Knowing how to write a formal analysis of a work of art is a fundamental skill learned in an art appreciation-level class. Students in art history survey and upper-level classes further develop this skill. Use this sheet as a guide when writing a formal analysis paper.Consider the following when analyzing a work of art. Not everything applies to every work of art, nor is it always useful to consider things in the order given. In any analysis, keep in mind the following: HOW and WHY is this a significant work of art?
Part I – General Information
- In many cases, this information can be found on a label or in a gallery guidebook. There may be an artist’s statement available in the gallery. If so, indicate in your text or by a footnote or endnote to your paper where you got the information.
- Subject Matter (Who or What is Represented?)
- Artist or Architect (What person or group made it? Often this is not known. If there is a name, refer to this person as the artist or architect, not “author.” Refer to this person by their last name, not familiarly by their first name.)
- Date (When was it made? Is it a copy of something older? Was it made before or after other similar works?)
- Provenance (Where was it made? For whom? Is it typical of the art of a geographical area?)
- Location (Where is the work of art now? Where was it originally located? Does the viewer look up at it, or down at it? If it is not in its original location, does the viewer see it as the artist intended? Can it be seen on all sides, or just on one?)
- Technique and Medium (What materials is it made of? How was it executed? How big or small is it?)
Part II – Brief Description
In a few sentences describe the work. What does it look like? Is it a representation of something? Tell what is shown. Is it an abstraction of something? Tell what the subject is and what aspects are emphasized. Is it a non-objective work? Tell what elements are dominant. This section is not an analysis of the work yet, though some terms used in Part III might be used here. This section is primarily a few sentences to give the reader a sense of what the work looks like.
Part III – Form
This is the key part of your paper. It should be the longest section of the paper. Be sure and think about whether the work of art selected is a two-dimensional or three-dimensional work.
- Line (straight, curved, angular, flowing, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, contour, thick, thin, implied etc.)
- Shape (what shapes are created and how)
- Light and Value (source, flat, strong, contrasting, even, values, emphasis, shadows)
- Color (primary, secondary, mixed, complimentary, warm, cool, decorative, values)
- Texture and Pattern (real, implied, repeating)
- Space (depth, overlapping, kinds of perspective)
- Time and Motion
Principles of Design
- Unity and Variety
- Balance (symmetry, asymmetry)
- Emphasis and Subordination
- Scale and Proportion (weight, how objects or figures relate to each other and the setting)
- Mass/Volume (three-dimensional art)
- Function/Setting (architecture)
- Interior/Exterior Relationship (architecture)
Part IV – Opinions and Conclusions
This is the part of the paper where you go beyond description and offer a conclusion and your own informed opinion about the work. Any statements you make about the work should be based on the analysis in Part III above.
- In this section, discuss how and why the key elements and principles of art used by the artist create meaning.
- Support your discussion of content with facts about the work.
- Pay attention to the date the paper is due.
- Your instructor may have a list of “approved works” for you to write about, and you must be aware of when the UALR Galleries, or the Arkansas Arts Center Galleries, or other exhibition areas, are open to the public.
- You should allow time to view the work you plan to write about and take notes.
- Always italicize or underline titles of works of art. If the title is long, you must use the full title the first time you mention it, but may shorten the title for subsequent listings.
- Use the present tense in describing works of art.
- Be specific: don’t refer to a “picture” or “artwork” if “drawing” or “painting” or “photograph” is more exact.
- Remember that any information you use from another source, whether it be your textbook, a wall panel, a museum catalogue, a dictionary of art, the internet, must be documented with a footnote. Failure to do so is considered plagiarism, and violates the behavioral standards of the university. If you do not understand what plagiarism is, refer to this link at the UALR Copyright Central web site: http://www.ualr.edu/copyright/articles/?ID=4
- For proper footnote form, refer to the UALR Department of Art website, or to Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing About Art, which is based on the Chicago Manual of Style. MLA style is not acceptable for papers in art history.
- Allow time to proofread your paper. Read it out loud and see if it makes sense. If you need help on the technical aspects of writing, use the University Writing Center (569-8343) or On-Line Writing Lab. http://ualr.edu/writingcenter/
- Ask your instructor for help if needed.
For further information and more discussions about writing a formal analysis, see the following. Some of these sources also give a lot of information about writing a research paper in art history, that is, a paper more ambitious in scope than a formal analysis.
M. Getlein, Gilbert’s Living with Art (10th edition, 2013), pp. 136-139 is a very short analysis of one work.
M. Stokstad and M. W. Cothren, Art History (5th edition, 2014), “Starter Kit,” pp. xxii-xxv is a brief outline.
S. Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art (9th edition, 2008), pp. 113-134 is about formal analysis; the entire book is excellent for all kinds of writing assignments.
R. J. Belton, Art History: A Preliminary Handbookhttp://www.ubc.ca/okanagan/fccs/about/links/resources/arthistory.html is probably more useful for a research paper in art history, but parts of this outline relate to discussing the form of a work of art.
If you are taking this class, you have certainly questioned yourself why you do it at least once. It often seems like the subject is not of a big value and should be learnt only if you are into art or going to compose art history curriculum vitae to become a good expert in future. Also, you have already learnt history, so why bother?
