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Art History Paper

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Write a five-page paper (typed, double-spaced) in which you discuss these two paintings.  Read the sections in Gardner on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.  No further research is necessary.

  Your paper should focus on the stylistic changes involved in the shift from “Impressionism” to “Post-Impressionism” as exemplified in these paintings.  Van Gogh–as Gardner explains–was influenced by, but also reacted against, certain aspects of Impressionism (represented here by Pissarro).  Explain this historical development more fully in reference to these paintings.

  The paper should be a careful visual analysis of the paintings, at the same time incorporating your specific observations into the larger scheme of the development from Impressionism to the Post-Impressionist style of Van Gogh.  Discuss each painting in the context of what you have learned about that artist from the Gardner book and from class lecture.  Points to consider include the following.  How does each painting relate to the broader characteristics of the artist’s work, and of Impressionism (for Pissarro) and Post-Impressionism (for Van Gogh) in general, as discussed in Gardner and in class lectures?  You may compare the paintings at the museum to other paintings in the Gardner text by these artists.  With regard to the paintings in the museum, consider the artist’s style:  including the quality of the brushstroke (its width, the thickness of paint, directionality and other characteristics), and the use of color.  Think about the quality of light in the scene.  To what degree is the artist sensitive to the element of time, and does the landscape seem to record a particular time of day or season of the year—or not?  How does the artist distinguish different textures:  grass, foliage, stone, wood, etc.?  (Or is the texture of the painting more about the materiality of paint rather than that of the object depicted?)  Think about what the artist is looking at and how he composes the scene. Note the viewpoint within the scene:  does the artist seem to be looking at, down, or up at the scene and does this affect your reaction to the landscape in any way?  What are the general spatial qualities of the landscape:  does it convey a sense of depth or is it relatively flat?  Is there a human presence in the landscape and what effect does this have?  What kind of landscape is depicted in the painting:  wild or “cultivated”, i.e., including or bearing the imprint of a human presence?  Finally, can you link up any of these observations of the paintings’ visual qualities and subject-matter with the underlying ideas and motivations behind the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, and the artistic ideas of these artists, as recounted in Gardner and in class lectures?  

  You do not have to devote equal time to all of these questions with regard to each painting.  The important thing is to relate your visual observations of each painting to what you know about the artist’s style and ideas about art, and to organize these points into a coherent argument about the development of landscape painting from Impressionism to Post-Impressionism.  The paper will be graded equally on the content AND the quality of writing. 


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