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How to Write About Art

  • Date Submitted: 09/17/2016 11:42 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 61.6 
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WRITING ABOUT ART
Art is a provocative medium, and your challenge in writing about art may often be to define and
evaluate the artist’s choices and techniques, which, according to your intellect and perception, arouse interest
and convey meaning. In most cases you will be translating the visual (what you see) into language (what you
write). In order to do this, you will have to be extremely attentive to the characteristics of the work—which
means that description will incorporate a portion of your essay—and be attentive to the vocabulary of the
discipline of Art.
You must also be able to develop a thesis statement with a detailed analysis and argument about the
artwork you have chosen. Therefore, you must consider what it is you want to say, and use description to
make that point. In many ways, writing an Art History essay is similar to writing other types of essays in the
Humanities. It requires a clear and focused topic, an arguable thesis, an organized format and structure, clear
and coherent paragraphs, and a command of grammar and style.

Thesis Statement
Most academic essays seek to persuade readers to understand a specific issue in a specific way—the
writer’s way. The writer’s thesis statement offers this substantial but concise assertion of her/his
understanding (usually in one to two sentences in the introduction or near the beginning of the essay), thereby
providing an essay with its judgmental focus.
Perhaps, though, in writing about art you might want to offer a well thought-out central idea rather
than an overtly argumentative statement. For example, “African art was a major influence on the work of
Pablo Picasso” states a well-documented and widely shared opinion that is interesting but uncontroversial.
Of course, a paper on this topic would have to fully elaborate on that relationship and offer examples of it.
The difference between an idea and a thesis statement is in their degree of contention. The above
example of a central...

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