Your essay is a personal review of an artwork experienced first-hand. While you may refer to reference material or supporting literature (i.e.- museum brochures- artist statements- etc.) when necessar

Your essay is a personal review of an artwork experienced first-hand. While you may refer to reference material or supporting literature (i.e., museum brochures, artist statements, etc.) when necessary to clarify or further support your content, your papers should emphasize your personal response. You should be certain to address the Subject, Form (formal analysis), and Meaning of your chosen artwork.

When selecting your chosen artwork, you may not use an object previously submitted in a discussion or virtual museum assignment. Your work for this assignment must be original.

You can either visit the Norton Museum of Art or you may virtually visit one of the following pre-approved museums. These are the only options for this assignment.

Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach (Links to an external site.)

Museum of Modern Art, NY (MoMA) (Links to an external site.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (Met) (Links to an external site.)

Lourve, Paris (Links to an external site.)

Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Links to an external site.)

National Gallery of Art, London (Links to an external site.)

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C  (Links to an external site.)

Wallace Collection, London (Links to an external site.)

V & A Museum, London (Links to an external site.)

Getty Museum, Pacific Palisades, CA (Links to an external site.)


Your introduction is a single paragraph and includes:

  • Identifying information regarding the work you are reviewing: the venue at which you viewed the piece, the specific exhibit it might be included in, the artist’s name, the title of the artwork (in italics), date, size, and medium.
  • Any prerequisite information that is necessary for the reader to follow the discussion to come. For example, a brief description of the subject as presented in the artwork is necessary for the introduction of components of that subject are to be further discussed in the body of your essay.
  • A clear and complete Thesis Statement
    • A Thesis Statement is concise, one or two sentences at most.
    • A Thesis Statement is a pointed statement that clearly identifies what idea, viewpoint, or conclusion you are presenting to the reader and what main points you will expand upon in the body of your essay in order to support that idea, viewpoint, or conclusion.
    • Includes the main points that will be expanded upon to support the viewpoints:

Example: “Through the artist’s placement of people and furniture, jarring use of color and distortion of perspective, Van Gogh’s Night Cafe redefines the usually inviting environment of a neighborhood pub as a lonely and alienating space.”  This statement includes the idea, viewpoint, or conclusion to be supported in the body of your paper.

Note: Since your essay is to address Subject, Form, and Meaning, the above example of a good thesis statement includes mention of each:

Subject: “people and furniture”, “neighborhood pub”

Form: “placement”, “color”, “perspective”

  1. Meaning: “jarring”, “redefines”, “lonely and alienating”

Your introduction should not include:

  • Information that is unrelated to or unnecessary for an understanding of your essay’s main points. For example, biographical information on the artist that is not essential to an understanding of the points you plan to discuss should be left out.
  • Robotic statements that read as flat or uninterested such as, “This essay will address…”
  • A thesis with vague, indefensible statements (especially as regards meaning) such as, “The color works well to create an image many people will like”.


Your essay body should include multiple organized body paragraphs

  • Paragraphs should be organized by the order in which your main points were noted in your introduction (i.e., the first main point noted in your introduction becomes the topic of your first body paragraph).
  • Paragraphs must begin with a topic sentence and follow with sentences that support, expand upon or defend the content of the topic sentence.
  • A paragraph should always clearly relate how its topic supports the idea, viewpoint, or conclusion as presented in the essay’s thesis statement.
  • A paragraph with a closely related point to that of the following paragraph will often conclude with a transitional sentence. This transitional sentence clarifies the relationship of the current paragraph to the upcoming related point to follow in the next paragraph.
  • A paragraph without a closely related point to the following paragraph will often end with a conclusion sentence. This conclusion sentence clarifies that the point has been made and closes and prepares the reader for a new point to follow in the next paragraph.


