Paper Assignment

Overall information on paper assignment

  • There is an “Individual Component” and a “Group Component”
  • Your paper requires you to write a formal analysis of a work of art and then conduct research explaining this work in its appropriate art historical context.
  • It should be between 7 and 10 pages, plus bibliography and images, typed and double-spaced.

Individual Component

Go to the Museum of Modern Art
53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Admission is FREE with your CUNY ID.

Choose a painting or sculpture that fall within the following parameters:

  •  If you are on Team 1, your choice should fall within the topics discussed in Unit 2 (Fauvism, early Matisse, German or Austrian Expressionism)
  • If you are on Team 2, your choice should fall within the topics discussed in Unit 3 (Cubism, Futurism, Orphism; artists include early Picasso, Boccioni, Delaunay, Leger)
  • If you are on Team 3, your choice should fall within the topics discussed in Unit 4 (Russian Avant Garde, neo-Plasticism, Blue Rider Group; artists  include Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky)
  • If you are on Team 4, your choice should fall within the topics discussed in Unit 5 (New Objectivity, Surrealism, Dadaism; artists include Duchamp, Magritte, Ernst, Beckmann, Miro, Grosz, Dix)

Note that the artists and movements above are not exclusive, but rather are meant to give you an idea of what to look for in topics we have not yet studied in class.  You may want to look ahead in the syllabus for details and ideas.  I must approve your choice before you start writing;  I will tell you the date when you must email me with your choice.  Some works are not appropriate or conducive to this assignment, so I suggest you approach me with more than one option.

Analyze the formal qualities of the work you choose, and then contextualize the work within its relevant art historical and social circumstances.  Your research should complement your visual analysis.  For example, if you were writing about Gauguin, you could discuss the formal qualities of his painting such as his use of color and exotic subject matter, and then explain the circumstances within his life and career that prompted him to paint the way he did.

When doing your research, avoid biography and a general overview of the artist’s career, and focus instead on the issues revolving around the painting you have chosen.  This might mean discussing the evolution of his or her style, looking at other contemporary developments in the art world, thinking about the social/cultural/political environment in which the work was created – or a combination of all these factors.  Start with a clear thesis and proceed from there.

The Brooklyn College Library offers many useful resources. When searching CUNY+ OneSearch for books, remember to search system-wide, as you may request deliveries of books from other campuses to ours.  The library also has a number of periodical databases available to you that can be accessed from home.  Remember, you must consult scholarly, rather than popular, sources for this assignment (e.g. an article in The Art Bulletin rather than one in Newsweek).  Beware of Internet sources such as Wikipedia – though they can be helpful, they often contain inaccuracies and should be approached with caution!

The College’s Art Librarian, Miriam Deutch, can help you with Art Research. The library also created an Art Resource Guide which can help you.

In order for me to make sure that you are progressing in the right direction, you must submit a detailed outline and preliminary bibliography of your paper.

An outline includes the following information:

  1. Title
  2. Artist
  3. Date of your chosen work
  4. A clear thesis statement
  5. Brief descriptive paragraphs of the sections of your paper (these will demonstrate how you plan to argue your thesis).
  6. You must also submit a preliminary bibliography of at least four titles to accompany your outline.

It is of utmost importance that you document your sources properly.  I prefer Chicago style, but you may use any citation style as long as you use it properly and consistently.  Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism.  Remember, you must footnote the ideas of others, as well as direct quotations. Make sure you know what plagiarism means, and if you are at all uncertain please see me to discuss.  PLAGIARISM WILL NOT BE TOLERATED AND WILL RESULT IN AN AUTOMATIC GRADE OF F FOR BOTH THE PAPER AND THE COURSE.

[lehmanlibrary] (2014, Apr 23) Just Because You Put It In Your Own Words… [Video File].  Retrieved from [ c2014 Lehman College]

I encourage you to meet with me to discuss the assignment and any questions you may have.  Drop-in during my office hours and other times by appointment.  Please be in touch via email if you cannot meet with me in person (

This semester there is a writing tutor for the Art Department.  The tutor will be available for walk-in appointments at the Bernstein Art Library (5300 Boylan).

I strongly encourage you to visit with the tutor with any questions you may have.  They can help you at all stages of this writing assignment, from organizing your notes to editing the final draft.

You may submit a first draft of your paper for review IF you have first had it reviewed by the tutor.  This step is optional, but if you choose to complete it, you must submit a hard copy by date specified in class.

Final papers are due in person by date specified in class.  Hard copies only: no electronic copies will be accepted. Your final paper should include proof that you visited MoMA in the form of an admission ticket.  You must also upload a digital copy your paper to Safe Assign, via Blackboard.  Late papers will be penalized, and no papers will be accepted after date specified in class.


Group Component