Research Paper

Must visit Metropolitan Museum of art website and choose an object about which to write your paper.
Some of these publication are merely exhibition bulletins/catalogues/brochures with blurbs, but other are entire peer reviewed scholarly books in PDF that put the artwork in context . Only peer reviewed academic publication about the kind of art you have chosen are the only acceptable sources of information on this assignment.
You should compile your research from at least two books and one scholarly essay.
Please also include a picture of the topic.


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The purpose of this assignment is to thoroughly analyze and research a single work of art and to clearly express this understanding in your own words. Although visiting a museum is ideal, this whole assignment can be done online during the pandemic.

Researching a work of art involves several levels of inquiry. The first level comprises a close examination of the object. With most of the museums closed for health concerns, this has become more difficult but is still possible. Instead of visiting a museum, you can closely scrutinize high resolution photographs of artworks. The second level of research involves reading everything that the exhibiting gallery has to say about the object (i.e., labels, plaques, posters). When they decide to exhibit objects, museum curators usually become very familiar not only with the objects themselves but with their owners or donors, the history of ownership (provenance), the geographic origins of the object (provenience), and the artist, culture and time from which the object comes. Knowing these things puts the curator, the museum and the public in a position to truly learn from and about the artwork and how it expresses the intellect and instincts of the people who produced it. The third level of research involves doing what the curators themselves have done—broader and deeper research on the object, this type of object in general, the cultural and historical context from which the object comes and, if known, the biography of the artist(s) who made it.

To review:

We scrutinize and analyze the object [usually at the museum but now available on some museum
We study what the museum labels and posters say about the object [usually in the museum gallery
but available on the catalogue pages of most museum websites]
We study publications for general knowledge of this subject (artist bio and the history, culture and
meaning of this type of object) [usually at libraries and archives but also available from scholarly sources online]
The following assignment teaches you how to research and write a short but thorough essay about a work of art. Pay close attention to all of its recommendations so that you can derive the full benefits of the exercise and carry its lessons forward into some of your other liberal arts courses. (Writing this paper helps prepare you to write about many different kinds of subjects).

Instructions: Choosing the Artwork and the Scholarly Sources

You must then visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art website to choose an object about which to write your paper. The Metropolitan has been preselected as your museum because it comes with two important advantages over all the others in New York: (1) it provides multiple high-resolution images of art objects from multiple angles, and (2) its website lets you download full books for free. Thus, on the Metropolitan’s website, you can fulfill all three of the bullets mentioned earlier—you can study the object, note what the museum says about it, and do serious research about the topic.

When you search the Metropolitan Museum’s online catalogue, most object pages offer a list of publications (scroll down to “Met Publications”) in which the artwork in question is mentioned or discussed. Some of these publications are merely exhibition bulletins/catalogues/brochures with blurbs, but others are entire peer-reviewed scholarly books in PDF that put the artwork in context.
Peer-reviewed academic publications about the kind of art you have chosen are the only acceptable sources of information on this assignment. You can supplement what you find on the Metropolitan Museum website with scholarly publications from other sources. You should compile your research from at least two (2) books and one (1) scholarly essay. Using fewer than two books is unacceptable.

Research from the text of websites (.com’s, .edu’s, and .org’s) is absolutely forbidden on this academic work product. If you have chosen the work of a contemporary artist as your topic, only then may you take information from artist’s professional website.

On the museum website, your job is to choose a single artwork for visual analysis and research. You can browse the highlights of the museum’s online catalogue (there is a feature on the Collections webpage for this). Your approach to the scrutiny of the chosen object and the supporting research should be

§ observant (look carefully at the work from all available angles)

§ analytical (using criteria from the course and this assignment)

§ evaluative (judge the relative “success” of the work through researching the technique and aesthetics of
comparable works)

§ and personal/emotional opinion AFTER doing research (informed opinions are welcome; and also comparisons
of your opinions before and after research; but wild speculation and uninformed opinions are not welcome)

Instructions: Writing About the Art
This paper is a professional work product and should be logical, organized, clear and polished. You have been given a Checklist to assist you in organizing the information in your paper (see below). Use footnotes (see the Insert\Footnote\Footnote in MS Word) to explain terms or resolve small questions and thereby keep your main text focused. You must have your Spell Check and Grammar Check on or run it last thing before submitting your assignment. Papers can be rejected for chronic spelling and grammatical problems. Even if your paper is accepted, you can lose up to a full grade for grammar and/or spelling mistakes. This is because grammar problems are logic problems; not just language problems. Erroneous grammar and spelling can even cause you to say the opposite of what you mean.
You must demonstrate your knowledge of the relevant art terms and concepts learned in class and in readings when describing the artwork you have chosen, but make their meanings clear to the reader (either through your proper use of them or explained in footnotes).
This research paper must be at least 5 pages long, 12-point Times or Arial font, double-spaced. Scholarly research is required for historical and cultural background and to back up your observations and analyses. Thus, your reliable, published sources must be listed in a Works Cited at the end of the paper and cited throughout your paper. These citations of sources are absolutely required. Every fact that you learned and are now presenting should be cited as having come from a particular page of a particular publication. If you do not cite your factual sources (whether in parentheses or footnotes), your paper is mere hearsay/rumor and falls below academic writing standards. Cite all hard facts in Chicago, APA style (but direct quotes from research sources must be kept to a bare minimum. The paper must be written in your words, showing your understanding; not just edited from other people’s words.
The “Works Cited” is an extra page (not counted in your minimum 5-page total) and, again, must contain at least two (2) books and one (1) scholarly essay.1 No encyclopedias or websites are allowed for this university-level essay and your textbook is not allowed as one of your minimum published sources. Sources must be published post-1990 unless you get them approved by the instructor.
1 If you cannot find at least two books and one peer-reviewed scholarly article on your chosen topic, you must choose another topic for which you can locate more research. It is unacceptable to use less than this for a university-level essay of this length. These sources must focus on art and culture but predominantly on art – this is an art history paper after all. The preference for books on this project is because peer-reviewed scholarly articles are usually written by experts for experts and as such they usually lack the general information that you need for historical background and perspective and the origins of periods, styles and technologies.




