The goal of this activity is to promote a more thoughtful, active, and in-depth approach to studying in general and exam preparation more specifically. This exercise requires you to focus on the creation (and presentation) of a sample art history exam essay in which you are required to compare and contrast two pieces of art with a good attempt at critical thinking and analysis. This will also invite you to think in detail about how a typical college exam essay tests you on learned material as well as how your answers would include information ideally addressed. By focusing on what it takes to craft an effective exam essay question, you will think more deeply and with more subtlety about the material on an upcoming exam. Perhaps most importantly, going through this exercise should also discourage the dreaded “cram the night before” approach to studying undertaken by too many students.
Finally, the business of a comparison and contrast essay is frequently (but not always) to demonstrate a preference for one thing over another. The trick is to allow the preference to grow out of the comparison without actually stating the obvious. Let the reader figure out the preference from the language we use in the contrast; let the language do its work.
in a Composition course is the comparison and contrast essay. What could be easier? We've got these two things movies, books, rock bands, decades, people, fashions, schools, ideas how are they alike and how are they different? The paper practically writes itself! (A comparison, incidentally, is the process of showing how things are alike; a contrast is the process of showing differences.)
Community college student Charles M. Bezzler wrote the essay below which compares two shopping experiences the experience of shopping in an old-fashioned American downtown and the experience of shopping in a modern mall. It is reprinted here with his kind permission. Don't forget to address the questions that follow the essay.
Circle the elements that seem to pair off and draw lines between them. Eliminate things that don't pair off well and seem irrelevant to our comparison. Based on the "evidence" of our brainstorming and the overwhelming crowds in the malls last Christmas, it looks like we'll have to concede that the mall experience has a distinct advantage in the battle for the hearts and pocketbooks of American shoppers. But that's what sports writers call a no-brainer, leading to a so-what conclusion. Instead, let's turn the whole thing upside down at the end.
In the Middle Ages the plastic artist paid lip service at leastto the lowest common denominators of experience. This even remainedtrue to some extent until the seventeenth century. There was availablefor imitation a universally valid conceptual reality, whose orderthe artist could not tamper with. The subject matter of art wasprescribed by those who commissioned works of art, which werenot created, as in bourgeois society, on speculation. Preciselybecause his content was determined in advance, the artist wasfree to concentrate on his medium. He needed not to be philosopher,or visionary, but simply artificer. As long as there was generalagreement as to what were the worthiest subjects for art, theartist was relieved of the necessity to be original and inventivein his "matter" and could devote all his energy to formalproblems. For him the medium became, privately, professionally,the content of his art, even as his medium is today the publiccontent of the abstract painter's art -- with that difference,however, that the medieval artist had to suppress his professionalpreoccupation in public -- had always to suppress and subordinatethe personal and professional in the finished, official work ofart. If, as an ordinary member of the Christian community, hefelt some personal emotion about his subject matter, this onlycontributed to the enrichment of the work's public meaning. Onlywith the Renaissance do the inflections of the personal becomelegitimate, still to be kept, however, within the limits of thesimply and universally recognizable. And only with Rembrandt do"lonely" artists begin to appear, lonely in their art.
Good essay exam questions are hard to write. Review some basics on how to write ideal test items here at the Study Guides and Strategies Website: . Be sure and use precise directives in your question – review these used in essay exams.
Now that you have the information and key information for a good essay answer, what is the question? Spend some time thinking from your instructor’s perspective and develop a good essay exam question that would be the prompt for you to write an essay from your brainstorming and chart developed in Steps 3 and 4.
Be sure to use the appropriate terminology and skills from the course readings and specific to the discipline of art history. For example, in introductory art history courses, students are required in their exam essays typically to compare and contrast different works demonstrating not only their learned skills of formal visual analysis, but also their ability to place works and monuments in a historical context. This means comparing works not only in terms of the differences in their formal elements, but also in terms of the socio-political, theological, regional or cultural reasons behind those differences.
Now, list on a chart those 5 main elements you’ve chosen to focus in on and compile detailed notes for each piece in relation to those elements, items or topics to expand upon in the comparison essay.
Here’s an example of a compare-and-contrast essay > using two works from the Renaissance and Neoclassicism eras: Michelangelo’s David and Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Notice that these two pieces were chosen because they both are considered by scholars to be representative of their time periods and that both of the artists used unconventional ideas in their depiction of the current political and social conditions of the day. It’s important that you choose two pieces that allow you to make appropriate comparisons relating to the concepts you are learning in your art history class. This is an important first step as you prepare to write an effective essay that covers multiple main issues covered in class.
The principal purpose of this assignment is to help build your skills in two of the fundamental aspects of all art historical endeavour: evocative description, and comparison of works of art. Accordingly, you should spend a good amount of time closely observing the two works you choose. About two pages of the essay are to be taken up with a description of the two works of art. In this section, you should describe them as if you were trying to convey their appearance to someone who is not able to see them. For each of the works start with the obvious: What, if anything, does it depict? Are there figures present? If so, how are they interacting with one another? If not, how are forms arranged on the surface? What colours are used? How are they arranged on the canvas? How is the paint applied? Are brushstrokes visible? If the painting is figural, how is light treated and how is pictorial space created? Is the composition balanced? The goal of all this is to put into words the experience of the visual. In all cases, do not feel that you must extol the works. The second part of the essay (2-3 pages) will be taken up in a comparison of the works. In what way are the characteristics you identified in the descriptive section different for the two works of art? Are there any similarities? What impact do the differences have on how a viewer might react to the works? I have chosen these particular pairs because they are similar in subject or type. Be aware in your comparisons that artists make formal choices when they paint or sculpt, and that these choices have an impact on how viewers respond. Discuss the means by which these works of art invite different responses. Be sure to back up your subjective analysis with reference to observable fact. I am not interested in you delving deeply into the historical context in which the two works were created. The research required for this assignment will as a consequence be limited, but you should try to relate the works to ones illustrated in the textbook, with the goal of establishing links to other works painted in the same time and geographic region. The essay should begin with an introduction that anticipates and summarises the conclusions you draw in the comparative section. This introduction should end with a thesis statement encapsulating your argument. In preparing to write this essay you may work in pairs, but under no circumstances should the writing itself be collaborative.
A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare