Introduction (suggested length: 1-2 paragraphs): Introduce your artwork to your reader. Provide basic information about your artwork, such as the artist, title, date, medium, size, original and current location. Briefly introduce the artist (i.e. state where the artist worked) and the patron of the artwork. Explain why the artwork was commissioned. (Be brief here. You will discuss this in more detail when you get to your explanation of the artwork’s historical context.) Clearly state your thesis statement. A thesis statement is a sentence that explains exactly what your essay will achieve. *Hint: Your thesis statement should be a clear, thoughtful statement that tells your reader how your artwork fits into the broader historical context (cultural, social, political, intellectual situation) in which it was made. Call attention to your thesis statement with a sentence like, “In this essay, I argue that…” Visual Analysis and Explanation of the Artwork’s Content (suggested length: 2-3 paragraphs): These paragraphs should focus on explaining to your reader what is visually expressed in the artwork. Explain the artwork’s content. What is represented in the artwork (subject matter)? Does the artwork contain a narrative? If so, where does the narrative come from? Is it an historical event, a classical (Greek and Roman) myth, or is it from the Christian Bible? Is it a representation of a particular person? Which themes are communicated in the artwork? Explain the artwork’s form (physical and visual characteristics) by using art history vocabulary. Consider, for example, the artwork’s medium, material, technique, and size, and how that contributes to the viewing experience of it. Describe the use of line, color, shape, texture, scale, space, light, viewpoint, and composition. Focus here on describing what you see and analyzing its effects on you as a viewer. That is, how do the choices made by the artist affect how you experience it? Where does your eye travel first? Where does it go next? Why? What is emphasized in the artwork? Why? If it is a narrative, how do you ‘read’ the story in the artwork? *Hint: How you organize your description of the artwork is important. Someone reading your description should be able to visualize the artwork without having ever seen it. Therefore, begin with a description of the artwork’s overall composition, and then discuss the smaller details. Remember to carefully DESCRIBE the visual characteristics–do not list them! Avoid all value judgments that judge the artwork (beautiful, best, etc.) Historical Context of the Artwork, including its Function and Message (suggested length: 3 paragraphs): These paragraphs involve a thoughtful analysis of the artwork’s historical context. They should explain how and why the artwork—and the general category of artwork it belongs to—was created. That is, ask yourself, why was this category of artwork made in this particular time and place? What was going in that historical context (cultural, social, political, intellectual situation)? What was valued or needed in that context, and how did this artwork address or fulfill that value or need? Introduce more information about the artist, but ONLY information relevant to your goal of placing the artwork in its wider historical context, and in understanding the artwork’s overall message. Be very choosy about which biographical details you include. Develop your discussion of the patron and the commission of the artwork. State the artwork’s original location of display, and explain who would have been its original intended viewers. This section should adequately discuss the function (purpose) of the artwork in its historical context. It should state explain the overall message of the artwork, and why such a message was being made in that specific context. Make sure you adequately explain how the artwork’s visual characteristics and content relate to that message. Conclusion (suggested length: one paragraph): Wrap up your Individual Artwork Analysis by clearly reminding your reader of your thesis statement and how you achieved it by addressing specific points in your body paragraphs. *Remember to italicize OR underline the title of your artwork (and any other artwork that you mention) throughout the analysis **In your analysis, be sure to present your research in an organized and effective manner. Each paragraph should discuss a specific idea. Using transitions can help guide your reader from one idea to the next. Which Sources Should You Use for Your Individual Artwork Analysis? Students are required to use (at least) 3 scholarly sources in the Individual Artwork Analysis. Your 3 scholarly sources may include any combination of scholarly e-books and scholarly journal articles. If you already found 3 scholarly books (for the Group Bibliography) that provide you with enough information to write your analysis, you may not require any more sources. If not, now is the time to find more sources. It is OK if not all 3 of your scholarly sources discuss your exact chosen artwork –so long as they are reasonable choices as sources. In fact, researching around your chosen artwork will help you to better understand it in its broader historical context. For example, a scholarly source that deals with the topic of Persian ceramics will still help you advance your research even if it does not discuss your chosen tile.
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