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The greatest piece of art, ‘The Last Supper’, might have mesmerised you in so many aspects. But now is the time to look at it more critically. Have you ever wondered what would be Leonardo’s intention in painting ‘The Last Supper’?
The time has come to dig deeper since you can explore them by working on art history thesis topics. In fact, that’s the purpose of this blog.
Scroll down to get extensive art history thesis ideas, art history thesis structure and much more.
If you observe closely, almost every aspect of human existence is covered by art history, which is the study of art from around the world and from ancient to the present. This is because it considers art as a means of understanding the world and the society in which they were produced rather than merely as things.
Now if you go by the definition, art history is the study of works of art as they were viewed during their respective historical periods. Painting, sculpture, and architecture are examples of visual arts whose significance was examined by art historians at the time of creation.
So, when you write an art history thesis, your purpose would be to establish the authorial origins of artworks or learn who created a certain work of art, when, where, and why as are presentation of an art history thesis.
Visual art tells tales from the past and provides an account of historical occurrences. By studying art history, you may look back and see how various cultures have changed over time. It also helps you understand why you hold the ideals that you do.
It’s not necessary to memorise dates, names of artists, art movements, etc., to study art history. Instead, it motivates you to analyse sculptures, paintings, and other art forms.
Moreover, you can create logical and persuasive arguments to back up your analysis, which forces you to use critical thinking.
Your success in art history depends just as much on how you grow as a writer and creative thinker as on how you define the analytical parameters of a research endeavour.
When you have an art history thesis topic to write about, it should have the basic factors – enlightening and persuading the reader, which is important for academic papers.
Apart from that, you must also include the following items as a part of your art history thesis format –
Whenever you search for what is an art history thesis, you will get several examples, and each of them will have one thing in common – details of the piece of the art subject. That’s where everything becomes different from any other academic paper.
And to guide you on that, below is the ideal structure you can follow to write a Fine Arts history thesis topic –
Every art history thesis statement must contain a thorough visual examination of at least one piece of art.
Hence, depending on the assignment, this analysis might serve as the foundation for an assignment or be used as evidence to contextualise an argument in a paper.
Ideally, you must start with a visual observation that results in forming an interpretive thesis or argument to help students learn how to write an art history paper. Visual observations are used in writing to point out the claim about the work of art being analysed.
The most often written papers in an introductory art history course are close visual analysis works. You must examine and evaluate a piece of art in its totality. The discussion and analysis should offer a concise interpretation of the object. Your claim for this essay should be supported by a thorough description and analysis of the visual evidence that supported it.
As you examine the artwork, you might wonder how to write an art history thesis based on the component of the sculpture. What connections exist between the elements? What result does their combination have?
To finish your analysis, follow your professor’s criteria: analysis in the context of the forms, space, composition, line, colour, light, texture, physical features, etc.
Create a compelling interpretive thesis on what, in your opinion, is the image’s overall impact or significance, and support it with specific, direct references to the artistic creation.
Describe the image in detail using the criteria you used for the analysis.
Describe how the components interact to produce the overall impact. Instead of simply listing the components, explain how they contribute to or support your analysis.
When necessary for a task, contextualise the image within a historical and cultural context.
Keep in mind that formal analysis shouldn’t rely solely on secondary sources. You won’t need secondary sources for your analysis because the aim is to determine what in the image sparked your analysis. Make sure to demonstrate how each element supports your claim.
Just the components required to explain and support your analysis should be included. You don’t have to describe everything you saw because too much detail could obscure your main point.
Choosing the best topic for your art history thesis might make you ambitious. You would surely want to make a paper on one of history’s most challenging artworks to make your paper unique.
Unfortunately, that’s not the ideal way to pick an interesting art history thesis topic.
Hence, to give you a thorough guide on choosing the apt topic, below are the steps you mustn’t skip!
Always pick a subject that interests you. This will help you connect easily to the topic and shorten your basic research.
Avoid picking broad topics (such as 16th-century art) or specific ones (such as 1945 post-World War II). The atrocities depicted in art after World War II would be a more appropriate topic.
Review the instructions for your task, and then choose a topic according to them. (Also, if you are having problems, consult your professor.)
When writing a thesis for a research paper, you may initially believe you won’t have enough material to write about. However, you will almost always discover that you must narrow your topic.
Let’s take the example of wanting to write about French art. Although it is a very popular subject, you must narrow it down to a particular era, movement, or artist.
After reading some background material, start putting the nouns and concepts together to construct a question.
Let’s imagine you want to write about French painting and the French Revolution, and the political upheavals that occurred at the time are what interest you in French art.
Since the French Revolution played a significant role in French history, find out how Revolutionary War paintings depict the political unrest of the time.
The important part of theart history thesis formatis what citation style you are applying.
So, whatever topic you choose, you must consider the below guidelines –
Here is a precise illustration of citing in the Chicago Manual of Style in Topic of Art History Thesis –
Example of citing a book-
Format – [Firstname, Lastname, Book Title (Publisher Location: Publisher Name, Publication Date), page number.]
Simon Littman, Maps and Monsters in the Medieval State of England (New York: Rutledge, 2005), 130.
Example of citing an Article –
Format – [Firstname, Lastname, “Article Title,” Journal Title Volume Number: Issue Number (Publication Date): Page-Range, page number.]
Dan Clark, “Hugh of St. Peter (1094-1150) and Anglo-French Cartography,” Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography 65:2 (2013): 161-179, 169.
Littman, Asa Simon. Maps and Monsters in the Medieval State of England. New York: Rutledge, 2005.
[Last Name, First Name, Middle Name. Book Title. Publisher Location: Publisher Name, Publication Date.]
