Flying Dragon, c. Ad 750, Tang dynasty, gilt bronze, 34 x 28 cm. 13 1/2 x 11 in. Shaanxi History Museum,Xian.
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I. Thesis and Organization
To familiarize yourself with how to write an art history essay, you may wish to consult the following:
• Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art (Boston: Little, Brown, 2008), Ch.1, “Writing
About Art,” Ch. 2, “Writing About Art: A crash course,” Ch. 3, “Analytic Thinking,” and Ch. 4, “Formal Analysis and Style.”
II. Formal Analysis
Look intently and for a considerable length of time at the work of art. Ask yourself the following questions:
• What is the expressive character of the work?
• How did the artist get his/her point across? Consider such factors as composition, space, color,
light, texture, figure type, size, format, brushwork, etc.
• In other words, how has this artist chosen to interpret the subject matter visually?
III. Contextual Analysis
Based on your formal analysis and library research, position the artwork in its original socio-historical context. What might have been the original function of this object? What might have been the significance of the form and subject matter in the period and location in which it was created? How has that meaning changed over
time? What context was lost or gained when this artwork entered the museum? Use both formal analysis and library research to support your interpretations.
IV. Bibliography or “Works Cited”
After conducting library research pertaining to your work of art, you will compose a bibliography of relevant references (minimum five sources). A good place to start is the InfoGuide for our class that is located on the Pepperdine Library website. Your references must be academic in nature, and may be found either in scholarly books or printed journals. However, they may be located through online academic databases such as JuSTOR. In deciding which references to include in your bibliography, ask yourself how the article/book relates to your subject and what it brings to your overall argument and analysis. Does the research support your thesis, or does the author propose an alternative reading? Your citations must be formatted according to Chicago A style. See the “Writing Packet” on our course website for help with the content and format of your bibliography. Note that the bibliography is due IN ADVANCE of your final paper or presentation.
VI. OPTION II: Research Paper— Format and Style
In order to maximize your chances for a high score, your paper will be free of grammatical errors and written in clear prose and critical, academic style. Please follow the below guidelines:
• 6-8 full pages
• 12-pt. font (Times New Roman or Arial)
• 1” margins; with page numbers
• no title page, but title at top along with your name
• no glossy covers
• Chicago A citation style—no MLA! (Don’t know what this is? Check out Sylvan Barnet or go directly to
the Chicago Manual of Style website or book)
• images included after text and before bibliography
• bibliography at the end (5 scholarly sources, minimum)
• double-sided papers are fine
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