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AH100 Great Monuments in Western Art History, Tucker  

Last Updated: Aug 28, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Context from Art Online

If you don't already know much about your work or your artist, you will want to establsh some background information.

You can do this through a simple web or Wikipedia search, but if your artist is well-known, you should start with Oxford Art Online.

Much of this information won't make it into your final paper. You probably don't want it on your annotated bibliography. But it will provide some simple information about your artist that can help guide your searches, such as when he or she lived, what schools or groups your artist hung around with, what other works he or she is known for, and so on. 

Look up your artist in Oxford Art Online and Wikipedia and write down a few keywords.

  • Oxford Art Online
    Comprehensive online reference source for all aspects of the visual arts worldwide from prehistory to the present day. Includes Grove Art Online, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art.
  • Wikipedia
    "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

Forming a Research Question

For these assignments leading up to and encompassing your research paper, you are starting with a work of art. Let's say I'm starting with Dürer's self-portrait:

There are many questions I could ask about this painting. Some aren't that interesting for this painting, as they are readily established:

  • Is this really a self-portrait? Yep.
  • What year was it painted? 1500. Says so right on the painting.
Other questions may at first seem like a dead end:
But even though the Wikipedia entry shows that my thought isn't original, it also shows that I'm not barking up the wrong tree.
I can brainstorm a list of questions and sub-questions:
  • What ways does Dürer make himself look like Jesus?
  • Why would he do that?
  • How would people have reacted to that at the time?
  • Is this a copy of a particular image of Jesus?
  • Did other artists do this?
Some of these questions may be productive and some may not, but you don't need your final research question in mind to do your work. You should expect to revise and polish the question as you do your research.
Eventually your question will lead to your thesis which can be stated as an answer to your research question.

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