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Complete Guide: Art Term Paper Writing That Brings High Results

A successful art term paper is a result of the thorough topic examination through the comprehensive research, critical analysis, and synthesis of different reliable sources of information. Knowing how to write a comprehensive art term paper is a fundamental skill that students acquire and develop in art classes. Writing an effective art term paper requires in-depth consideration of the material learned during a particular semester. In almost all cases, a term paper is written on a subject drawn from the works and readings finished during a term. The art term paper is intended to describe a milestone event in the history of art, analyze and interpret the artworks of a particular artist, or argue a significant point regarding the art design and style using a specific painting as an example.

In general, an art term paper is the significant students’ work that is characterized as a scientific way to present some factual information, conduct a critical analysis within different fields of art – sculpture, architecture, graphic design, painting, photography, fashion design, etc. However, the most popular field of study is art history. The ability to analyze the visual arts and connect an art object with a particular era, movement, or event in history is highly-demanded. Analyzing the art objects enhances the student’s understanding of the particular historical period and its impact on culture.

3 Basic Types of Analyzing the Works of Art

1. Formal Analysis
This type of analysis requires full consideration and the comprehensive description of some formal qualities of an art object, be it sculpture or music. Specifically, you should look at the design elements the artist used in the artwork, including composition, texture, colors, lines, shape, space, form, unity, contrast, and rhythm. Keep in mind that a formal quality means that the unique design “relates to the form” or “reveals the texture” but it is not “fancy,” “exciting,” or “elegant.” The central goal of the assignment is to explain how and why the artist arranged various design elements. Remember that in an art term paper, your instructor expects a highly-detailed interpretation of the artwork. So take your time and focus on this aim to impress your instructor. Taking some notes from different sources (even this one) can help you write a good term paper on Art.

art design

In writing a formal analysis, pay your attention to the logical order of the final version of the paper. The following options can work:

  • Summarize the general appearance of the artwork, then move on to the detailed description;
  • Delineate the composition and identify the materials which were used, for example, plastic, wood, watercolor, or acrylic;
  • Discuss the artwork from one side, then move across the work to the other side;
  • Describe the design elements in the order in which they appear in the artwork.

2. Stylistic Analysis
Under a stylistic analysis, it is important to look closely at the artwork to touch on its style. Your task is not only to identify the style of the work but also explore how the elements of the object fit to a specific stylistic category. For instance, take into consideration the opposite art movements, Renaissance or Romanticism. Moreover, the assignment can include the comparison of two works with the focus on some stylistic features. For example, one painting by Picasso is compared to another one by Cavalcanti. Although you are expected to describe the formal qualities of the work. The conclusion should follow one of the points outlined below:

  • How the work belongs to the stylistic category;
  • How the work fits the style;
  • How two works created in the same style can be considered from different perspectives.

3. Iconography
It is focused on the particular object, gesture, action, or pose and explains one of the following:

  • When does a specific element appear in different works throughout history and how does this representation evoke a sense of uniqueness;
  • What does a particular element mean in the history of art and what association can historians make with that element and some other things.

In particular, if you are assigned one of the iconographic works of Mesopotamia, you should identify and interpret which elements make the object unique. For example, you can say that the Mesopotamian artists used the cylinder seal, ritual scenes, and divine figures to represent religious motifs in regional wall paintings and sculptures. What is more, the natural shape of human-headed bulls, dragons, or lions adds the originality to the work.

If you feel bewildered, read Gretta Tritch Roman’s essays on iconography, where she explains some unique characteristics of Mesopotamian iconographic works. In addition, Gretta Tritch Roman makes some important distinctions between iconography and iconology which students are often confused about. Iconography is a popular field of study for art historians. So they created a significant number of articles and books on some essential themes. The National Art Library is one of the most reliable sources of information in the field of iconography.

Write a Comprehensive and Original Art Term Paper in Just 5 Steps

To write a comprehensive, well-organized, and at the same time, original art term paper, you should thoroughly examine the assignment and understand its requirements.

  • The first step is to choose a worthy-research topic you are interested in as well.
  • The second step is to identify reliable and credible sources that you will further use in the paper.
  • The third step is to form a thesis statement that will reflect your clear position concerning the problem or question.
  • The fourth step is to provide at least three strong arguments with evidence from the text to support your position.
  • The fifth last step is to make a conclusion on the basis of what has been communicated in the paper.

