Formal analysis art history thesis


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It should be identifiable from your first paragraph. This thesis must be original and supportable. You should be able to connect every paragraph in your essay to this idea. If you cannot connect a passage to your thesis, it is either extraneous or in need of explanation. A thesis is a statement of the idea you will be trying to prove.


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An essay is an argument, an attempt to prove an original assertion through the use of various types of evidence. Evidence — In Art History essays, there are several forms of evidence you might rely on. First and foremost, there is the visual evidence of the works of art.


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  8. You may also contextualize the work with primary source texts that is, texts from the same period as the works of art you are discussion. Then, you should read secondary sources texts written by modern historians about the works of art, their artists if known and their periods. Finally, you can read theoretical treatments of the vital themes in the works. This final category is generally not needed for introductory courses, but can be a great help in upper division work. Argument — Be sure to venture beyond formal description of your images.

    Writing an Art History Essay - Art, Art history, History

    Provide analysis that considers the meaning or meanings which we may draw from these works. Do not be afraid to offer multiple interpretations of an image or set of images. This can often by very effective, so long as the various interpretations are incorporated into a single, overarching argument. Most importantly, be sure that every sentence of your paper can be connected to your thesis. Conclusion — Your papers should end with some form of concluding remarks.

    These need not take the form of hackneyed conventions ie. Formatting — Your professors will all have their own specifics, so be sure to read their guidelines in full.

    Generally, though, standard procedure is to use Times New Roman, point font, 1-inch margins all around, double-spacing, and page numbers in the header or footer. See here for an example page. Papers must have regular citations. Most Art Historians will ask for footnotes in the Chicago style. If you have ever analyzed a poem or developed an understanding of a historical period, you are prepared to think and write like an art historian. You must still make an argument about something, but in this case you will use art instead of, say, dialogue from a play to build and defend your argument.

    Although art historians vary in their approaches to art, there are a few common approaches that form the backbone of the field. The following handout describes these approaches briefly and lets you know what you might need to do to tackle a paper assignment in this field. Just remember: there is more than one way of doing art history. When your instructor hands out a paper assignment, first figure out what type of assignment it is.

    The basic questions of art history often appear in a few traditional types of assignments.

    art history term paper thesis

    Becoming acquainted with the five types will help you begin to understand your assignment. Recognize, however, that many assignments combine more than one of these types. Some professors prefer to take a less traditional approach to the assignments they write, and they may be looking for less traditional responses from their students. Start by reading the assignment carefully to see what is being asked see our handout on understanding assignments for further tips.

    Some professors in introductory classes will start with at least one of the following assignments at the beginning of the semester in order to get you thinking like an art historian. Your primary concern in this assignment is to attempt to explain how the artist arranges and uses these various elements. Usually you have to go and look at the object for a long time and then write down what you see. As you will quickly see from the page length of the assignment, your instructor expects a highly detailed description of the object. Why would your instructor ask you to do this assignment?

    First, translating something from a visual language to a textual language is one of the most vital tasks of the art historian. Most art historians at some point describe fully and accurately their objects of study in order to communicate their ideas about them. You may already have found this tendency helpful in reading your textbook or other assigned readings.

    Second, your instructors realize that you are not accustomed to scrutinizing objects in this way and know that you need practice doing so. Instructors who assign formal analyses want you to look—and look carefully. Think of the object as a series of decisions that an artist made. Your job is to figure out and describe, explain, and interpret those decisions and why the artist may have made them.

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    Writing a Formal Analysis in Art History Essay

    Here are a couple of options:. Some instructors want your formal analysis to consist of pure description with little or no interpretation. In this case, you should just describe your object. Others will expect you to go further and comment on the significance of what you have observed. Find out which way your instructor wants you to write your formal analysis in your particular assignment.

    Most art historians include formal analysis at some point in their essays, so there are a lot of examples to look at in the textbook and other readings, but you will probably have to be more in-depth than they are. You may be asked to look at an object and talk about style. Some instructors will want you to discuss how an object fits into a particular stylistic category—for example, Impressionism, Renaissance, or early Macedonian.

    More often, they will ask you to compare two works in either the same or very different stylistic categories—e.

    You will still focus on the formal qualities of the objects, but this time you will probably be expected to make a conclusion about one of the following:. A stylistic analysis will acquaint you with some of the larger historical trends and forces in the culture and how they influenced the development of art. This kind of assignment occurs in courses covering art before the Modern period.