Paper 1: Formal Analysis

Choose a work from the provided list and write a paper that describes that work. Your job is not necessarily to include every detail of the work, but to convey to your reader what that work of art looks like and what the important elements are. We’ve done formal analysis in class; this paper is a written version of that. Your paper should have a clear thesis that you support with visual evidence. You should NOT include any outside research. DO use art historical vocabulary that we’ve learned in class, when it is appropriate. (More art historical vocabulary does not necessarily mean a higher grade.) 

You will need to go to a museum and spend a significant amount of time observing your object, so please plan ahead. At the museum, fill out the note sheet that is on the course site. Carefully filling out this sheet will guide your looking. Pick the work that you will most enjoy working withas this object will also be the focus of your second paper. All works are on view in New York City.

There are number of resources available to help you with this paper. Please see the articles on writing about art under “Slides and Other Materials” on the course site. The writing tutor for the Art History Department is another great resource. Of course, please email or come to office hours with any questions or concerns.

Paper 1 Museum Visit Worksheet

Options for Paper Topics

Formatting and Due Date

2-3 pages, double spaced, Times or Times New Roman 12-point font 

Pages should be numbered 

Include a title 

Your name should be on each page 

Please include a photo of your work of art and the ticket stub from the museum 

Include the name, date, culture, and artist (if there is one) of your work of art in the final paper. 

3/9: Paper Due 



Your paper must have a thesis. A thesis is a 1-2 sentences that states your main argument for your essay. It should be clear and concise. This is a formal analysis paper, so your thesis should relate to only what you see. Your thesis should not incorporate any outside research or attempt to place the work of art within its cultural context.  


In your analysis you should describe your chosen work of art as if you are describing it to someone who has never seen it and does not have a picture of it. Give an overall description of the work and then focus on those details that support your argument. 

This is not a comparison assignment. You should talk about ONLY your chosen work of art.  

Any claims about the work of art must be supported by visual evidence alone. You should not do any outside research, nor should you try to place the work into its cultural context. If you make a claim about a work of art, you must provide visual evidence. For example, if you say a person looks strong, you must say why. Is the musculature emphasized? Are they carrying something heavy? 

Structure and Style 

This is a formal essay and should be organized into paragraphs. You should have an introduction and a conclusion paragraph with body paragraphs in between. Your writing style should be formal, and not conversational. You should use correct grammar and must proofread your essay for spelling mistakes. If you have any questions about this, please come to office hours or visit the writing tutor.  

Formatting and Instructions

Part of your grade will be determined by following (or not following) the instructions for the assignment. Not including a title, page numbers, etc… will reduce your grade. 2-3 pages is a strict requirement. Handing in 1.5 or 4 pages will reduce your grade.  

Late papers will be reduced by 1/3 of a grade for every day (24 hours) that they are late. For example, an A paper would be reduced to an A-, a C+ to a C. Turn in your paper via email to me by 9:30AM on 3/9. This means your papers must be in my inbox at 11AM! Papers handed in at 9:31 are considered late. Papers handed in between 9:31AM on 3/9-9:30AM on 3/10 are considered one day late, those handed in 9:31AM on 3/10-9:30AM on 3/11 are two days late, and those handed in 9:31AM on 3/11-9:30AM on 3/12 are three days late. Papers will not be accepted after 9:30AM on 3/12, and will receive an automatic F. You are more than welcome to submit your paper early. I will reply to you that I received your paper. If you do not get an email from me that your paper was received within 24 hours, please email me.