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How to Write a Dissertation on History of Art

Art is evolving tomorrow, and it is interesting to know more about the intricacies of art in an organized and well-researched point of view. Writing a thesis on art requires as much analysis and research as any other paper and requires the same findings, theories and arguments with which to substantiate one’s opinion. While writing a history of art dissertation, one also needs to extremely sharp in artistic details, so that it becomes easier to compile a dissertation of the same. One should keep in mind the format for writing an undergraduate dissertation and choose a topic, from where it becomes easier to pinpoint a specific sub-topic and begin your work.

  1. Formal analysis
    This part of the topic requires to give a detailed description on the ‘form’ of your object which goes on to describing and explaining as to why the artist chose one kind of form to create her masterpiece and not some other. There should be a logical order you should keep in mind while writing down your formal analysis which includes –
    • Summarization of the application, and the description of its details.
    • Description of the composition and the materials used such as water color, oil paint or acrylic.
    • Discussion of the various sides of the object.
    • Description of the object as a certain area catches your eye and then move on to the next one.
  2. Stylistic analysis
    Here, you are required to write about the style of the painting – whether it confirms to Surrealism, Abstract or Photorealism. You could also put forward a comparison of different styles of painting, or two different painters who profess in a similar style. Make a conclusion on the following areas.
    • How the work fits or does not fit into the stylistic category
    • How two paintings of the same content look different because of the styles adopted.
    • You should also acquaint yourself with the historical trends of that period and cultures, leading up to how they influenced this particular form of art.
  3. Iconography/iconology
    In this part of the dissertation, you are required to explain
    • How the same element continues through history and the unique representation of it by this object.
    • The importance of that element to art, history or in both.
  4. Patronage study
    You are required to write about the life of an object since its creation. Hence you will work on –
    • How, when and where was the art created and how was it acquired by the patron (the person who buys from an artist). Why could be the reason behind choosing that particular artist? How were the lives of artists and patronage in those days?
    • The history of the object passing down from artist to patron to museum. You might also be asked to comment on the significance of this history.
  5. Criticism
    The above parameters discuss the theoretical, historical and social contexts of the time period of the art/artist. But you can also include a note on how the formal/stylistic analysis reflects or affects a certain time period. You can look on its reflection towards gender, class distinctions, culture or politics of that time, or even make a connection between a painting and someone else’s theories.

Keep the image in mind and include a list of references at the end.
Therefore, this is a good structure on how to write a dissertation on art history.

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