| December 31, 2015

Paper Assignment

For this paper assignment you must visit a major museum in Southern California and select two paintings currently on view, from a time period and by two different artists that we are dealing with in this course (or their contemporaries), to compare and contrast in order to elucidate their meaning(s). In making your selection, you should look for two paintings that are similar in content (subject matter) but dissimilar in their form. Your objective will be to make some claims for how the formal properties of the paintings produce different meanings and/or evoke contrary moods.

This assignment requires you to conduct detailed formal analyses of the two paintings and is not research-based. You are to compare and contrast the formal properties of the work: the composition and the arrangement of forms, color choices and combinations, the quality and types of line and shape used, the manner of paint application and the use of brush strokes, the massing of volumes in space, rendering of perspective, etc. Please refer to the accompanying document “Guidelines for Writing a Successful Paper” (posted to eCompanion) for a detailed discussion of how to successfully accomplish the task at hand.

Your paper should be 3-5 typed pages, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. Make sure to number your pages and use 12-point Times New Roman font. You may include references to lecture material and information from the assigned readings, always with proper citations. Additional research is not required. Please use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation and proofread your paper before submission.

You must submit a hardcopy of your paper and upload it to Dropbox on eCompanion (where it will be scanned by Remember to attach the proof of museum visit, reproductions of the works that you are analyzing and the originality report generated from to your paper. Deviating from these guidelines will adversely affect your grade.

Papers are due at the beginning of lecture on November 30. If you are ill and have a doctor’s note I will grant you an extension. Poor planning, technological malfunctions, and other excuses will not be granted extensions. Plan to complete the paper in advance of the deadline in case of any unforeseeable problems.



Successful thesis statements will clearly identify plausible arguments about the two paintings you select. Successful papers will then support the thesis statements with specific evidence based on what you see in the pair of paintings and what you have learned through course lectures and readings.

The paper assignment asks for more than just a basic description of the works. Successful papers will demonstrate your abilities to identify and describe the visual elements in each painting in the pair you select; describe differences and similarities between the two; convey your ideas clearly; and present your work neatly. Given the space limitation, successful papers will address in great detail only a few of the most significant differences or similarities between the two paintings based on the information presented in course lectures and readings. Explain what factors were responsible for the appearance of the differences or similarities.

PLEASE NOTE: In your paper, you do NOT need to address every possible issue that arises or discover “definitive” interpretations for the two paintings you select. It is important to think about how to organize the information you want to present and how to present it clearly. Remember that successful papers will combine sufficient details from what you see when you visit the paintings at the museum where they are located with what you know from course lectures and readings.

Thesis statements should appear in your introduction and should provide a summary of what you explain in the rest of the paper. The initial thesis statement you draft may guide you through the paper, but then you may need to revise it as you write.


Successful papers will use answers to the questions below to compare and contrast the two paintings in the pair you select. Answers to the questions will also constitute evidence that supports the strong thesis statement.

There are two fundamental parts to a formal analysis: visual description and interpretation of meaning. These go hand in hand.

Visual description: Look carefully at the work of art and put into words what you see. Start general and then get specific. Pretend you have to describe the work to someone who cannot see. Lead the reader by the hand, one step at a time, one detail at a time.

Interpretation of meaning: Every formal detail you bring up in the visual description should relate directly to the larger meaning you are constructing for the artwork. The main point of this paper is to address these questions: What do these paintings mean? How do they differ? Why do I think this? What am I seeing on the canvas surface that makes me think this?

Your analysis should include a mention of the artist, date, medium, subject matter, and a thorough analysis of the most important formal properties of the work (those which support your thesis). Please additional address the following, if relevant to the works you have selected:
location, patron, audience, and function.

Successful papers will include a clever title, an introductory paragraph, a clear thesis statement, a body that develops the thesis statement with supporting evidence, and a clear conclusion that draws from the information presented in the paper.

TITLE: Choose a title that reflects your thesis, rather than one that restates that you are making a comparison. For example, “A Comparison of Two Images” is a weaker title, but “The Humanization of the Divine in the Renaissance” is a stronger one.

INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH: Introduce the paintings and ideas that you will develop in the rest of the paper. For example, you may briefly identify the paintings in the pair you selected and provide a few introductory details about it (i.e., the artist, title, date, etc.). State your thesis clearly at the end of your introductory paragraph.

THESIS STATEMENT: Write one or two sentences that define the argument you plan to develop in the rest of the paper. Your thesis is the first signpost that tells the reader what to look for in the rest of your paper. The details you present in the rest of the paper should refer back to the thesis and support it.

Remember that a strong thesis statement directly responds to the paper assignment. It does more than acknowledge that there are similarities and differences between the two paintings. A good thesis often identifies specific reasons for the similarities and differences that the rest of the paper will explain in greater detail. In addition, a strong thesis statement often addresses questions like “What gives rise to the similarities and differences in the two paintings?”

BODY OF THE PAPER: Write your thesis before you begin writing the assignment. Your thesis should organize the rest of your paper: every point you mention about the two paintings should be selected because it supports your thesis. You may need to revise the thesis statement as you write the rest of the paper and refine your ideas.
In general, the body of your paper should be structured into paragraphs that contain evidence that supports your thesis statement. Occasionally you may need to write a paragraph that provides information that is necessary for you to elaborate upon your argument in a subsequent paragraph. Everything you describe in your paper should connect it to your argument, so you should avoid extraneous details. For example, if you write that the figures in a painting are rendered with great volume through the use of light and shade, you should explain why their treatment in this way is relevant to your argument. Remember, you do not need to describe everything you see. Just describe the details that help you support your argument.

Think of each well-written paragraph as a single, coherent unit. For example, a well-written paragraph often begins with a topic sentence that states the main theme of the paragraph and ends with a concluding sentence that summarizes that theme. The well-written paragraph also often contains one and only one idea: the idea presented in the topic sentence. Each sentence in the well-written paragraph relates to the one preceding it and following it. Also, remember to provide transitions in the sentences at the beginning and end of your paragraphs that relate adjoining paragraphs to each other and to the main argument.

Successful papers will present information in an organized manner so that the reader is given the information necessary to follow the development of the argument. For example, you may organize your argument by discussing how one stylistic element is similar and different in each work. As you write, you will want to describe how the stylistic characteristics relate to the thesis. The thesis is the guide that weaves together all of the information you present in the body of the paper.

CONCLUSION: A strong conclusion restates the main thesis and explains the significance of the thesis. For example, the thesis may explain the reason for the similarities and differences in the pair of paintings you select. The conclusion may reiterate those reasons and then expand upon them to explain their broader art historical relevance. However, a strong conclusion does not present entirely new information.
I. Introduction
II. General (brief) description of the paintings and their subject matter (can be one paragraph or two, or this could be a compare/contrast of the composition of the works).
III. Compare/contrast formal element 1* (Describe and interpret. Make sure your points tie back to your thesis).
IV. Compare/contrast formal element 2* (Describe and interpret. Make sure your points tie back to your thesis).
V. Compare/contrast of formal element 3* (Describe and interpret. Make sure your points tie back to your thesis).
VI. Conclusion
*You can touch on more than one formal element in each paragraph (i.e. if the formal element you are focusing on is brushwork/line you can usually mention texture as well). Make sure you focus your paragraph on the formal element that is most crucial to your argument, but also discuss additional elements as you see fit.

Successful papers will use language that is clear and easy to read. They will present detailed and accurate evidence that has been organized to support their main arguments. Below are some guidelines that should help you write a paper that is easy to read.

Be consistent as you write. Italicize the titles of paintings or other artworks you describe. After mentioning the title in its entirety, you may abbreviate it only after indicating that you will do so to your reader. For example, if you were writing about Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi, you might refer to it as the Procession after the first mention of its title. However, you would need to ensure that the reader understood the abbreviated title. Thus, the first time you referred to Gozzoli’s fresco, you might write: “Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi (hereafter referred to as the Procession).” Instead of writing the full title in subsequent sentences you would refer to “the Procession.”

