The principal purpose of this assignment is to help build your skills in two of the fundamental aspects of all art historical endeavour: evocative description, and comparison of works of art. Accordingly, you should spend a good amount of time closely observing the two works you choose. About two pages of the essay are to be taken up with a description of the two works of art. In this section, you should describe them as if you were trying to convey their appearance to someone who is not able to see them. For each of the works start with the obvious: What, if anything, does it depict? Are there figures present? If so, how are they interacting with one another? If not, how are forms arranged on the surface? What colours are used? How are they arranged on the canvas? How is the paint applied? Are brushstrokes visible? If the painting is figural, how is light treated and how is pictorial space created? Is the composition balanced? The goal of all this is to put into words the experience of the visual. In all cases, do not feel that you must extol the works. The second part of the essay (2-3 pages) will be taken up in a comparison of the works. In what way are the characteristics you identified in the descriptive section different for the two works of art? Are there any similarities? What impact do the differences have on how a viewer might react to the works? I have chosen these particular pairs because they are similar in subject or type. Be aware in your comparisons that artists make formal choices when they paint or sculpt, and that these choices have an impact on how viewers respond. Discuss the means by which these works of art invite different responses. Be sure to back up your subjective analysis with reference to observable fact. I am not interested in you delving deeply into the historical context in which the two works were created. The research required for this assignment will as a consequence be limited, but you should try to relate the works to ones illustrated in the textbook, with the goal of establishing links to other works painted in the same time and geographic region. The essay should begin with an introduction that anticipates and summarises the conclusions you draw in the comparative section. This introduction should end with a thesis statement encapsulating your argument. In preparing to write this essay you may work in pairs, but under no circumstances should the writing itself be collaborative.
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