How to Write an Art History Essay

-Written in third person
-Strong visual analysis and attention to visual details
-Essay structure should be chronologically by artistic movement and artist progression and relationally
by movement or other works (
-Be aware that paragraphs in Art History papers are often constructed so that the topic sentences are at the end (
-No quotations, writer should use their own words and add footnotes to avoid plagiarism.
-Organize your descriptive details so that they illustrate not only the painting, but your analysis of it
-Discuss any symbolism within the painting that may shed light on the topic.
-How is the artist influenced (i.e. by other artists, by paintings, by contemporary events, or by political motivation)
-Influences that the piece of art had on art itself or on the time period in which it was created.
-Consider these points from

  • Location: Where was the piece originally displayed and why. Where is it now?
  • Medium. What is used and what are the repercussions of the use.
  • Lines. Are they straight or curved, thick or thin, horizontal or vertical?
  • Light. Warm or cool, bright or muted, what is the effect? How are shadows used?
  • Color. Does color have an emotional effect? Is it light or dark? Bright or muted?
  • Space. How is the space used? Does it offer linear perspective? Does it offer depth? What is
    in the space?
  • Style. What style is it influence by? What styles are influenced by it? What is the artist’s period and style?

Copyright (C)2012 by Charity Winsor-Farmer. All rights reserved.This document may be distributed as long as it is done entirely with all attributions to organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is strictly prohibited. Portions of this document may be copyrighted by other organizations.