develop a thesis which articulates the main point of your paper. In your finished paper, you are combining your visual and contextual analyses into a coherent essay that explains how the visual elements and the historical circumstances contribute to the artwork’s meaning.

  • Include the identifying information from the museum label at the top of your paper.
  • Use 12 point type, double or 1.5 line spacing, and no more than 1 inch margins.
  • Use an essay format with introductory and concluding paragraphs.
  • Develop a thesis or main idea that you will prove with your analysis in your essay.
  • The body of the paper should support your thesis.
  • You must document quotes with footnotes or endnotes.
  • List your sources of research in a bibliography at the end.
  • Include an image of your selected work and any other art work that you reference to support your interpretation, although this is not a comparison essay. These would be at the end and not included in the 3 page count. You can include links to the image(s) online as opposed to downloading the images themselves. Include captions for the images (or URLs) and in the body of your paper when you refer to the art work for the first time write Figure 1 (or 2, 3, etc. if you have multiple image).
    CAPTION format sample: Figure 1. Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks, ca. 1485. oil on woo
  • https://www.hamilton.edu/documents/Writing%20an%20.
  • Citation guides for footnotes or endnotes and bibliography: See the websites in Part I above.
    Close observation is essential to visual analysis; good research and organization is key to writing an effective contextual analysis essay. The clarity of your analysis, description of the visual elements, careful consideration of the historical circumstances, and a thoughtful personal response is important. A well conceived thesis statement, effective argument, correct spelling and grammar will ensure the success of your interpretation. The Art History Paper Rubric for the assignment will be available on Canvas with the assignment.
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