Choose Your Perfect Topic for Your Term Paper on Art

If your instructor does not provide a list of topics for an art term paper, you should bear all responsibility for choosing a perfect one by yourself. Such a topic should not limit your thinking to only one or two aspects of art but allow expanding your mind and thoughts to show the best achievements. If you are confused, read our list of suggested art topics or visit a local gallery to become inspired to create an original topic on your own. The following list includes topics that are often used for the art term paper:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • Major Similarities and Differences between Modernism and the Art Nouveau Styles;
  • Religious Motives in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Paintings;
  • The Uniqueness of Late Baroque Architecture;
  • Distinct Mannerisms in Pablo Picasso’s “Sylvette” and His Evolution from the Art Nouveau through Surrealism to Cubism;
  • The Psychology of Colors and Shapes in Claude Monet’s Works;
  • The Depiction of Victorian Beauty Standards in William C. Wontner’s “Valeria.”

Identify Reliable Sources and Cite Them Correctly

In the process of writing an art term paper, you will definitely rely on the other writers’ ideas and opinions to supply your evidence and support your position. Sources used in the paper take an important part of any term paper and should be placed on the separate page after the conclusion. A list of references can contain different scholarly books, scientific articles, as well as online articles from the educational and governmental websites. A bibliography should be arranged in an alphabetical order. Note that you should cite the source every time you use others’ point of view in your paper. Every piece of information that does not belong to the common knowledge should also be cited in the form of paraphrased references or in-text citations.

  • An example of the paraphrased reference:
    Francisco Goya developed his own style of art distinct from all others (Goose 56).
  • Example of the in-text citation:
    Sandro Botticelli was born and raised in Italy where “he belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici” (King 23).

how to cite

Develop a Strong Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is a central part of the art term paper since all arguments are derived from its meaning. An effective thesis should provide a direction for the formal analysis of artwork and give its interpretation. Remember that a thesis statement should involve an original insight regarding the topic of the art term paper and inform the reader about your formal choices to be explored in the body. The thesis statement should be one complex sentence that is placed at the end of the first paragraph or in other words, introduction. Here are a few options for an effective thesis statement:

  • In “A Polish Nobleman,” Rembrandt uses the high contrast, straight pines, and natural shapes to reveal the commanding expression and nobility of a Polish man.
  • In Paul Cézanne’s “Still Life with a Curtain,” the compression of forms and rough texture reflects the dynamic tension between main figures.
  • In “The Garroted Man,” Francisco Goya exploits white and black colors to show the depth of his extraordinary imagination.

The Basic Structure of an Art Term Paper

As soon as you have reviewed all the sources and come up with a thesis statement, you should decide whether you support the exact point or not, and how to prove your thesis statement. As a result, every student should take a position that can be proved by reliable, current, and credible sources. In general, the art term paper requires a lot of extensive research and personal analysis. Consider the fact that your position should be presented in an accurate and logical way. Any art term paper consists of:

  • Introduction. In this section, you should indicate the title of the artwork, the name of the artist, and date of its creation. Optionally, you can identify the period in which the work of art appeared and its current location. For the background information, you can write something about the author’s interests and inspirations that could influence his/her artistic style. Typically, the introductory part ends up with your thesis statement that presents the meaning of the whole art term paper. In the successful art term paper, its introduction catches the readers’ attention and raises their interest in further reading. It is of vital importance to make Introduction as precise as possible to avoid losing reader’s attention.
  • Body. It is the most significant part of any art term paper. Your thesis statement will not work unless you support it with strong arguments and evidence from the scholarly sources. In the main body of the art term paper, you should present the consistent development of your analysis. Each element you are going to discuss in your paper should be presented in a separate paragraph. Therefore, each paragraph should include a topic sentence that reveals the significance of the element and concluding statement that expresses your final opinion. It is recommended to organize your main body so that major figures or design elements appear sooner than additional ones.
  • Conclusion. It is a part where you should restate your thesis statement and summarize the main points you have presented in the main body. An effective concluding part involves summarizing all findings and relating them back to the themes that have been discussed in the introduction. Conclusion can be considered as a final opportunity to convince the reader that your art term paper is based on valid and reliable data. All comments you make in conclusion should rely on the information presented earlier in the text. It is critical to avoid mentioning any new ideas or insights you have gained at the end of your writing. In conclusion, you can explain how the essential elements of art formulate the ultimate meaning.

3 Proofreading Tips Our Experts Share

After you have written your art term paper:

  1. Examine whether the content of your work looks appealing and raises the reader’s interest. To make it more interesting, you can add catching examples to your main body.
    After you have checked the content of the paper.
  2. Check for some mistakes in grammar, syntax or punctuation. It is not recommended to use the first person “I” in any academic paper because it will make the paper too personal and thus, informal. All ideas and statements should be presented in a scholarly manner.
  3. Make sure that your art term paper does not contain some plagiarized sentences, and others’ points of view are correctly cited.

Therefore, using these proofreading tips, you can check the validity and coherence of your art term paper.