comparing two objects from a museum collection.? I recommend the collection database at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ava

Art History 202 Art of the Western World 2

Paper Assignment


Your assignment is to write a paper, 5 pages in length, comparing two objects from a museum collection.  I recommend the collection database at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, available at:


Metropolitan Museum of Art


Make sure the two objects you are comparing are from the time period under consideration for this class (Western art from the Renaissance to the present).  If possible, try not to choose objects that we have discussed in class.  However, you should make comparisons in your paper to objects that we have seen in class; you will be graded in part on your ability to contextualize the works of art by comparing them briefly to canonical art works.  In other words, you will be putting the two works of art into their art historical context(s).  To do so, you must identify the period and style of the works.  Explain how each work of art fits into the period and style you have identified.  If you are unsure about your selection or about the museum you have chosen to visit, check in with me before you write your paper.


You will need to attach a color image (a photograph, postcard, internet image, or scanned image from a book) of each object with your paper.  These digital images should be pasted into your word document at the beginning of your paper.  The images should be labeled with title, artist, date, medium, and museum. 


This is a looking assignment; I am interested in your opinion, only!  You should not do any outside research.  Please do not use the internet as a source; if you feel compelled to look at sources other than your textbook and the lectures, make sure that you cite them in your footnotes and bibliography.  If you would like to cite the museums wall label (the brief description in each database entry), you may simply parenthetically cite wall label.


Make sure that your paper has a thesis statement that articulates what your main point/argument will be.


Take a good long look at both pieces; take lots of notes.  In comparing the objects, there are many factors to consider (cultural context, stylistic differences, etc.).


The first question to ask yourself is:  What effect is the artist trying to achieve through his or her use of formal elements?


To answer this question, consider such issues as:


Composition (design):  the place and arrangement of forms on the surface of the canvas.  How does the artist direct the viewers eyes?  Note the use of negative space, if any.


Spatial illusionism (three dimensionality):  forms in space


Modeling:  Are the forms rendered as 3-D objects in space?  Are they flat?  What is the effect?

Line:  Are there implied lines?  How does line relate to composition and color?

Light:  How is light used to create effects in the viewers eye?  What are the contrasts between light and dark?


Color:  How does color relate to line, composition, etc?


Application of pigment:  can you see the brushwork?  What is the effect of the technique used?


Materials:  would the effect be different if different materials were used?


Point of view:  Is the work of art meant to be seen from one point of view or multiple views?  Usually paintings have one point of view; sculpture may have more than one.


Rhythm:  Is there rhythm in the composition?  How is it achieved?  If there is no rhythm, why is that?  What is the effect?

Texture:  What is the actual surface of the work of art like?  What is the implied surface of the object(s) presented?


Scale:  How does the size of the work of art relate to the viewer?  To the space around it?  Is it overwhelming?  Underwhelming?


Economy vs. complexity:  How does the artist communicate meaning?  By using a large number of elements (complexity) or a minimal number of elements (economy)?


Title:  Does the title help you interpret what you see?  If it does not, please dont write about it in your paper.


Museum Paper Guidelines


1.     Please label your images (including title, artist, date, medium, and museum collection) and insert them into your document at the beginning. 


2.     Underline or italicize the titles of works of art.


3.     When you compare your selected artworks to others in the Stokstad textbook, please cite the figure number or include an image.


4.     Remember to give your paper a title that sums up what you are doing (avoid titles such as A Comparison Between A and B, etc.)


Writing the paper:  Be selective and focused in what you write.  You cannot possibly discuss every aspect of the art works.  Make sure you have a title for your paper (not just the title of the work of art but something that sums up your ideas).  Your paper should have a thesis statement.  Your discussion of form will be the evidence you use to support your thesis statement.  If you need help with writing a thesis statement, please consult:



Another useful source on writing art history papers is the textbook Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art.  I have posted the relevant chapter in the Assignments folder.


Also, please see the Museum Paper Scoring Rubric on Blackboard.

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