Even though history is an important discipline that shows how people lived, what they did, how the societies functioned, and what was going on during all of the previous years, it, as a school and university course, does not go further the presentation of the factual information. It is a very broad subject that covers all of the human activities, tells the stories of the nations, and shows the evolution of the humankind, the way it influenced the world, and the impact everything around had on it. Yes, it surely looks for the reasons why certain things occurred and teaches to analyze everything in global context.
However, the history courses are usually so limited in time that they have to focus on things, which are more general, and give an overview of the main, most influential, and important figures or event. Hence, it has to omit things that tell about what people felt, thought about, and wanted. Fortunately, there is an area of the history that focuses exactly on those things, and it is called the history of art. To become the person who can be called a real professional in the sphere, it is often needed to write art history resume. Do not forget how important it is to complete this document properly.
If you think by learning this subject you simply look at pictures, sculptures, other forms of art and the way they described, the times people who created the works lived in, you are certainly wrong. All of paintings, buildings, and other magnificent pieces, facts about which can be applied in art history dissertation, crafted by the masters of that days, have interesting backgrounds, depict stories of lives of people, families, nations, and, in many cases, show the inner state of authors. The history of art does far more than looking at genres, forms, styles, analyzing and comparing them. It takes you to the world of your ancestors, allows you to look with their eyes on the state of things in the certain time and place, and helps to understand what they felt and though about this.
As a class in the academic facilities, it is mainly known for teaching all of art forms, their significance, meaning, and development. It shows how to analyze, compare and contrast, evaluate, and perceive all of the forms from different perspectives. This knowledge will give you the possibility to learn the answer for the question “How to write an art history essay?” During the studies, you also realize what beauty and emotional power each masterpiece holds. The course is a great opportunity to not only learn more, but also to develop a personal taste, understand own preferences in art, gain numerous important skills, applicable in all of the spheres, and find out how to write art history assignments.
Taking the given class also means preparing a lot of papers on subjects. However, if you think that writing is not the best way of gaining knowledge, or you just do not have time to complete the task, it is not necessary to force yourself into the homework completion process, as our art history essay writing service is here to cover your back when needed. Pro-Papers experts can work on any types of papers on the subject; they will gladly help you create a flawless work within the stipulated time. Therefore, when you have to write any paper on the history of art, you can always count on us!
It is a discipline, which covers an unbelievable scope of information. It dates back to the earliest periods of Stone Age and comprises everything from there and until now. Due to the numerous researches made and various subjects the history of art is related to, there is a lot of data available on most of the topics. However, it does not make the paperwork on the subject easier, as it is hard to think how to write an art history research paper and what to concentrate on. Luckily, Pro-Papers has a few useful guidelines, which will definitely facilitate your work.
- Pick a perfect topic.
You may wonder what makes a topic perfect, and the answer is pretty simple. Such topic should be interesting and original so that you can write art history article about something you actually like, and the teacher – read a work that will not make him or her fall asleep. A perfect topic must be focused, and, therefore, manageable, not covering too much, but just enough to produce a good art history research paper. More importantly, it has to be researchable, if you do not want to spend most of the time trying to gather arduous data. If the topic fits this mix of requirements, you can surely pick it for your art history writing assignments.
- Research qualitatively.
Some of papers you will write will require you to describe works of art in your own words or tell about your feeling regarding certain pieces. For example, you will face such a situation when you write an art history comparison essay. However, in most of the cases, you will need to have a sufficient informational background to come up with a well-reasoned paper. That will be so when you work on art history assignments, which do not ask you to provide data from literary sources. Hence, it is necessary to find as much information on the topic as you can to have a clear understanding of what to write about. It is especially important with the works like art history presentation, where everything is based on data and conclusions can be derived only with the help of reliable sources.
- Take a position.
If you are working on the art history argumentative essay or any other paper, which requires to include own opinion or take a certain position, it is important to make a choice before you start working. It is crucial to understand that you cannot consider one point to be better than other ones relying merely on a feeling or desire that came out of nowhere. As you have already done a research, you can evaluate data and see what kind of information seems more realistic to you to form a logical opinion based on factual information for your art history thesis paper. Thus, it will be evident that you have thought over details and analyzed them before.
- Outline the work.
When writing about art history, remember that the best example of essay structure is a well-known combination of introduction, body, and conclusion. Outlining the paper, you should decide what kind of information will go to each block and which points exactly do you want to cover in paragraphs. Also, you need to come up with a comprehensive thesis, which will present the whole essay in a single sentence. Art history thesis statement is a thing you have to focus on after you outline all of the other parts so that you can make it more concise and accurate.
- Consider requirements.
All teachers have requirements to homework assignments, and it is necessary to follow them if you want to get a good grade. Hence, make sure that style, format, and word count of the paper comply with guidelines. Also, consider spacing, font, and a number of sources you need to include. Teachers highly appreciate students who take their instructions into consideration and are more loyal to such individuals when it comes to grading papers.
- Check carefully.
Always read the paper upon completion carefully. Even if you are a writing expert, there is no way to make an ideal work from the first time. Typos and slight grammar errors may not be the worst problems in this paper, and proofreading helps to find everything that lowers the quality of writing or worsens the overall impression. You may realize that some of sentences or paragraphs make no sense or do not fit the work, but it is better to face these issues before you submit the paper, than get a bad mark for the hard work you have done.
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