A visual analysis is an essay discussing an original artwork that you have seen in person. Follow the instructions below to see what you need to include in your Museum Paper. Allow at least 45 minutes to look at your artwork. Bring a notebook and this handout to the museum, so you can take notes.

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Follow these 10 points to get a good grade on this assignment.

  1. Choose one museum from the list of museums, visit it and choose one work of art from out period (1250 to 1900) for your paper. Keep the ticket for later.

List of Approved Museums for this Assignment

Norton Simon Museum of Art (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. phone: 626-449-6840

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. phone: 323-857-6000

The Getty Museum (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. phone: (310) 440-7300. This museum is free! Call for parking.

  1. Your artwork should be from the time period covered in this class (1250 to 1900). Most of the artworks can be viewed on the respective museum websites. This will give you a first glimpse and facilitate your choice. It will NOT, however, replace the actual museum visit. Do NOT touch any of the artworks in the museum!
  1. Describe the artwork briefly. In your paper your description should never be longer than one page. Write down your observations on a note pad. Identify the artwork and give the medium (painting, oil on canvas, sculpture, etc.) and dimensions. Try to conquer space with your words. If you give information about objects or people depicted in your picture, try and locate them in the picture space.
  1. Analyze the artwork as you are standing in front of it. These ideas might help:

Are there elements to this artwork that seem unusual, odd, or otherwise noteworthy? If so, this is the path to research. Why are these questions coming up? Where will you find answers? It is not enough just to ask the questions. You have to do research to try to find answers.

Some questions might be similar to these: If there are people represented, what are their expressions, relations to each other? What is the story? What colors does the artist use? How does the artist use light in this work? Is there three-dimensional perspective shown in the work? For sculpture: How much space does the work occupy? What does the frame or display case look like? Does the way this work is displayed have an effect on its appearance? Where is the best place to stand to see your artwork? Are you at eye-level, higher or lower?

What is depicted in your artwork? Is there a story or an event? The title may help you here, but you may need to do further research to get all the details of the subject. How is the work represented? Is it realistic or abstract? What kind of texture does the work of art have? Does it look rough, smooth, etc. (Do NOT actually touch the artwork!) Can you see brushstrokes? These and other questions might come up.

  1. Take these questions home and to the library and start your research. Try and find answers to these questions. Consult academic sources to find answers to your questions. You might find e-books and articles via the college library website but in general a visit to the college library is the way to go.
  1. What are admissible sources for this assignment, and how do you quote them in your paper?

I would like students to use CHICAGO-TURABIAN-STYLE FOOTNOTES. This is what they will look like.

Admissible Sources for this assignment:


Author [or editor], Title [underlined] (City of publication [include state or country if not commonly known]: publisher, date of publication), page numbers.


  1. Michael Hays, ed., Architecture Theory since 1968 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998), 83-86.

Journal Article

Author, “Title of article [in quotation marks],” Journal Title [underlined] volume #, issue # (month of publication, year of publication), page numbers. example:

Jennifer Hock, “Jane Jacobs and the West Village: The Neighborhood against Urban Renewal,” JSAH 66, no. 1 (Mar. 2007), 16-19.

Essay in a Collection

Author, “Title of article [in quotation marks],” in Title of Collection [underlined], Name of editor (City: publisher, date), page numbers. example:

Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Art and Craft of the Machine,” in America Builds, ed. Leland Roth (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 364-76.

Electronic Sources

You can only use peer-reviewed sources (books, journal articles) that are available online.

Provide all of the relevant information mentioned above for the media type (books, articles, etc.). Also provide the complete URL and date accessed. example:

Alison McQueen, “Empress Eugénie’s Quest for a Napoleonic Mausoleum,” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 2, no. 1 (Feb. 2003), (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.(accessed 5 Apr. 2007).

Short Form

Short forms of citation may be used for repeated sources. For short form, include author’s last name, title, and page number.

Sources that are NOT ALLOWED for this assignment:

Newspaper articles, articles from non-art-related periodicals (Time Magazine, Newsweek, San Diego Reader), generic online sources such as museum websites, Wikipedia, encyclopedias (online or print), dictionaries, etc.

  1. After you have done some research you will start to write your paper.

Formal Appearance:

Length: 1100 words of text (no footnotes, cover page), double spaced, font 12 pt, Times New Roman or Courier.[1] Please, attach a cover sheet indicating your name, my name, the name of our course, course meeting times, the artist and name of the work of art you picked, as well as the museum where this work is located. This cover sheet does NOT count as one of the 3 pages required to pass this assignment! Proof of your museum visit must be attached to your paper! If you visit a museum on a free day, ask for a date-stamped receipt; you can also buy a small item in the gift shop and use this receipt. The paper must be written in a flowing essay style. Have somebody read your paper for language mistakes. Consult the writing lab for proof-reading. Grammar mistakes, major errors in sentence structure or typing mistakes have no place in a college level research paper. Papers with more than 5 language errors will be severely graded down.

