Museum Observation Paper
Museum Paper Instruction
This paper is based on your viewing experience of one work of art from the time period of this class. You may select a piece from the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, or the L.A. County Museum in Los Angeles.
Expect to spend a good deal of time in front of the piece you select, thinking and taking notes. You will, in fact, be doing the “research” for the paper in front of the work of art. Plan accordingly and take extensive notes.
The object of the paper is to take the skills and information you have been acquiring in the course and apply them to museum works.
Length of the paper must be three full pages (double spaced).
ISSUES TO ADDRESS
What is the subject matter (iconography) depicted? Is it a devotional or a secular work? Have we studied any versions of the same subject in class, and if so how does this work compare to them?
How has the artist used the formal elements of painting or sculpture to render the subject? Consider light and shadow, color, depiction of space, motion and texture, narrative techniques.
How does the work affect you as a late twentieth century viewer? Is it a pleasing composition? Does the artist demonstrate skill or does the work seem provincial? Is it an effective and persuasive rendering of the subject?
What is the medium, i.e., oil on canvas, and is it unusual? Consider whether or not the medium is significant to the interpretation of the work, i.e., was it expensive or unusually expressive?
What is the format and scale of the work?
What kind of larger whole might it have been a part of?
Can you deduce the original location of the work from its iconography and format?
What do the iconography and intended location of the work tell you about the work’s function?
Do you think it was intended for public or private consumption? Who might the audience have been?
As a historian can you interpret the meaning that the art once held for its original intended audience? This is of course closely connected with the work’s intended location.
This is not intended to be a research paper. You may include information from the label of the painting if you wish, though you must state that this is where you found the information in question. If the iconography is unfamiliar to you, you may research it a little, either in a bible, or in an iconography book. Please cite your sources.
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