Writing Art Histories

"One could go on forever as to whether the paint should be thick or thin, whether to paint the woman or the square, hard-edge or soft, but after a while such questions become a bore. They are merely problems in aesthetics, having only to do with the outer man. But the painting I have in mind, painting in which inner and outer are inseparable, transcends technique, transcends subjects and moves into the realm of the inevitable." - Lee Krasner

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lee Krasner, Sun Woman I, 1957.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall Street Journal, Pep Montserrat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art presents us with puzzles to solve...

 

 

"It is commonly assumed that vision is immediate. It seems direct, uncomplicated, and instantaneous—which is why it has arguably become the master sense for the delivery of information in the contemporary technological world. However, just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it. Just because something is available instantly to vision does not mean that it is available instantly to consciousness."
- Jennifer L. Roberts
 
How My Mother's Apron Unfolds
Arshile Gorky, How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life, 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odalisk
To analyze a work of art:
 
1.
Start your analysis with a visual description of the work
 
  • What do you see?
 
  • What is it made out of?
 
  • How was it made?
 
  • What elements (shapes, colors, textures, etc.) are repeated? What stands out?
 
  • Is the work typical or expected? If so, is the work a part of a series, or related to other works? If not, what makes the work exceptional or unusual?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odalisk
To analyze a work of art:
 
1.
Describe the work.
2.
Look at the work closely and free associate. What ideas, connections, stories/myths, histories, sensations, or other works come to mind, and may be a relevant path to explore?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odalisk
To analyze a work of art:
 
1.
Start your analysis with a visual description of the work
   
2.
Look at the work closely and free associate.
   
3.
What do you want/need to know about the work to better understand it?
 
  • Who made it?
 
  • When was it made?
 
  • What movement was the artist associated with?
 
  • What were some of the important concerns at the time that the work was made?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember to use the following format when writing about a work:
Artist, Title, Date.
Robert Rauschenberg, Odalisk, 1955 - 1958.
"In Odalisk, made between 1955 and 1958, Rauschenberg's combine operates with full force."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odalisk
To analyze a work of art:
 
1.
Start your analysis with a visual description of the work
   
2.
Look at the work closely and free associate.
   
3.
What do you want/need to know about the work to better understand it?
 
  • Who made it?
 
  • When was it made?
 
  • What movement was the artist associated with?
 
  • What were some of the important concerns at the time that the work was made?
   
4.
Let your questions above guide you to a methodology/the most appropriate or interesting tool to apply to the work in which to build your understanding.
 
Robert Rauschenberg, Odalisk, 1955 - 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Questions Art Historians Ask
   
  • Chronology = When was it made? How old is it?
  • Provenance = Where was it made? Who paid for it, and when?
  • Artist = Who made it? Under what conditions was the work conceived?
  • Style = How does it look? Is that look particular to a time, place or artist?
  • Subject = Who and what is depicted? What story is being told?
  • Iconography = What symbols are used and what do they mean?
  • Form = How was the work composed and made?
Consider the formal elements such as composition, materials, technique, line, color, texture, space, mass, volume, perspective, foreshortening, proportion, scale, etc.
Jackson Pollock, Moon Woman, 1942.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Historical Methodologies
   
Historical Context
   
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Formalism
considers the visual elements of a work such as line, composition, color, media to interpret meaning
   
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Iconography
identifies the symbols in a work, and uses their definition to interpret meaning
   
Semiotics
identifies symbols in a work, and considers why they mean what they mean to interpret meaning
   
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Feminism
considers the socio-economic position of women represented, implied, making, or viewing the work, as well as issues of equality and power (or the lack thereof) to interpret meaning
 
Marxism
considers economic factors related to Marx's theory of class and power to interpret meaning
 
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Biography
considers the life of the artist, and/ or significant events in their lives to interpret meaning
   
Psychoanalysis
considers the unconscious effects of traumatic events or experiences in the life of the artist or viewer, or shared by a society, to interpret meaning
 
 

 

Understanding How to Use the Art Historical Methodologies

 

Methodology Flash Cards
 
Approaches to Art essay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLA vs. CMS
Modern Language Association
Chicago Manual of Style
Gordon Parks, Eartha Kitt, 1952

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited vs. Footnotes
Francis Bacon, Self-Portrait, 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Manual of Style Footnote citations (no Bibliography)
 

1. Author’s First name, Last name, Title of Book (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), page number.

 
Corresponding Bibliography Entry:
Last Name, First name. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.
 
Single Author Book

2 Steven T. Brown, Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 124.

 
Magazine or Journal Article

3 Bill Wasik, “#Riot: How Social Media Fuels Social Unrest,” Wired, January 2012: 76-83, URL.

 
Journal Article Accessed through Online Database or Website
4 Erwin Panofsky, “Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 64, no. 372 (1934): 117-119, & 122-127, http://www.theslideprojector.com/pdffiles/art261/janvaneycksarnolfiniportrait.pdf
 
Additional Resources:
Purdue OWL CMS style guide
Berkeley's guide to evaluating sources

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willem De Kooning, Woman, 1944.