Terkla, Dan. “Hugh of St. Peter (1094-1150) and Anglo-French Cartography.” Imago Mundi: The International Journal for the History of Cartography 65:1 (2013): 161-179.
[Last Name, First Name, Middle Name. “Article Title.” Journal Title Volume Number: Issue Number (Publication Date): Page-Range.]
Before you begin writing, know that certain elements stand as the significance of art history thesis topics. So, when you choose one, ensure you put the below elements for writing any art history topic –
The term “formal” in art refers to the topic’s visual components or, more specifically, its form. So while conducting formal analysis, “write what you see” by describing the object, the medium and methods the artist used to produce it, the palette, the lighting, the composition and its components, and more.
You might also ponder the significance of the components and the feelings they arouse in the observer, both individually and collectively. You may, for instance, describe how the colours express movement in ‘Starry Night.’
You should perform research that will enable you to contextualise the art object under examination and examine all of its overt and covert historical allusions.
For instance, you may mention the Arts and Crafts movement and the Art Nouveau style in your analysis of Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘The Kiss’.
You can use the framework of a specific theory to analyse the work of art in your thesis paper. You can pick the school of thought that most appeals to you, whether it be postmodernism, psychoanalysis, or social constructionism.
Although employing psychoanalysis when analysing Salvador Dali’s works is often advantageous, one should avoid such clichés.
Here, you can compare two or more pieces of art created by the same artist, by separate artists who used a similar style, or that deal with the same subject but were produced at different times.
For instance, you may contrast Jean-François Millet’s original oil painting, The Angelus (L’Angelus), with Salvador Dali’s The Architectural Angelus of Millet.
Explain how the two paintings represent different symbolic meanings and arouse different feelings in the observer while having the same subject matter.
Here, you may also discuss Dali’s interpretation of the original artwork and how that inspired him to come up with a completely different interpretation.
Develop your thesis statement before taking notes on the chosen piece of art. The crucial element of your thesis, upon which your paper will be based, is the latter. Your thesis statement may address your research question’s resolution or main contention.
In the case of Klimt, early forms of art influence his work in the same way as it reflects modern tendencies and fits within the parameters of contemporary aesthetic movements.
Don’t forget to properly cite the work of art in your introduction by providing its title, creator, and publication year.
Although individuals might believe that writing an art history thesis is just a matter of “feeling it out and then expressing it,” there are the above elements you must consider when writing further.
Here comes the moment where you will find good art history topics to write about. Hence, check below and choose your favourite one –
If it’s your first attempt at writing an art history thesis topic, you must go beyond the usual method. And for that, you need some extra tips. So, without further delay, read below –
Pick a topic based on visual appeal and compelling personal interest. You can also look around and do some studies on your local art history. This will expand your brain and help you choose your niche.
Note that for any art history thesis topic, you must be vast in the past, present and predictable future context. And this is possible when you read daily. You can go to websites, books, articles etc., to read on recent findings. Reading the footnotes in books and articles might also inspire the original thought.
While reading, ask yourself questions and check up on anything you don’t understand or can’t find on the page. Use the words, names, and titles you learn to do an internet search. You can make a case history out of it, which also helps you narrow your points.
Write a thesis statement to express what you have learned about the artwork, structure, artist, architect, critic, patron, or whatever the subject of your paper is. Tell your reader about acquiring knowledge that can assist in understanding the work of art/building better.
Remember to include the name(s) of the artist(s), the title(s) of the work(s), and the date(s) in the first paragraph if you are focused on the artwork. After that, you can only refer to the title(s).
Start with a summary if you include the artist’s or architect’s biography. Most of your paper should be about art, not life unless it is a biography of the subject. Verify the parallel construction of your arguments: Establish an informational flow.
Take the paragraph as a single informational unit. Each paragraph should focus on a single subject within the scope of the material you intend to convey. Discuss the links between what you stated in the thesis statement and what you discussed in these analyses. For the second piece of art, structure, architect, critic, patron, etc., use the same order of concepts.
Avoid saying that you’ve learnt a lot and that art history is great. You are writing the paper under the supervision of your professor; hence, they know how you feel. Instead, keep it more logical and based on what you’re-discovered through the art. This way, you can make a good impression and abstain from clichés.
You must be clear, make compelling claims, and support your arguments with examples. As a result, terms or phrases like “seems to be” or “almost” frequently cast doubt on your claims and erode your reader’s faith in your scholarly work.
Choose terms that will make a compelling statement instead. Selecting evaluative words and phrases like “very,” “extremely,” and “so” rarely strengthens a case.
Answer: An art history thesis is an extensive piece of critical writing that builds a distinctive argument regarding a significant topic in art and art history.
Answer: If you are asked to choose a topic for your art history thesis, choose one that captures your attention and has a strong personal interest.
Answer: The length of the art history thesis will typically be approximately 30,000 words and will not exceed 40,000 words.
Answer: Create a compelling interpretive thesis on what you believe is the image’s overall impact or significance. Direct and precise allusions to the original piece of art should support your thesis. Describe the image in detail using the criteria you used for the analysis.
Answer: You can use the following list of sources for your art history thesis –
Answer: To structure your art history thesis, ensure to follow the basic steps below –
Answer: Since you will be writing a thesis paper of not more than 40 to 60 pages, a week should be enough to complete your writing.
Answer: To format your art history thesis paper, apply the Chicago Manual of Style and the MLA Handbook method.
Answer: The purpose of an art history thesis is to examine works of art as tools for understanding the world and the society in which they were produced rather than simply as things.
Answer: Here are some tips essential for writing a strong art history thesis –