Art history paper: Topics range from art deco to women artists

Pablo Picasso's painting "The Blind Man's Meal," left, next to an X-radiograph of the painting.

Pablo Picasso's painting "The Blind Man's Meal," left, next to an X-radiograph of the painting. (© Metropolitan Museum of Art/AP Images)

If art history is the subject for your next term paper, doing research won’t be a challenge but narrowing your scope may take some time. The subject of art history encompasses hundreds of topics. Here are some ideas on how you can explore the world of art history.

A range of topics

You can get an overview of the subject and begin to narrow the focus of your art history paper by visiting Questia, the world’s largest online library containing over 77,000 full-text books and 4 million journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Allow yourself plenty of time because the selection is vast. Topics for art history include:

  • Abstract art
  • Art deco
  • Cubism
  • Fauvism
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Surrealism in Art
  • Women artists

At Questia you’ll be able to read such books as Topics in American Art Since 1945 by Lawrence Alloway. Regarding art history Alloway said, “Art history is the model that has led critics toward specific topics or more closely defined problems. On the other hand, there is a risk of the influence of art history abridging the freedom of the critic. This happens when a deterministic view of the succession of history is imposed prematurely on the current scene and the recent past.”

Free resources from federal agencies

Once you have narrowed your focus you may want to explore the many multimedia resources available to you from the U.S. government. At Free.ed.gov, you can find more than 1,600 teaching and learning resources organized by subject from such collections as the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, and the National Park Service. Collections include:

  • A look at the life and work of Jackson Pollock
  • Johannes Vermeer and Dutch Scenes of Daily Life in the 1600s
  • Titian and the Late Renaissance in Venice

If you choose to learn more about Thomas Gainsborough, for example, you will find a short biography, an overview of his exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, and images of several of his paintings, which you can copy and save to your computer. If you’re a teacher, you will appreciate the lesson materials that are also available.

Under the category, “Other Arts & Music,” is a link to BLS Career Information where, “kids can find information on job opportunities related to the arts, math, science, physical education and outdoors, reading, and social studies. The site also offers resources for teachers, including a link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

Smart history

No one wants to re-invent the wheel, least of all busy students and teachers. School districts across the country are struggling with shrinking budgets placing many resources out of reach. In response, teachers, administrators and others have banded together to create open educational resources (OERs) that can be shared and accessed by anyone.

One such effort is Smarthistory, created by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker as a blog in 2005. Its goal was described in a January 30, 2011 post for Smarthistory: The Blog, titled, “Smarthistory Kickstarter Update – Week One.” The vision of the project was outlined in the post which said, “In our own field, we see a future where art museums, libraries, colleges and universities no longer produce content primarily for their own students and visitors but instead develop systems where resources are pooled to create more comprehensive resources for a much larger audience of learners.”

In October 2011, Smarthistory became part of the Khan Academy where in partnership they will, “be developing content in history and art history, reaching out to the Smarthistory community, and thinking about how the tools that the Khan Academy has developed around math and science (assessments, badges, learning analytics), can be used in the Humanities.”

Other art history resources on the web

  • Arthistoryresources.net maintained by Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe since 1995
  • The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Artcyclopedia.com
  • The Getty Museum
  • The Art History Research Centre (AHRC)
  • Mother of All Art and Art History Links Pages from the University of Michigan School of Art and Design
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