Avoid making value judgments. For example, rather than asserting that one painting is “better,” “more beautiful,” “more advanced,” or “more appealing to you personally” than the other, explain how the paintings differ that you can ground in verifiable visual evidence and details from course lectures and readings.

Define the terms you use. If you use general terms like “realism” or “naturalism,” explain what you mean. For example, to what are you comparing the image if you use the term “realistic”? What qualities make a work appear “realistic” or “naturalistic”?

Avoid all contractions in any formal writing assignment including “don’t,” “can’t,” “won’t,” and “didn’t.” They look very sloppy and detract from the quality of your writing. Please note: most spell check functions do not catch contractions, so you need to proofread your papers to make sure that one has not slipped into your text.

Vary your verbs and avoid repetition of the same words. You may want to use an online thesaurus such as to find synonyms for verbs and other words that appear again and again in your text. For example, you may find that you rely on the verb “make” when you might instead find that the verbs “create,” “conceive,” “compose,” “assemble,” “arrange,” “produce,” and “form” allow you to convey more precise meaning. When choosing synonyms, make sure you select words that you understand. Avoid words that you would not ordinarily use. Successful sentences convey precise meaning in easy to understand language.
Use active rather than passive verbs. For example, instead of writing “the book was read,” write “Manet read the book.” Again, remember to proofread and edit your paper. Use the spell-check function on your computer.

You must upload your paper to Dropbox on BeachBoard and print the originality report from for your paper, and attach the report to your printed copy before submission. The originality report will indicate what percentage of the text in your paper matches papers previously submitted to It also compares the text in your paper to the text found anywhere on the Internet and in journal articles.


CITING OTHER AUTHORS: Although this is not a research paper, if you refer to another author’s words or ideas in your paper, either directly or indirectly, you must properly identify the author or publication whose ideas or words you reference in your text. In general, if you borrow three or more consecutive words from any other source (i.e., another author or publication), you must place the words you are borrowing within quotation marks and properly identify the source. Remember that you must also provide a citation when you paraphrase or summarize the ideas from another author or publication, even if you do not duplicate the author’s or publication’s exact words. Failure to cite any source properly constitutes plagiarism.

In this paper, you may use MLA or Chicago Manual of Style citation format. Please select one and use it consistently throughout your paper. You must include the correct page numbers for all texts you reference.

BIBLIOGRAPHY AT THE END OF THE PAPER: If you decide to include citations in your paper, you are expected to include a complete bibliography at the end of the paper that lists in alphabetical order by author all the sources you have cited. The bibliography may refer to printed materials including articles, books, museum websites (as specified below), and museum labels as well as course lectures.

Most of the sources you will use will be from books. A standard format for listing a book within a bibliography is as follows:

Author (Family Name, Given Name Initials.) Title (italicized). City of publication: Name of publisher, date of publication, page number(s).

Please note that you may find information about the assigned paintings and artists on the museum labels and website. You may not refer to any other websites. Successful papers will rely on information presented in this course (or on the museum’s website) and not information posted on other websites. It is important to remember that most information available on the Internet is not monitored and thus is not reliable.
If you choose to refer to the museum website in your paper, please use the following format to list it within your bibliography:

Author (i.e. the Getty Museum). Title of page (placed within quotation marks), Internet address (placed within parentheses), and the date you accessed it. You need to specify that the date you list refers to the date you accessed the website and not necessarily the date the website was published. Therefore, you should write “accessed:” before the date you provide. For example, if you access the website on 3 November 2015, you may write “accessed: 3 November 2015” after the comma that separates the date from the Internet address in your bibliographic entry for the website.

You may also cite a museum label. Please use the format below when you list the label in your bibliography:

Author (i.e., the Getty Museum). Title of painting (italicized), museum label, date you read the label. You need to specify that the date you list refers to the date you read the label at the museum and not necessarily the date that the label was printed. Therefore, you should write “date read:” before the date you provide. For example, if you visited the museum on 4 October 2015 and read the label then, you may write “date read: 4 October 2015” after the comma that separates the date from “museum label” in your bibliographic entry for the museum label.

Category: Essay

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