Art History

Select one pair from the choices listed below to compare and analyze.  The paintings and sculptures are in the Museum of Modern Art.


1.  Vasily Kandinsky, Panel for Edwin Campbell, 1914 (Choose any one of the four panels) (5th fl)

Gino Severini, Dynamic Hieroglyphic, 1912 (5th fl)


2.  Kazimir Malevich, Woman with Pails: Dynamic Arrangement, 1912 (5th fl)

Barnett Newman, Via Heroicus Sublimus, 1950-51 (4th floor)


3.  Frida Kahlo, Fulang Chang and I, 1937 (5th floor)

Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950 (4th floor)


The Assignment:

The purpose of this paper is to discuss in your own words the differences and similarities between these two works regarding style, content, artistic intention, and historical context. Your conclusions will be based on your own observations together with information which you read about the artists and their work.  Begin your paper with your thesis or argument and then proceed with a detailed discussion of information supporting your introductory opinions, ending the paper with a conclusion.  Be sure to italicize titles of art works.


Your paper needs to be at least five pages long and, additionally, include footnotes and a bibliography.  Papers must be typed and the pages securely fastened together. Be sure to double space, use a 12-point font and include margins no larger than one inch.


The following points should be covered in your paper.  It is essential that you consider the works (and the movements they represent) in relation to each other, thinking about ways in which they are different or alike.


  1. Based on your examination of the work in the museum, explain carefully how the images are presented.  Describe the composition, brushwork, color, spatial depth or surface pattern, and use of line. Where appropriate, discuss the various materials used. If you are writing about sculpture, discuss differences in handling materials, surfaces, and the relationship of the figure to the surrounding space and viewer. Most importantly, explain how these technical and stylistic choices help create the overall expressive effect of the painting or sculpture.  What do you think the artist was trying to communicate to the viewer?


  1. You must also discuss the content and meaning, and how it is related to (conveyed by) the formal elements of the work. What ideas motivated and preoccupied the artists? Were they reacting against (or, alternatively, influenced by) earlier artistic movements or contemporary events? You should consider the following questions:  Did the artists have a political or social goal in mind? Were they interested in philosophy, religion, music, science, psychology, or current events? Were new materials or figural distortions a particular concern?  Were the works part of a series or related to other paintings/sculptures by the artist? Did the works represent a change in the artists’ styles?  How do the paintings/sculptures typify the movements with which they are associated? How were the works interpreted and received by critics and the public?  Have these opinions changed over time?  This part of your paper must demonstrate an understanding of the published information which you have researched.


Whenever possible, be sure to include statements by the artists themselves regarding their intentions and priorities, as well as responses by critics and historians.  Be sure to footnote all direct quotes and original ideas taken from other authors.  Above all, your paper must be written in your own words.  Remember, we are interested in how you reason about the art and how you evaluate what you read. For further questions, consult Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing About Art, N.Y.: Longman, 1997




The following is a list of books for you to use (in addition to your textbooks) while preparing your paper.  You must read at least three sources for each artist. These books contain information specifically related to the painting or sculpture about which you are writing and/or general information on the artist. Internet sources, general textbook surveys (like Janson) and encyclopedias are not acceptable. 



         – Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger, Paris: Pompidou and London: Tate Modern, 2009.

         – Gino Severini: From Futurism to Classicism, London: Hayward Gallery, 1999

         – Richard Humphreys, Futurism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

         – Joshua Taylor, Futurism, N.Y.: MoMA, 1961



Kandinsky, organized by Tracey Bashkoff et al, exh. cat., N.Y.: Guggenheim        Museum, 2009.

– John Golding, Paths to the Absolute, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 200   (Chapter 3)

– Rose Carol Washton-Long, Kandinsky: The Development of an Abstract Style,     Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

– Peg Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich, 1896-1914, exh. cat., N.Y.: Guggenheim         Museum, 1982.

Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction, ed. Sean Rainbird, exh. cat. London: Tate    Modern, 2006.



-John Golding, Paths to the Absolute, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000 (Chapter 2).

-Matthew Drutt, Malevich: Suprematism, exh. cat., N.Y.: Guggenheim Museum,   2003.

-John Milner, Kazimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry, New Haven: Yale           University Press, 1996.

-Kazimir Malevich 1878-1935, exh. cat., N.Y.: MMA, 1991 (includes translated    excerpts of his writings).

-Charlotte Douglas, “Beyond Reason: Malevich, Matuishin, and Their Circle,” in   The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting, exh. cat., Los Angeles: L.A. County     Museum of Art, 1986, pp.185-191.


-Shiff, Richard, Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven; Yale          University Press, 2004.

Barnett Newman, ed. Ann Temkin, exh. cat., Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum             of Art, 2002.

Barnett Newman : selected writings and interviews / ed. John P. O’Neill ; text        notes Mollie McNickle, introduction by Richard Shiff, N.Y.: Knopf, 1990

-Thomas B. Hess, Barnett Newman, exh. cat., N.Y.: MoMA, 1971.

-John Golding, Paths to the Absolute, Princeton: Princeton University Press,           2000.



Frida Kahlo, edited by Elizabeth Carpenter, exh. cat., Minneapolis:Walker Art     Center, 2007.

– Gannit Ankori, Imagining Her Selves: Frida Kahlol’s Poetics of Identity and        Fragmentation, Westport, Conn,: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Frida by Frida : Selection of Letters and Texts , ed. Raquel Tibol, México:             Editorial RM, 2006.

– Claudia Bauer, Frida Kahlo, Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2005.

– Judy Chicago, Frida Kahlo: Face to Face, Munich and N.Y.: Prestel, 2010



          -Prather, Marla, David Sylvester, et al, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, New           Haven: Yale University Press, 1994 (exhibition at the National Gallery of Art)

-David Sylvester, “The Birth of ‘Woman I,’” Burlington Magazine, April 1995, pp. 220-231

Willem de Kooning: Tracing the Figure, organized by Cornelia H. Butler and        Paul Schimmel, exh. cat., Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002.

-Brennan, Marcia, Modernism’s Masculine Subjects: Matisse, the New York             School and Post-Painterly Abstraction, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004 (chapter on the Woman series)


            In acknowledging sources there are a few rules to remember. In scholarship of any kind a distinction is made between common knowledge (facts) and ideas developed by different authors.  Common knowledge does not have to be noted.  However, when you are influenced by an interpretation of those facts, or an idea, you must reference the author and the book with an endnote.  This is done by either quoting the original statement verbatim (with quotation marks around the passage cited, or by paraphrasing the author’s idea; then place a note number at the end of the sentence. You may cite the source at the bottom of the page (footnote) or the end of the paper (endnote).

            In addition to endnotes or footnotes throughout your paper, at the end of your paper you should have a bibliography, which is a list of all books and articles which you have consulted, even if you didn’t use some of their ideas directly.  Organize your bibliography alphabetically according to the last name of the authors. 


Sample endnote for a book: Robert Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 173. These notes must be numbered in succession.


Sample endnote for an article: Steve Edwards, “Photography, Allegory, and Labor,” Art Journal, Summer 1996, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp. 38-44.


Sample bibliography entry: Rosenblum, Robert, Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition, New York: Harper & Row, 1975.


When citing an article in a bibliography, the format is the same as the endnote, except that the author is listed last name first.

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