The short paper involves writing about an artwork or example of architecture that you see in person. The work must fall into the time frame of Western art encompassed by the course (prehistoric Europe through 14th Century), and it must reflect aspects of an artistic period discussed in class.
Introduce the work by providing the artist’s name (if known), title, date, medium and the collection in which it’s located. Consider how the artwork is representative of artistic trends of its day. You can break down your discussion into sections dealing with subject matter, and the purpose the work served (for example who might have commissioned it or for what setting was it originally intended), and style analysis. Be sure to link the work to the artistic period, or to other similar objects, providing historic context for the piece.
• Before your museum visit, PLEASE search online to find the hours and cost of the museum. Don’t assume the museum is always open! Remember to take your student ID which may get you a discount.
• If you’re able to furnish illustrations, please do. Ask before you use your camera in a museum. Many museums allow photography as long as there is no flash, but it’s always good to ask. You may also find a reproduction at the museum, online or in print. Illustrations should be captioned or identified in some manner (such as Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.)
• The essay requires proof that you went to the museum. This can take the form of an attached receipt, a photo of you at the museum, or an attached museum brochure or map.
• Think in terms of 4 or 5 pages of double-spaced text, plus a “Works Cited” page.
• Introduce any work you include by providing the artist’s name (if known), title, date, medium and the collection (museum) in which it’s located. Proper titles of art are italicized or underlined.
• Research is required to get a full understanding of the piece, its artist, and its historic context. At least five scholarly sources should be listed, and three should be print sources (books, periodical articles or museum publications) rather than online sources. Please use in-text citations and list your sources in a conventional format. Sylvan Barnet’s Short Guide to Writing about Art includes the Chicago style of source citations, as well as great writing guidelines and sample essays. I also accept APA style or MLA style, both of which can be found online.
Sylvan Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing About Art offers not only great advise on writing style analysis (chapters 3 and 4), but also explains (in Chapters 12 and 13) how to approach library catalog and databases for your print sources, and how to set up notes and citation pages using the Chicago Manual of Style format. This format can be used for any humanities paper.
Here are some ideas for sites to visit:
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA (only an hour away). Their ongoing exhibit “A Collection of Histories” highlights examples of Assyrian reliefs.
Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany. The Institute has a gallery of Egyptian decorative arts. Do not concentrate solely on the mummies, as they’re not art in themselves.
Albany’s Gothic Revival Cathedrals. Albany has 2 great 19th Century Gothic-styled Cathedrals and, although they don’t date back to the medieval period, they have qualities that borrow from French and English Gothic architecture. Choose either
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception which is located on the corner of Madison and Eagle Streets in Albany, or
The Cathedral of All Saints at 68 Swan Street, Albany.
If you’re heading into New York City this semester there are many opportunities there. An excellent trip would be to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (5th Avenue at 82nd Street). One of the great museums of the world, the Metropolitan Museum has an encyclopedic offering of works, including some we discuss in class. If you have a specific interest, you’ll find your topic there. The Cloisters is the Metropolitan’s medieval branch museum located in upper Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park. ‘A good choice if you’re into things medieval.
The course grade is based on 100 points. The paper is worth 25 points. If you get your paper to me early, you get 3 extra credit points toward your course grade. And your paper will be done.
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