  1. What will your paper look like?

8.1. Introduction; never longer than one paragraph. Identify the museum, exhibit title, and content and scope of the exhibit. Describe the gallery(ies). What color are the walls? How is the lighting? Is the physical space intimate or airy? How are the artworks displayed (frames, pedestals, single wall, partitions?)

8.2. Brief description of the artwork, NEVER longer than a page, ideally shorter.

8.3. Analysis and presentation of research. Try to find literature (books, peer-reviewed articles, etc., NOT a generic website such as Wikipedia!) that mention your artist/artwork. Access JSTOR or EBSCO Host for peer-reviewed articles through the College Library site. Your research must be based on the work of art used in your Museum Paper. The research discusses a number of aspects of the work of art, such as the time period, style or related ideas. Give the authors’ opinions and quote them correctly as follows. All this comes BEFORE you give your own opinion. If you would like to voice an opinion it will come AFTER you presented your research. You can agree or disagree with other authors but remember to present facts in any case, not just a gut feeling.

  1. 4. Quote your sources using Chicago-Turabian-style footnotes. If you don’t know what Chicago-Turabian-style footnotes look like consult The Chicago Manual of Style. Basic formats, however, are shown under ad 6) on page 1 and 2 of this handout. This website might help you to format your footnote correctly: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

8.5. Bibliography: As a separate page your paper will write a bibliography. The bibliography must have at least three sources. It is important for you to visit a library and learn how to use it correctly. List your sources in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. You will display this information like you did in your footnotes. Be advised that you cannot put sources in your bibliography when you don’t quote them in your text.

Be sure to use peer-reviewed, academic sources! General information from websites (even museum websites!) or the public domain are NOT APPROPRIATE for an academic research paper. You will lose a substantial amount of points if you use inadequate literature for this assignment! Peer-reviewed publications provide a stringent editorial process that has a quality control function. The internet does not provide this. There is a lot of wrong or irrelevant information out there. We want to consult experts in their field and find out what they have to say about a subject matter.

  1. Your paper has to be submitted electronically via Canvas by the deadline. Paper copies are not accepted. Access Canvas, go to “Museum Paper”, and follow the directions for submitting your paper. Please, scan in your photograph, your ticket stub and the museum setting page and submit everything together AS ONE DOCUMENT at the same time. Late submissions or submissions of parts of your paper via email or other channels are not accepted.
  1. Some common missteps to watch out for:

Avoid first or second person speech in academic writing. This paper is about an artwork, not about you. The most important person in this project is YOUR READER. The objective is to help your reader understand an artwork. Use fact-based, detached, and objective language.

Avoid overly emotional expressions. Your reader does not want to learn about your rich inner world. He/she wants to learn objective information about an artwork.

You will use substantial points if your paper contains grammar, punctuation, and/or syntax mistakes.

Your writing has to make sense. Grandiose-sounding, derivative drivel does not impress your reader.

The literature you quote in your text has to make sense in context with the general argument that is presented. An academic paper is not a collection of nice-sounding quotes from other people’s work.

Don’t wait until the last minute to write this paper. The act of writing gives you a chance to learn about your subject matter. Learning takes time. When I read your paper, I am looking for an AHA-moment, a light bulb that goes on in the writer’s head. Since this is an undergraduate writing assignment, I am not yet looking for original thought. This will come in grad-school. What I am trying to do is give you a chance to learn the craft of academic writing with a short and easy assignment. Take this assignment seriously. Writing in academia is NOT like writing an essay in high school. Professors in graduate school will assume that you know how to write in an academic setting. This is your chance to learn how it is done.


â–¡ 1 Cover sheet with your name, name of class, name of school, name of art work,

â–¡ A minimum of 1100 words of text with at least 3 footnotes using Chicago-Turabian-style at the bottom of the page, (include a word count!)

â–¡ 1 Photograph of your art work,

â–¡ 1 Bibliography with at least 3 peer-reviewed literary sources,

â–¡ 1 Museum Setting Paper,

â–¡ Proof of museum visit (ticket stub).

â–¡ Put ALL THESE ELEMENTS into ONE pdf file and upload only ONE file to Canvas. The system will not let you upload multiple files.

Have fun with this assignment!

Museum Setting

Please, attach this sheet at the end of your Museum Paper.

Obtain the information from the museum labels on your visit.

Papers will not be accepted without this form attached and completely filled in.


Title of artwork:

Artist (or culture):




Acquisition Number or Collection Information:


Wall Color:


Gallery Name or Number:

Work of Art to the Right:


Artist (or culture):




Acquisition Number or Collection Information:


[1] Please note that I will deduct points if your paper is longer or shorter than the required 1100 words!


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