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Jacques Louis David: Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1801

Students are encouraged to pick a topic from class or from independent research that interests them and to find an artwork that represents this topic well. Subjects may include: visual art, visual culture, the history¬ of technology, trade history, military and political history.It is very difficult to write a good art history paper without adequate resources. Your paper will require at least three. Below (in order of usefulness) are a few places to find reputable research on art historical objects:

1.The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, a site run by the Met which has a searchable database of thematic essays:
2. The British Museum’s website, which includes its searchable collection and a list of blogs: 3. At the Smithsonian’s web site, you can look at digital collections, read books and essays, and search for articles:
4. Khan Academy’s art history series, though limited, covers a lot of the same ground as our class and has a few good, detailed analyses of specific works:

Other resources to consider: Oxford Art Online, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, History Study Center Online, any book or reference book, an essay or journal article from Wilson Web, ProQuest, or CSA; The BBC, Economist, Washington Post, New York Times, and the websites of most major museums and galleries are also viable options. Consider also utilizing your formidable school library. Finally, every power point from class has a list of resources (on the last slide) related to topics from that week.

Finally, here are three resources/books that provide a good analytical framework for writing about modern art:
1.Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars: Camille Paglia
2. The Shock of the New: Robert Hughes
3. The Power of Art: Simon Schama

C) Paper Format

In this project, you will write a 1,500 word paper about a topic in visual culture or art history that interests you deeply. While you are free to follow a format of your own choice, the most successful papers usually follow the format provided below:

I The Introduction of Topic

What is your paper about?

This part is pretty basic. Write a topic sentence letting the reader know your paper’s focus. This is a good place to note time period and geographic parameters of your topic. (e.g., fashion in 19th century Germany, photography in WWII, etc.)

II The Question/ Hypothesis

What did you want to know about your topic?

State the question you were curious about in one to two sentences. (e.g., Why was Stonehenge built, how did the Romans get their drinking water, etc.). Your question should be interesting, but it does not need to be too complex. For example, you might just ask: “how did this artwork come to be?”

III The Methods

Where did you get your information?

Tell us briefly (1-2 sentences) the names of the works and resources you read (e.g., I consulted the Smithsonian’s web site, and read articles by B.White, P.Worth, and H. McGregor.) You will talk more about these texts later.

IV The Object (Description)

What does your object (or piece of technology, media, or design) look like? What is it made out of, how big is it, where was it found?

This is where you describe an object or work of architecture that relates to your original question. Since your research question is about something related to media and/or material culture, you should be able to find an example that you want to explore in some detail.

The idea of the description section is to get your reader engaged with the topic. This is important in an art history paper because it gets your audience on board with your topic in a concrete way before you launch into the history, culture, and other abstract values and components that surround it. In other words, it is much easier to care about the Standard of Ur when you know what it looks like and what it’s made of.

The description can range in length, but I would aim for 200-300 words. There is no need to use excessively flowery language; a simple, clear description will do.

V The Analysis (Evaluation Of Sources)

What did you read?

This is the part where you analyze what you read in more detail. The easiest way to deal with your resources is to write a quick summary of each. For example: B.White’s essay is about this and he concludes that; P.Worth’s paper was about this and he says that.

For each author, include:

1. The author’s purpose with the article

2. The evidence the author presents to make their case

You may also use this section to judge which author seems the most convincing (if they disagree) and how useful you find the information (e.g., does it solve your research question or not)

This section will be the longest part of your paper. I would suggest 200-500 words per author.

VI The Conclusion

Did you solve your research question?

In this section, recap what you wanted to learn and indicate whether or not you’ve reached a satisfactory conclusion. It is ok if you’re not completely satisfied with the answer your sources provide; you can say that here, too.

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