Do this exercise a week or so before your exam, using material already covered in class so that it is related to the material on which you will be tested for that exam.
First, read some blogs about art history. Check out Masterpiece Cards website where there are many images of interest to art historians. Under the “Blog” tab, you'll find the “Famous Painters Blogroll” that lists many excellent blogs there.
Now, choose a few pieces of art that you like or are curious about – maybe you like the colors or the theme of the piece. Once you have selected several works of art, think about which two have similarities: is it the subject matter? the colors? the size? texture? Are they both sculptures,or both landscape paintings, for example? Perhaps they both manage to evoke a particular feeling in you. It’s important that you choose two that you are interested in personally for some reason. They should “speak” to you – not just emotionally, but intellectually as well.
Here’s an example of a compare-and-contrast essay <http://academichelp.net/samples/essay/compare-contrast/two-art-periods-major-works.html> using two works from the Renaissance and Neoclassicism eras: Michelangelo’s David and Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Notice that these two pieces were chosen because they both are considered by scholars to be representative of their time periods and that both of the artists used unconventional ideas in their depiction of the current political and social conditions of the day. It’s important that you choose two pieces that allow you to make appropriate comparisons relating to the concepts you are learning in your art history class. This is an important first step as you prepare to write an effective essay that covers multiple main issues covered in class.
Now that you’ve chosen your two art pieces, be sure and write down the most important ways by which you want to identify them. You can use a local library and online museums (check out, for example, the ArtCylopedia's Art Museums Worldwide website) to get this information:
Artist’s full name
Title of the art piece
Year of production, country/location/culture
Size of the art piece
Materials/medium used to create it
Formal elements such as line, color, composition
Art style or school the piece comes from (with some basic descriptors of the hallmarks of that art style in general)
Subject matter of the piece
What is the purpose of an art essay?
Generally, an art essay is an essay that talks about art in sculpture, paintings, architecture, music and portraits.
These kinds of essays are used for:
- Painting visual pictures: an art essay is an essay that showcases visual arts and creative ideas that people have come up with.
- Improving creativity: the whole purpose of art essays is to provide a platform for students to tap into their creative side and vividly paint a picture of a certain image using words.
Art essay topic choice
Like every other essay, there are general tips that should be considered when coming up with an art essay writing topic.
- The type of art: this may include a painting, a sculpture or just a simple hand diagram. The type of art is important as it sets out what you are supposed to write about.
- What intrigues you about the art: this is the most important part of the essay. The whole art essay is based on what you want others to know about the piece of art.
- Personal interests: what you, as a writer, love is very important as it narrows down the topic. It is easier to write on topics that are well-known to you.
There are a number of art essay writing topics to choose from.
Below is a list of topics for an art essay
- Differences between Picasso’s concepts and Matisse’s
- The history of art in the Netherlands
- Differences between Bernini and Borromini
- The inspiration behind famous painting
- The Mona Lisa
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Ancient Roman structures
- The sculptures of nude women
- Impressionism era of art in Netherlands
- The graphics of modern day art
- Insinuations behind ‘The Thinker’
- The Pieta of Michelangelo
- The contribution of Vincent Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian
- Flemish Baroque in the 17th century.
The above are some of the good topics for an art essay.
Structure of an art essay
The art essay topics determine the kind of structure to build on. However, most have a standard art essay structure.
Sample of art essay outline
The Mona Lisa is one of the most known paintings in the world. This is the painting of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, believed to have been painted in the 16th century. It is the work of Leonardo da Vinci and it was purchased by King Francis I. The Mona Lisa is currently under the ownership of the French government.
The Mona Lisa has had a great impact towards the contribution of art in France:
(i) It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa is the painting that everyone wants to see. It is so precious that only a copy of it is actually showcased in the museum.
(ii) It has led to the growth of art. The Mona Lisa has inspired artists all over France. There has been a rise of many artists including Camille Pissarro, a painter, and Etienne-Jules Marey, a photographer.
It is clear that the Mona Lisa is the soft spot in France. The French take pride in it and have used it to improve their lives. Besides its contribution to art, it has also placed France among the leading countries that celebrate art. This has therefore created a culture of being drawn to art and it is reflected in their way of life.
The above is a sample of outline for an art essay.
Arts essay tips on writing the introduction
An art essay introduction identifies the art and the artist. Art is diverse, as it could be sculptures, architecture, performing arts or paintings in it. This is where you state why you chose that topic. It also contains a history of the said art and brief details, like who the artist is, the year, the location, etc.
The introduction for an art essay states the thesis. It may be a general statement about the art or a specific aspect of it.
Tips on thesis writing
The thesis statement should be simple and easy to write about. Too complex statements tend to be confusing.
- Pick a statement that is closer to your understanding.
- Ensure it is as simple as possible.
- To avoid irrelevancy, one can have an art essay draft that they can build on.
Tips on the body (transitions, paragraphs, and length)
This is the main part of the essay where you derive analysis based on your point of view. Describe why the art is so appealing to you. Ensure that your defense covers an angle that has not already been covered for uniqueness. For example, one can focus only on the strokes of a portrait. However, ensure that what you describe is relevant to the thesis of your art essay topics.
The essay should not be too long. The sentence construction should also be well done. For this reason, it is advisable to have your points arranged into paragraphs. Ensure that each paragraph is independent and speaks volumes. This ensures that the art essay hooks the reader.
The transition from one paragraph to the next should also be smooth. Using cliché transitions makes the essay boring; therefore, you need to be creative.
Tips on conclusion writing
In an art essay conclusion, one needs to state their opinion. What you think the artists` feelings were and why they decided to paint it the way they did. At this point, you can state the events that contributed to the artist coming up with that art. The conclusion for an art essay requires a lot of research into the background of both the art and the artist(s). For this reason, the references and sources of the information should be cited.
Advice for writers
In art essay writing it is important to first do your research. Art is so diverse and this can be sometimes confusing. The topic to write on should be related to your interests, for example, as a musician, you would find it easier to write about performing arts and music. Besides this, do not plagiarize any work done. Cite and state all sources, making sure that you observe all rules of patent and copyrights.
For you to be a good writer, these art essay tips will be very helpful. The best writer is the one who admits to being in a need of help. The art essay writing guide can also be used to find more about art essay writing steps. Different sources could give different art essay outlines so you need to be careful.
Finalizing the essay
After writing the art essay, it is important to have a clean essay. This calls for proofreading and editing. Proofreading ensures that you do not have any grammatical errors, the art essay outlining is as required, your sentence construction is good and the language used is the required one. Some sites offer art essay writing guide for use when one gets stuck. Proofreading also ensures that the art essay structure is followed. After this is done, ensure that the format used is correct whether APA, MLA or Chicago.