evidence. Begin by taking notes of formal details (medium, scale, color, line, technique, composition, use of space) – what strikes you first? How is your eye led around the painting? What draws the most focus?
The first essay is a visual analysis paper of a single painting (see list handed out in class) at NOMA. A visual analysis paper does not simply describe the work in question – it requires a thesis. Some sample visual analysis theses:
• Rubens uses color to emphasize the central drama of The Descent from the Cross. (basic)
• Dramatic color and lighting in Rubens’ The Descent from the Cross, reflect Counter-Reformation pictorial ideals. (better)
• Dramatic color and lighting in Rubens’ The Descent from the Cross, reflect Counter-Reformation pictorial ideals of narrative clarity and emotional affect. (even better)
A thesis is the argument of your paper, your description is the evidence. Begin by taking notes of formal details (medium, scale, color, line, technique, composition, use of space) – what strikes you first? How is your eye led around the painting? What draws the most focus?
Use these notes to formulate your thesis, alongside some basic research – when was this painted? In the Northern or Southern Netherlands? By whom? For whom? Use the label as a starting place, but look up the work and artist (on www.oxfordartonline.com) and consult the library research guide (and the library ideally – look at most recent work on that artist, exhibition catalogues, etc.). This is not a research paper but you need to be able to anchor your visual analysis back to the historical, religious and social context that we discuss in class. Look at your readings and the selected bibliography on the syllabus. Come talk to me.
A B C
Argument – Is there a thesis? Is it original/sophisticated? Clear, nuanced – not just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ Fairly clear, has a thesis No thesis or unclear
Logic – is there a well-developed argument? Excellent, >3 relevant supporting reasons Some leaps/gaps in logic Repeated leaps in logic
Organization – Is the organization clear and logical? Well-organized Some digressions but clear Poorly organized
Visual analysis – Does the visual evidence support the argument? Critical and thorough demonstration of close looking Some relevant visual analysis Insufficient attention to object
Textual evidence – How thorough was the research? Does the evidence support the argument? Relevant quotes from primary materials, demonstrate knowledge, critical reading of key secondary sources Some relevant citations of primary and secondary sources Insufficient textual evidence
Mechanics and clarity – Are spelling, grammar and punctuation correct? Are ideas expressed clearly and elegantly? No errors, clear and elegant word choice, sentence structure Minor errors, clear expression ideas Repeated errors and unclear expression ideas
Acknowledges counter-arguments Acknowledges and responds to potential objections Doesn’t do this Doesn’t do this
Five questions to ask yourself:
1. Does the paper have a thesis – a clearly defined argument/point or problem that it presents? Is this thesis clearly defined and specific?
2. Does the paper make sufficient use of visual evidence?
3. Are there gaps in the argument? Is the paper well-structured? Are there enough signposts and transition sentences to help the reader know what to expect?
4. Do you hear the author’s voice and opinions? (Note: this does NOT mean you give your opinion about quality OR use the first person. I don’t care whether you think the painting is beautiful or a masterpiece, show me you can analyze the painting!)
5. Does the paper present a foregone conclusion – is it intellectually rigorous enough? Stating something is a “masterpiece” is NOT a thesis.
Use a 12-point font, double-spaced with margins of at least 1 inch. As long as you are consistent, I don’t mind what style of citation you use. Just make sure you give me the author’s name, title and date of work and the page number you are referencing. Remember it is better to rephrase a secondary source and footnote it, integrating it into your own prose then the present a ‘collage’ of direct quotes. This assignment is about your analysis so footnotes should reflect research done on context but let your own analysis drive the paper. All works cited should also be listed at the end of your paper in alphabetical order. You should include images of any work discussed – labeled with the artist, title, medium and year.
Sample footnote / works cited.
Simon Schama, The Embarassment of Riches, London: Fontana, 1993: 223.
Schama, Simon. The Embarassment of Riches. London: Fontana, 1993.
Sample illustration label:
Peter Paul Rubens, Descent from the Cross, oil on canvas, 1610/11.
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