A Short Guide to Writing About Art / Edition 10

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Overview

  • description versus analysis
  • some critical approaches to art (e.g., formal analysis, cultural materialism, gender studies)
  • getting ideas for an essay
  • engaging in peer review
  • developing paragraphs
  • organizing a comparison
  • using bibliographic tools, including the Internet
  • quoting sources
  • writing captions for illustrations
  • avoiding sexist and Eurocentric language
  • editing the final draft
  • documenting sources, using either The Chicago Manual of Style or The Art Bulletin style
  • preparing for essay examinations
Among the new features of the sixth edition are new guidelines for using the World Wide Web and the Internet for art-historical research, five new checklist (e.g., a checklist for evaluating Web Sites), ten new illustrations, and the style guide published by The Art Bulleting. Several sample essays are also included, accompanied by analyses that show readers the particular strengths of effective writing.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Extraordinarily useful and necessary for any class in art history!”

- Johanna Movassat, San Jose State University

“A step-by-step guide, incorporating both theory and practice, to critically thinking and writing about art.”

- Janet Carpenter, City College of San Francisco

“An extremely useful book for art history students at all levels of study.”

- Melissa Dabakis, Kenyon College

“I find the text to be fundamental in teaching students to write. It is concise enough to cover in a course on a particular art historical topic without overtaking the topic itself. It is always my secondary text.”

- Rebecca Trittel, Savannah College of Art and Design

“Excellent definitive source on writing about art for the advanced student.”

- Carey Rote, Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205708253
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 1/16/2010
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 129,761
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE:

Preface

Another book for the student of art to read? I can only echo William James's report of the unwed mother's defense: "It's such a little baby."

Still, a few additional words may be useful. Everyone knows that students today do not write as well as they used to. Probably they never did, but it is a truth universally acknowledged (by English teachers) that the cure is not harder work from instructors in composition courses; rather, the only cure is a demand, on the part of the entire faculty, that students in all classes write decently. But instructors outside of departments of English understandably say that they lack the time—and perhaps the skill—to teach writing in addition to, say, art.

This book may offer a remedy. Students who read it—and it is short enough to be read in addition to whatever texts the instructor regularly requires— should be able to improve their essays

  • by getting ideas both about works of art and about approaches to art, from the first four chapters ("Writing about Art," "Analysis," "Writing a Comparison," "How to Write an Effective Essay"), and from Chapter 6 ("Some Critical Approaches")
  • by studying the principles on writing explained in Chapter 5, "Style in Writing" (e.g., on tone, paragraphing, and concreteness), and Chapters 7, 8, and 9 ("Art-Historical Research," "Writing a Research Paper," and "Manuscript Form")
  • by studying the short models throughout the book, which give the student a sense of some of the ways in which people talk about art

As Robert Frost said, writing is a matter of having ideas. This book tries to helpstudents to have ideas by suggesting questions they may ask themselves as they contemplate works of art. After all, instructors want papers that say something, papers with substance, not papers whose only virtue is that they are neatly typed and that the footnotes are in the proper form.

One is reminded of a story that Giambologna (1529-1608) in his old age told about himself. The young Flemish sculptor (his original name was jean de Boulogne), having moved to Rome, went to visit the aged Michelangelo. To show what he could do, Giambologna brought with him a carefully finished, highly polished wax model of a sculpture. The master took the model, crushed it, shaped it into something very different from Giambologna's original, and handed it back, saying, "Now learn the art of modeling before you learn the art of finishing." This story about Michelangelo as a teacher is harrowing, but it is also edifying (and it is pleasant to be able to say that Giambologna reportedly told it with pleasure). The point of telling it here is not to recommend a way of teaching; the point is that a highly finished surface is all very well, but we need substance first of all. A good essay, to repeat, says something.

A Short Guide to Writing about Art contains notes and two sample essays by students, an essay by a professor, and numerous model paragraphs by students and by published scholars such as Rudolf Arnheim, Albert Elsen, Mary D. Garrard, Anne Hollander, and Leo Steinberg. These discussions, as well as the numerous questions that are suggested, should help students to understand the sorts of things one says, and the ways one says them, when writing about art. After all, people do write about art, not only in the classroom but in learned journals, catalogs, and even in newspapers and magazines.

