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Response Paper

 A short (4-5 page) paper addressing one or more of the issues raised by Gauguin and Cézanne will be due on Sept. 29.  Choose one of the following questions and write an argumentative essay using both texts (either primary or secondary sources) and images.


1.       Gauguin’s masterwork ask three questions:

Where do we come from?

Who are we?

Where are we going?

Choose 1 of those questions and argue for a specific answer using the painting (both its iconographical and formal elements); the theories of modern art we’ve discussed (e.g.  Primitivism and Baudelaire), and/or the history we’ve covered in this class. (If you haven’t already, it’s worth seeing this painting in person at the MFA!)


2.      “Treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone” is one of the most famous and most difficult statements about modern art.  Using one work by Cézanne argue for a specific interpretation of this passage.

Final Paper

DUE:  Dec. 1; Abstract Due:  Oct. 27


What does it mean? 

 In this paper you will present a thoughtful argument for a specific interpretation of one work of art produced in the 20th century. 

General Requirements:

This paper is intended to give you experience interpreting a work of art and in constructing an argument based on formal analysis, research and theoretical writings.  It should have a strong and clearly stated thesis which is backed up by various types of proof.  It should also have an evident point-of-view. 


Your abstract should identify the work of art you’ll be dealing with as well as your approach to it.  It should outline both the question your paper seeks to answer and your thesis, even if it is tentative.  You must also include your working bibliography.


8-10 double-spaced pages (excluding bibliography and images)


Obvious as this may seem, it’s important to remember that not all books contain the same information.  Just because a source deals with your artist and/or your painting does not mean that it will be helpful for your paper.   You are expected to use only sources that are actually applicable to your topic.  In order to save yourself unnecessary work, review your bibliography with Tara.

You must utilize at least five sources in addition to the course readings.  For the most part these should be scholarly books and articles (i.e., texts written by academics and/or curators).  The use of primary sources such as artists’ writings, criticism and theoretical treatises from the period being studied is encouraged; however, these resources should not be used exclusively.   Survey textbooks, while helpful, will not count as a source.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse for art historical research.  On one hand, it is a useful and efficient way of finding facts and images.  On the other, it often contains false information and unsubstantiated opinions.  Treat internet sources with skepticism.  A good rule of thumb is that websites connected to non-electronic resources (e.g., museum websites and on-line journals) tend to be held to the same rigorous standards as printed materials, whereas those that exist solely in cyberspace (Wikipedia, blogs, personal websites) are not.

 All sources must be included in your bibliography, and ideas and quotations taken from them must be cited in footnotes (parenthetical notation is not acceptable).  For information on the correct format of bibliographies and footnotes, see the Chicago Manual of Style (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html, follow “N” for footnotes and “B” for bibliography).

For help identifying sources, check the BU library’s research guide for art history (http://www.bu.edu/library/guides/arthist.html) and the bibliography of Art Since 1900. I would also be happy to help you create a bibliography.