As you scrutinize museum images of your chosen object, be observant of details that are easy to miss in a photograph. To stay focused, consult your “Checklist…” before, during and after inspecting the images but do not use the “Checklist…” as a mere questionnaire. Look, think, and write naturally, then check your work afterwards to make sure you haven’t missed anything. You should not ignore facts or details that are not mentioned on the “Checklist…” It is only a check-off list to ensure bare essentials and cannot possibly predict everything you might see. You do not have to include images in this essay, but if you choose to include them, they must be placed at the end of the text (NOT amongst text). Each image must have a “Figure” number, and must be referred to by that number in the main text. This is standard scholarly practice in unpublished essays about objects (whether they be art, archaeology or anthropology). Please adhere to this practice in this professional work product.

Checklist for Writing an Art Paper: Distance Learning Version


Make sure your name, the course, and instructor’s name appear at the head of the assignment, along with your e-mail for contact purposes. Then follow the guidelines below for the most effective content of the essay. This Checklist is not a questionnaire. Neither the Checklist’s format nor the order of its requirements should be copied slavishly into your final paper. Rather all the points listed here should be addressed somewhere in your paper, (i.e., where those points come up naturally in the course of your writing). The most important part of your paper is your description and analysis of the art object (see part 5 below). Use scholarly research for historical background and to support your descriptions and findings.

Entitle the paper: give the paper a creative title that captures its main idea. Center this title on the next line after your name, course name, professor’s name and student e-mail.
Introduction to the topic, with general statements about this kind of art and a discussion of its aesthetics. Although you are speaking in generalities here (i.e., offering your thoughts on what you have learned), cite research sources when you mention hard facts.
General History: from research sources (a) if the artist is known, give a concise biography on a personal and professional level; (b) if the artist is not known, give a brief history of the culture then a discussion of the period from which the artwork comes. Only two or three medium-length paragraphs are necessary for this. Beyond that, your paper begins to lose balance (ideally, the paper should be no more than 20-25% background history). Cite each source (give author and page number). All facts gathered from a source must be cited.
Context: explain how your chosen artwork is an expression of its time and culture. Cite each source.
Description and Technical Evaluation of the chosen artwork in terms of:
Title of the work (title of artwork should be written in italics). Museum captions provide this.
General Appearance and Surface Qualities of the work as a physical object: from your close scrutiny, what does the artwork look like physically? Give dimensions in inches or centimeters. Describe visible surface qualities in terms of texture, state of preservation (patina? damage? restoration?) etc. Address whichever Elements of Art2 seem important in the chosen artwork
Content and Meaning: from both observation and research, what is this art about? What’s going on in it? What does it mean? Cite all sources.
Motives, Aesthetics and intended Functions: from cited research sources, discuss the known or likely reasons for making this art and what it was supposed to do (physically, socially, politically, ritualistically and/or religiously/mentally), supposed to be, and supposed to look like. Cite each source.
Materials: identify and describe the substance(s) used to make the art. By comparison to similar works in research sources, discuss whether the material was particularly well-suited to the function, style/aesthetic or motives of this artwork (e.g., statues of Shiva Nataraja are made hollow out of bronze to accommodate all those extra limbs without them breaking and so that the statues can be carried more easily in procession).

2 Line, form, design, color, contrast, texture etc.


f. Methods: research how this kind of art is made. How were these techniques working in concert with the material(s)? Did they disregard the material (i.e., could this artwork have just as easily been made out of a different material)? Or did these techniques struggle against the material (did the artist choose a particularly easy or particularly difficult technique of working with this material)? Make observations about the relative skillfulness of the artist by comparing your chose work to similar ones in your research sources and perhaps other museum websites. Research on art techniques should be done from your sources but you are allowed to use your textbook (and other art textbooks) as well if it has information on this. Cite all sources.

Your personal emotional reaction to this work: you may like, love, not care for or even hate a work of art, whether or not it is a masterpiece. Even if the work is sound and holds up well to the analyses above, you might still not like it. Or, you might like the work more than the analyses above can justify. In whichever case, you should give and explain your emotional reaction to the work.
Conclusion: Without simply repeating yourself, give a brief synthesis of what you learned about your chosen topic. What is revealed when the points in your paper are assembled together into one whole?
The requirements of this Assignment (pg.1) and the points of the Checklist (pg. 2) constitute most of the criteria by which your paper will be evaluated, in addition to the overall logic, organization, clarity, insightfulness and professionalism (e.g., use of citations, time-management) of your essay.

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