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Assignment | Art Analysis Research Paper (Armstrong): Your Assignment

Spring 2019 | ARTS 1301 & ARTS 1303 | Prof. Armstrong

Your Research Project

Students will be required to choose (pending instructor approval) and research a work of art.  Students will then write a 3-4 page research paper about the chosen work, including background information about the artist, a formal analysis of the work including what other art historians/critics have said about this particular piece of art, and the student’s own personal response to the piece.  This will require using at least two SCHOLARLY sources.*  Wikipedia is NOT to be used as a source for anything in this class.  All sources must be cited directly in the paper using MLA format and on a Works Cited page.


*8-week classes need to locate only 1 source.

Parts of Analysis

  1. Description – defining and describing the work of art using art elements and the principles of design. “What do you see?”
    1. Basic Facts (artist’s name, medium, title, date, location, condition)
    2. Art Elements (line, shape, light, color, texture, space)
  2. Analysis – researching the reasons why the artist used certain elements and exploring what these features suggest about the work. “How did the artist do it?”  
    1. Subject Matter (iconography)  
    2. Formal Qualities (perspective, brushwork or handling, proportion, composition)
    3. Design Principles (unity, variety, balance, emphasis, scale, mass/volume, rhythm, setting, interior/exterior relationship)
  3. Interpretation – discovering the meaning behind the artwork and relating it to historical context. “Why did the artist create it and what does it mean?”
    1. Theme (overall meaning of the work)
    2. Style (personal style, national style, period style)
    3. Patronage (commissioner of the work)
    4. Historical Context (evidence of the time)
  4. Judgment – assessing if the work succeeded in conveying its intended purpose, in relation to other works from the same period. “Is it a good piece of art?”
    1. Art Historian Critique
    2. Historical Significance