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ARTH 294: Seminar in Art Historical Research and Methods: Introduction

Resources for the Seminar in Art Historical Research and Methods

Assignment Overview


Select a single work of art or monument from Western art (ranging from ca. 800 BCE to ca. 1900 CE) that has been extensively studied.  Write an in-depth research paper evaluating the state of scholarship on the work/monument of your choice.  The primary aim of this research paper is to give you an opportunity to examine how an extensively studied artwork or monument has been explored by art historians and to offer you a chance to critically evaluate the various scholarly approaches that have been applied to the work/monument. 

Once you have identified the work you will focus on, put together a starting bibliography to see whether research on this topic is feasible.  An in-depth research paper will provide a discussion that goes substantially beyond the analysis of the chosen monument/work in basic textbooks, and raises valid questions about the work/monument, as wells as the state of art historical research, and possibly indicates new approaches to the material.  Your research will be credible and successful when you present a thorough and wide ranging examination and analysis of your topic.  This means: your research should be informed by a variety of sources (e.g., scholarly journal articles, books, edited books, exhibition catalogues, iconographic lexicons or other major scholarly reference books, primary textual sources, etc.).  Your bibliography should survey the most recent available literature but should also contain the major, influential contributions from earlier scholarly literature if they are still relevant and informative.


October 2:  topic proposal in ca. 300 words, and bibliography due; you should have at least 6 items on your bibliography

October 26:  detailed outline (2 pages) or description (ca. 600 words) of research paper and expanded and annotated bibliography due; your bibliography should have 10 items

November 18:  first full draft of research paper due

December 9:  final draft of research paper due 

Potential Topics

-Polykleitos: Doryphoros (Roman copies of a Greek classical original, ca. 450 BCE)

-Alexander Mosaic (1st c. BCE Roman copy of Hellenistic Greek work)

-Praxiteles: Aphrodite of Knidos (Roman copies of ca. 350 BCE Greek original)

-Augustus from Prima Porta (ca. 20 BCE, Rome)

-Ara Pacis Augustae (9 BCE, Rome)

-Arch of Constantine (ca. 315, Rome)

-Bayeux Tapestry (ca. 1066, Anglo-Norman embroidery)

-Jean Pucelle: The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux (14th c. prayer book of a French queen)

-Workshop of Robert Campin: The Merode Altar (1427-1432)

-Jan van Eyck: Arnolfini Betrothal/Wedding/Portrait (1434)

-Michelangelo: Florentine Pieta (1547-1553)

-Titian: Venus of Urbino (1538)

-Velázquez: Las Meninas (1656)

-Géricault: The Raft of the Medusa (1819)

-Manet: Olympia (1863)

-Manet: Bar at the Folies-Bergères (1882)

-Picasso: Demoiselles d’Avignon (1908)


Developing a Thesis

As you conduct research, and learn more about your chosen  work/monument, you'll learn that scholars may have different approaches and arguments. You will discover questions raised about  the work/monument, as well as patterns of evidence that will give you and understanding of the changing state of art historical research, or historiography, and possibly indicate new approaches to the material. The results form the foundation of your thesis statement..

Research Tactics

Get organized by keeping a record of what you've searched along with keywords and subject terms. If you need help organizing your time, search Google for an assignment calculator.

If you are unfamiliar with your topic, establish basic facts, including artist, alternate tiles of the work, dates,  period, etc. Use Oxford Art Online or any overview.

Start with Primo to find books and selected articles and request books not owned by the library. Also search Worldcat for  even more books and sources. Request those books through interlibrary loan. Note: ebooks may not be borrowed.

Use Google Books to search inside a book and then search Primo to borrow the book.

Use bibliographies and reviews of books to gain an understanding of the state of current scholarship on your topic.

Try cited searching. One very useful feature of Google Scholar is its ability to allow for easily finding subsequent articles which have cited a particular article that you have located.

Go beyond JSTOR. Search multiple databases listed in this guide for the most current scholarly conversations for journals. Limit searches to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.When you find relevant articles, review the bibliography for even more articles.  Use interlibrary loan to request articles not available fulltext.

Art research is international in scope and you will discover many sources are written in other languages. If you do not have a reading knowledge of the language, keep in mind that the source may still be useful for illustrations and the bibliography.

Liaison Librarian Information

Angela Weaver's picture
Angela Weaver
Collins Library 131