Your essay should include a thoughtful Conclusion paragraph

  • Avoid overused phrases such as “in conclusion,” “in summary,” or “in closing.”
  • A thoughtful conclusion goes beyond a mere restatement of the main points of your essay.
  • Synthesize, don’t just summarize. Imagine that a reader reads your essay, understands your points and how they support your thesis. Then they say, “so what?”, “why should I care?” and answer those questions.  For example, consider Van Gogh’s Night Cafe, the painting on which the above example of a good thesis statement was based. Van Gogh is known to have had mental health issues throughout his adult life. Though this may not have been a main point of the essay, a concluding paragraph on Van Gogh’s Night Cafe might nevertheless point to this fact and call attention to the reader that understanding the actual points of the essay (the accomplishments of Van Gogh in conveying a “lonely and alienating space”) allows us to see that Van Gogh’s gift to us was not despite his illness, but precisely because of it.  Through this painting, we see his sensitivity to his surroundings, his vulnerability in sharing his despair and loneliness, and perhaps find solidarity or at least empathy with those who suffer so today.
  • A good conclusion leaves a reader glad that they read your essay.


  • Chicago Style format, including proper citing of sourced material.
  • Review papers are typed double-spaced, 12pt. Times New Roman font.
  • Review papers are carefully proofread.
  • The paper must be a minimum of 750 words with word count included


  • Select three (3) scholarly sources on your topic. Do not give me Wikipedia, YouTube, PBS, and random websites you have googled. All sources must be academic and scholarly.

    • Website exceptions are digital exhibition catalogs (via library or museum), the museum where you located the object, and auction houses such as Christie’s (Links to an external site.) and Sotheby’s (Links to an external site.).
  • Visit the library or consult their digital databases (Links to an external site.) such as JSTOR and ARTstor.
  • Any paper that is submitted without scholarly sources and incorrect citations will receive an automatic zero.

Additional Tips for Success (mostly proofreading)

  • Don’t write by “flow of consciousness”; plan your essay and rewrite for clarity.
  • Avoid empty phrases (e.g., “The artist used line well.”).
  • Assume nothing to be “understood” – expand on your ideas so that any reader might understand.
  • Be concise; avoid flowery language and melodramatic phrasing.
  • Avoid defeatist sentences or those that are going nowhere (e.g., “The meaning was lost to me.”).
  • Utilize appropriate [discipline-specific] vocabulary (i.e., don’t confuse “harmony” with “unity”, etc.). When in doubt, look it up in an appropriate text (not a standard dictionary, which is too general, but an art or design text which is discipline-specific).
  • Avoid awkward phrasing (e.g., “When I first looked at this painting, you could see an obvious surface pattern.” or “I was amused by this drawing because of its lack of seriousness and comical expression”).
  • Avoid clichés (e.g., “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”).
  • Avoid presenting personal biases as justification (e.g., “This work was ultimately unsuccessful because I don’t like abstract art”)
  • PROOFREAD. Downloading Grammarly is strongly suggested to help with proofing your paper.
  • Titles of visual works are ALWAYS italicized – they are not put in quotation marks.
  • The first time an artist is mentioned it is proper to utilize both the artist’s first and last name.  Any other mention of the artist should be by her or his last name.

    • There are a few examples in which it is proper to refer to an artist by one name: Caravaggio, Michelangelo,  etc.
    • Make sure to spell the artist’s name correctly.
  • Do not write in the first (I, me) or second person (you). Using a neutral voice in the third person is preferred. (one, the viewer, etc.)

    • Example: As one walks through the gallery space, they are transported back in time to Paris circa 1900. When looking at the opposing portrait of King Henry XVIII, his intense personality is instantly revealed to the viewer.


  • If you fail to include a bibliography and footnote citations in any of your papers when using sources (including museum catalog entries and wall text), it is considered plagiarism. All papers must be submitted via Canvas and will be checked for plagiarism.

    • Use quotation marks for direct quotes and paraphrases.
    • If you use the words of another writer without acknowledging the writer it is considered plagiarism.
    • If you use the ideas of another writer without acknowledging the writer it is considered plagiarism.
  • As I read your paper, I will be asking “How does he or she know this information?”
  • If photography is permitted within the exhibition gallery, you may include images of the works you discuss in detail. Either take your own photos or download images from the internet.