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Art Historical Analysis and Research Paper Assignment


This part of the assignment requires you to situate your assigned artwork within its historical context. You will create an argument based on historical evidence and research which considers some or all of the following as relevant. What you choose will depend on your image, since not all these apply to all images. If you are uncertain, your TA can help figure things out.


• Meaning and message
• Function, use, and purpose
• Symbolism and representation
• Significance of material and/ortechnique
• Political and/or religious significance
• The artist and their role
• The patron and their role
• The intended audience
• Convention
• Social values


The idea is for you to analyze and explain something about the significance of your image or what it means contextually. The following is a link to a resource which breaks down some approaches to art historical writing. Most relevant is the section on Research papers.


This part of the assignment builds on your formal analysis from part one. Formal qualities observed and analyzed from part one should be used to support your analysis of the image’s significance. Does balance or movement support the meaning? Do lines or forms express certain relationships? The purpose is the think about the ways the formal elements of art can work with content and context to create a meaningful visual experience.

To understand content and context, research is required. You must use between at least 2 reliable internet or library sources in your research. These may include museum websites or academic journals. Carleton’s library has many internet accessible scholarly resources available to you. They also have subject-specific research guides which may be helpful.


Your assignment should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style . Please use 12 pt Times New Roman, double spaced, with 1 inch margins. Make sure to include page numbers and a cover page with your student number, course number, instructor’s name, and a title identifying your artwork. You will require a bibliography and an image list containing a reproduction of your assigned artwork and its relevant citation/caption at the end of the essay.


The assignment is marked according to the following criteria:
• Quality of analysis
• Organization and coherence
• Thesis statement and argument originality
• Quality of writing
• Citations, formatting, and source quality


The final assignment will include a brief overview of the exhibition’s general content and the concept that you chose before briefly describing each of your choices. This should include the reason or reasons why you chose them and how they fit into your theme. Here are some possible questions to ask if you are having trouble getting into this. Any of these questions will get you started in the right direction. You do not have to use these ones and are free to choose your own theme.

• What insights do the artworks offer into their society, politics, or culture?
• How is the subject matter presented?
• How do differences in media or form affect what art conveys?
• What would be the effect of this exhibition on visitors?

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