A NOTE ON THE SIXTH EDITION

I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures which I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature— birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further, and will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach one hundred my art will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life.
—Hokusai (I780-I849)

Probably all artists share Hokusai's self-assessment. And so do all writers of textbooks. Each edition of this book seemed satisfactory to me when I sent the manuscript to the publisher, but with the passing not of decades but of only a few months I detected inadequacies, and I wanted to say new things. This sixth edition, therefore, not only includes sixth thoughts about many topics discussed in the preceding editions but it also introduces new topics.

The emphasis is still twofold— on seeing and saying, or on getting ideas about art (Chapters 1-4) and on presenting those ideas effectively in writing (Chapters 5-8)— but this edition includes new thoughts about these familiar topics, as well as thoughts about new topics. For instance, the pages concerned with generating ideas contain new material about:

  • the canon
  • cultural materialism
  • queertheory
  • realism and idealism
  • critical values
  • the uses of the Internet

The pages concerned with effective writing contain:

  • boxed summaries, each with "A Rule for Writers"
  • seven checklists for revising paragraphs, writing a comparison, evaluating a web site, and researching on the internet

and the discussion of documentation now includes:

  • Chicago Manual Style
  • the Art Bulletin Style Guide
  • forms used for Asian names
  • citations of electronic sources

Eleven illustrations are new, including Segal's The Diner, Paik's TV Bud` dha, Brancusi's Torso, and a photograph of the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Much of the new material concerned with generating ideas responds to relatively new trends in the study of art. Today an interest in political, economic, and social implications of art has in large measure replaced the h earlier interest in matters of style, authenticity, and quality. In short, contemporary interest seems to have moved from the text to the context, from the artwork as a unique object with its distinctive meaning to the artwork as a manifestation of something more important (gender, politics, ethnicity), from aesthetics to a criticism of social and political cultures. This shift in the study of art is a response to a shift in art itself— the shift from Modernism to Post-Modernism. In the first half of the twentieth century, art— in the movement called Modernism— sloughed off the earlier concern with subject matter, illusionism, and beauty; what F counted was the artist's sensibility. Post-Modernism, rejecting this elite ` sensibility, sees artists as deeply embedded in their society, understood only in the context of that society. The emphasis is now on the historical conditions governing the production and consumption of art.

Nevertheless, A Short Guide continues to give generous space to the formal analysis of art. I continue to use the term art rather than visual culture, though I uneasily recall Andy Warhol's observation that in America most people think that Art is a man's name. I grant, too, that visual culture has the advantage of including works— for instance, boomerangs, nose rings, and Native American feathered bonnets— that we might call art but that are not called art by the cultures that produced them. Indeed, one has only to do a very little reading to learn that many languages do not include a word for art; apparently no Native American language has such a word, and the Japanese invented such a word only after coming into contact with European ideas. My use of art, then, should be considered not only affection for an old word but also shorthand for visual culture.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Writing about Art 1
2 Analysis 22
3 Writing a Comparison 86
4 Some Critical Approaches 104
5 In Brief: How to Write an Effective Essay 121
6 Style in Writing 136
7 Manuscript Form 154
8 The Research Paper 187
9 Essay Examinations 213
Credits 218
Index 219
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Preface

PREFACE:

Preface

Another book for the student of art to read? I can only echo William James's report of the unwed mother's defense: "It's such a little baby."

Still, a few additional words may be useful. Everyone knows that students today do not write as well as they used to. Probably they never did, but it is a truth universally acknowledged (by English teachers) that the cure is not harder work from instructors in composition courses; rather, the only cure is a demand, on the part of the entire faculty, that students in all classes write decently. But instructors outside of departments of English understandably say that they lack the time—and perhaps the skill—to teach writing in addition to, say, art.

This book may offer a remedy. Students who read it—and it is short enough to be read in addition to whatever texts the instructor regularly requires— should be able to improve their essays

  • by getting ideas both about works of art and about approaches to art, from the first four chapters ("Writing about Art," "Analysis," "Writing a Comparison," "How to Write an Effective Essay"), and from Chapter 6 ("Some Critical Approaches")
  • by studying the principles on writing explained in Chapter 5, "Style in Writing" (e.g., on tone, paragraphing, and concreteness), and Chapters 7, 8, and 9 ("Art-Historical Research," "Writing a Research Paper," and "Manuscript Form")
  • by studying the short models throughout the book, which give the student a sense of some of the ways in which people talk about art

As Robert Frost said, writing is a matter of having ideas. This book tries tohelpstudents to have ideas by suggesting questions they may ask themselves as they contemplate works of art. After all, instructors want papers that say something, papers with substance, not papers whose only virtue is that they are neatly typed and that the footnotes are in the proper form.

