Museum Paper Assignment

Assignment: A descriptive analysis and comparison/contrast of two paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

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Search for all works of art on list and then select one (1) pair to compare and contrast. Using the art historical vocabulary developed in class and the Guide to Writing the Museum Paper posted on Blackboard, double spaced, 12 pt font to be turned in on Blackboard. Please note the numbers in parenthesis are the accession numbers of the paintings. Please check the numbers here to the numbers on thelabel of each painting as you search to ensure you have found the correct work.
Pair 1
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Sampson Captured by the Phillistines, 1619 (1984.459.2) Gallery 637
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Socrates, 1878 (31.45) Gallery 631

Pair 2
Titian and Workshop, Venus and the Lute Player, 1565-70 (36.29) Gallery 638
Henri Matisse, Odalisque with Gray Trousers, 1927 (1997.400)Gallery 823

Pair 3
Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s (29.100.16) Gallery 638
Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, 1653 (61.198) Gallery 964

Pair 4
Abraham van Beyeren, Still Life with Lobster and Fruit, 1650s, (1971.254) Gallery 964
Paul Gauguin, Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, 1896 (1997.391.2) Gallery 822
Pair 5
Jacob van Ruisdael, Wheatfields, 1670 (14.40.623) Gallery 965
Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, June, 1889 (1993.132) Gallery 822
Pair 6
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Whalers, 1845 (96.29) Gallery 808
Claude Monet, The Manneporte (Étretat), 1883 (51.30.5) Gallery 819



Guide to Writing your Museum Paper:

1. Locate the works of art listed on the Museum Paper Assignment by searching:

2. Be sure that the acquisition number matches those given. Examine closely all of the works listed before you select one pair for your paper.

3. Read the museum label text that corresponds with each work.

4. Write down your first impressions. Take detailed notes for the writing of the paper. In making notes in front of the two works, begin STRUCTURING your observations and ideas around an organizing theme; do not just make a random list. Try to take into consideration the following issues:

For Sculpture:

• Subject: What does the image represent and what was its purpose (religious, historical, allegorical, portrait, scene from everyday life, etc.)? How does it reflect the culture that created it?
• Material: What effect did the choice of medium have on the appearance of the work? Has color or gilding been applied? Has the surface been left smooth or deliberately rough? Is the sculpture complete or are there any parts missing? Can you observe any restorations?
• Scale: How big is each sculpture (life-size, over life-size, under life-size)?
• Viewpoint: How does the work effect the space around it? Is it meant to be seen from a single point of view or should you walk around it? Does it imply movement or extension into space by gesture or glance?
• Naturalism: These are all images of people, but the degree of naturalism is varied in each. To what extent are the figures realistic? How does the artist convey age and gender?
• Pose: Is the figure seated or standing? Active or calm? Stiff or graceful and fluid?

For Painting:

• Subject: What does the image represent and what was its purpose (religious, historical, allegorical, portrait, scene from everyday life, etc.)? How does it reflect the culture that created it?
• Narrative: What (if any) is the story conveyed and how does it reflect the culture that created it?
• Arrangement of Picture Plane: How does the artist arrange the figures in the two-dimensional picture plane? Is there a strong diagonal? Are they horizontally arranged?
• Light: How and to what degree does the painter use light in the picture plane? To light his/her subjects? Or to create drama?
• Color: What color palette does the artist chose to create his work? Is it more saturated or less saturated? What role does color play in your overall perception or assessment of the work?
• Brushstroke: Is the brushstroke more suppressed (i.e. invisible) or looser (i.e. visible)? How does thebrushstroke affect your perception of the work or the aims of the artist when creating the work?

For Sculpture and Painting: Make sure to think about the art historical period of each work you are comparing. Try and make connections not just regarding HOW each work is created, but think about the much larger and more interesting question of PURPOSE. What societal role did the work(s) play and how to they reflect the culture or art historical period from which they come?

(These are only some of the issues to consider; you will want to add many of your own observations. You must support all generalizations with specific observations).

Organizing and writing the paper:

1. Your paper should include at the very minimum, the following components: title of your paper, your name, section number and date; introduction, in which you state the organizing theme of your analysis; discussion of the first work of art; discussion of the second work of art andcomparison of the two; contrast of the two; a conclusionthat neatly ties the threads of your argument together. Usually, it works best to first analyze one work and then to integrate the comparison and contrast of the two works into your discussion of the second one.

2. Your introduction should consist of a few sentences that sets up your argument or organizing theme of the paper. Be specific.

3. When you describe each sculpture or painting imagine that you are explaining them to someone who cannot see them, and therefore always support your observations with specific examples, NOT vague generalizations.

4. This is not a research paper. However, if you do use information from a book, the museum label, website,etc., you must cite the source in full, including the page number. Failure to do so is plagiarism.

5. This assignment is about analyzing works of art so it requires YOUR eyes and YOUR opinions. However, keep in mind that this is an academic paper. Use of first-person should keep this to a minimum; opt instead for language and thought that applies to “the viewer” (i.e. third person). If you can prove your subjective impressions with visual evidence, it is no longer an opinion but reasoned argument, and that is an essential component of an academic paper. Therefore, reasoned arguments should be expressed in third person and not in first person.

6. PROOFREAD your paper, as you will be marked down for miss-spellings, unclear organization, incomplete sentences, etc.

The best papers I have read from students:
1. Described in a sustained, specific and accurate manner what the artist has represented.

2. Demonstrated close attention to the specifically artistic aspects of the work – contour, color, modeling, arrangement of elements within the pictorial space, brushwork, qualities of forms, methods used to achieve effects of reality, etc. – and their expressive effects.

3. Concentrated on observations (made in the museum) and art historical information (learned in class) that relate directly to the theme, arranging this data to construct a clear argument.

4. Suggested plausible interpretations of some of the artist’s aims as they relate to their culture, based on the observable facts, and again, relating directly to the organizing theme.

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