Comparative Art History Paper Art Question
Different questions you may wish to answer (but are not limited to) will depend upon your
methodology. In this case you are doing a Formal analysis of two works of art, visually
comparing them and researching their social and cultural importance. The following is a list of
suggestions for creating a basic, comparative art history paper using a combination of Formal
Analysis and Research.
1. First, you will provide an introduction with basic facts about your work(s) of art, such as title,
artist, date, medium and measurements. These facts need to be presented in a specific format; see
your “Go-to” sheet for more information.
2. Then over the next page or two you will do a Formal Analysis of your piece of art; ask: “What
does it look like?” Give a good visual description of your object. Imagine that you are describing
this artwork to a friend who cannot see it. Be *that* specific. Include also “What is it made of?”
3. Next, your paper should consider “What does the iconography tell us about the object?” In
this section you will consider any and all designs or special shapes found on the object. The
answers to this will be found via your “looking skills” and Research. (For example, if your object
has a depiction of Aphrodite or Raven or some other figure, you should discuss who this figure
was and her/its importance to the society.)
4. The next part of your paper will involve you doing some research on your artworks to learn
more about them. Some questions you might want to consider answering include (but are not
limited to) are: “What is/was it used for?” “Is your subject matter a common one?” “How does
the object/iconography fit into the culture’s worldview?” “What is the significance of the
object?” You will be footnoting your research sources using Chicago-style footnotes, which is
used for the humanities. See your “Go-to” sheet for more information on how to do this.
5. Then, compare the two pieces of art to analyze similarities and differences. And with these
similarities, (or despite their differences), is there an overarching meaning or theme you find is
true about them? Just an FYI: with comparisons, it is often easier (and more clear) to discuss one
work of art and then the other, rather than switching back and forth.
6. The end of your paper will be your conclusion. In this case, I am asking you to explain what
drew you to choose these two pieces of art and talk a little about that.
7. You should then read through your paper to check for redundancy, grammatical and spelling
mistakes and formatting errors. See your “Go-to” sheet for more information.