One is reminded of a story that Giambologna (1529-1608) in his old age told about himself. The young Flemish sculptor (his original name was jean de Boulogne), having moved to Rome, went to visit the aged Michelangelo. To show what he could do, Giambologna brought with him a carefully finished, highly polished wax model of a sculpture. The master took the model, crushed it, shaped it into something very different from Giambologna's original, and handed it back, saying, "Now learn the art of modeling before you learn the art of finishing." This story about Michelangelo as a teacher is harrowing, but it is also edifying (and it is pleasant to be able to say that Giambologna reportedly told it with pleasure). The point of telling it here is not to recommend a way of teaching; the point is that a highly finished surface is all very well, but we need substance first of all. A good essay, to repeat, says something.

A Short Guide to Writing about Art contains notes and two sample essays by students, an essay by a professor, and numerous model paragraphs by students and by published scholars such as Rudolf Arnheim, Albert Elsen, Mary D. Garrard, Anne Hollander, and Leo Steinberg. These discussions, as well as the numerous questions that are suggested, should help students to understand the sorts of things one says, and the ways one says them, when writing about art. After all, people do write about art, not only in the classroom but in learned journals, catalogs, and even in newspapers and magazines.

A NOTE ON THE SIXTH EDITION

I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures which I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature— birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further, and will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach one hundred my art will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life.
—Hokusai (I780-I849)

Probably all artists share Hokusai's self-assessment. And so do all writers of textbooks. Each edition of this book seemed satisfactory to me when I sent the manuscript to the publisher, but with the passing not of decades but of only a few months I detected inadequacies, and I wanted to say new things. This sixth edition, therefore, not only includes sixth thoughts about many topics discussed in the preceding editions but it also introduces new topics.

The emphasis is still twofold— on seeing and saying, or on getting ideas about art (Chapters 1-4) and on presenting those ideas effectively in writing (Chapters 5-8)— but this edition includes new thoughts about these familiar topics, as well as thoughts about new topics. For instance, the pages concerned with generating ideas contain new material about:

  • the canon
  • cultural materialism
  • queertheory
  • realism and idealism
  • critical values
  • the uses of the Internet

The pages concerned with effective writing contain:

  • boxed summaries, each with "A Rule for Writers"
  • seven checklists for revising paragraphs, writing a comparison, evaluating a web site, and researching on the internet

and the discussion of documentation now includes:

  • Chicago Manual Style
  • the Art Bulletin Style Guide
  • forms used for Asian names
  • citations of electronic sources

Eleven illustrations are new, including Segal's The Diner, Paik's TV Bud` dha, Brancusi's Torso, and a photograph of the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Much of the new material concerned with generating ideas responds to relatively new trends in the study of art. Today an interest in political, economic, and social implications of art has in large measure replaced the h earlier interest in matters of style, authenticity, and quality. In short, contemporary interest seems to have moved from the text to the context, from the artwork as a unique object with its distinctive meaning to the artwork as a manifestation of something more important (gender, politics, ethnicity), from aesthetics to a criticism of social and political cultures. This shift in the study of art is a response to a shift in art itself— the shift from Modernism to Post-Modernism. In the first half of the twentieth century, art— in the movement called Modernism— sloughed off the earlier concern with subject matter, illusionism, and beauty; what F counted was the artist's sensibility. Post-Modernism, rejecting this elite ` sensibility, sees artists as deeply embedded in their society, understood only in the context of that society. The emphasis is now on the historical conditions governing the production and consumption of art.

Nevertheless, A Short Guide continues to give generous space to the formal analysis of art. I continue to use the term art rather than visual culture, though I uneasily recall Andy Warhol's observation that in America most people think that Art is a man's name. I grant, too, that visual culture has the advantage of including works— for instance, boomerangs, nose rings, and Native American feathered bonnets— that we might call art but that are not called art by the cultures that produced them. Indeed, one has only to do a very little reading to learn that many languages do not include a word for art; apparently no Native American language has such a word, and the Japanese invented such a word only after coming into contact with European ideas. My use of art, then, should be considered not only affection for an old word but also shorthand for visual culture.

Read More Show Less

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