Writing Art History
 
"The kind of picture I have always endeavored to make has the energy of an abstract painting, but with representational images." - David Salle
 
David Salle, The Miller's Tale, 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
Mike Kelley, Reconstructed History (John C. Calhoun), 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Remember to use the following format when writing about a work:
Artist, Title, Date.
Mike Kelley, Ahh...Youth!, 1991.
Regarding works such as Ahh...Youth!, 1991, which utilize found objects that were handmade and obviously loved, Kelley explained, “The hidden burden of the gift is that it calls for payback, but the price is unspecified, repressed. The uncanny aura of the craft item is linked to time.” 1
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1 John C. Welchman, "Public Art and the Spectacle of Money: An Assisted Commentary on Art Rebate/Arte Reebolso," in Intervention: Situating Installation Art, Erika Suderburg, ed. (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 243.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Manual of Style Footnote Citations
 

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

 
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/arnolfiniportrait.pdf
 
Additional Resources:
   
Purdue OWL CMS style guide
Berkeley's guide to evaluating sources

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Historical Methodologies
   
Contextual Analysis
considers the time, place, and circumstances in which a work was made and how it was received by art viewers
   
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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