Art History Essay Themes

Art history research paper topics and their writing processes differ from other college and university academic papers that students are assigned to write. In such papers you make the necessary arguments concerning the things you see; to be more precise you interpret visual information into verbal information. To write a really good research paper on art history, you should be familiar with the terms needed to describe the work of art and it is extremely important to choose appropriate art history research paper topics.

Art History Research Paper Topics: Types

You can cover your art history research paper in 2 ways:

  • Narrative – the description of the facts concerning the topic, which is based on opinions and facts.
  • Analytical – the presented argument should be supported by the evidence.

Art History Research Paper Topics: Renaissance

Choosing the Renaissance period as their art history research paper topics, students usually pay special attention to Michelangelo’s style. You can compare several of his early works with his later works and discuss the factors which changed his style of painting.
It is also recommended to evaluate Leonardo Da Vinci’s career and his influence on art.

Art History Research Paper Topics: Far East

The Buddhist architecture and Indian sculpture and painting are inexhaustible topics for research papers on art. You can compare Indian, Japanese and Chinese visual arts and point out differences and similarities between them.

Art History Research Paper Topics: Middle Ages. Gothic and Romanesque

This is a large field for discussions and descriptions, for example, you can compare buildings of the Romanesque architecture, explain the role of illuminated manuscripts in art, etc.

Art History Research Paper Topic Examples

  1. Main similarities and differences between the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.
  2. Features of sculptures in ancient Greece. The influence of science on sculptures.
  3. The role of Mughal paintings in forming the image of the Mughal kings in India.
  4. Biblical motives in Leonardo da Vinci’s early paintings.
  5. Surrealism in Salvador Dali’s sculptures.
  6. The origin of the traditional Japanese and Chinese costumes and their impacts on culture.
  7. Key changes in methodology in paintings at the epoch of Impressionism. The differences in paintings of two impressionists: Edgar Degas and Claude Monet.
  8. The main features of late Baroque architecture (c. 1660 – c. 1725)
  9. The history of creating The Death of Sardanapalus and its place in Eugène Delacroix’s paintings.
  10. Different mannerisms in Pablo Picasso’s paintings, from Art Nouveau to Cubism: evolution, or just separate periods in his oeuvre?
  11. The combination of different art styles in the extraordinary painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.
  12. Various interpretations of The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.
  13. Ancient Greek motifs in Michelangelo’s sculpture, David.
  14. The psychology of color in Kazimir Malevich’s works.
  15. Realistic and artificial motifs in Jasper John’s Flag.
  16. Why was Renaissance art so overwhelmed with Christian symbols and themes?
  17.  Was Hitler’s artwork actually good?
  18. Is the majority of modern art a scam?
  19. What was the influence of the Industrial Revolution on art development?
  20. What is so special about the carving The Veiled Virgin?
  21. What were the main reasons of the Roman artistic style shift in the 4th century?
  22. How were Victorian beauty standards depicted?
  23. What is so special about the light in Monet’s Sunrise?
  24.  What were the primary aims of the camera obscura and how did it change throughout the years?
  25. Compare the critiquing styles of Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg.
  26. What are the peculiar features of Art Deco hotels in French Indochina?
  27. Was sculpture art the main business in Venice?
  28. The connection between French caricatures of the 19th century and Goya’s prints.
  29. What is so unusual and unique in Russian icons?
  30. The evolution of the uncovered body in paintings of various periods and countries.

You may also be interested in other research paper topics that  cover various disciplines.

Art History Research Paper Topics Help

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If you need interesting expository essay topics for your next writing assignment on the history of art, there are many ideas from which to choose. That being said, if you need some help getting started, consider the following 20:

  1. Religious Influence on Artwork
  2. How Art Depicts Religion
  3. Art as Historical Documentation for Buddhism
  4. Late Renaissance Artistic Tendencies
  5. Baroque Artistic Tendencies
  6. How Art Emphasized Relationships Between Political, Social, and Economic Atmospheres
  7. Transitional Artistic Periods of Time
  8. The Utilization of New Components for Human Features and Natural Beauty
  9. Biblical Depictions
  10. Paintings Versus Statues
  11. Mannerism Influence in Italy
  12. The High Renaissance Influence for Italian Composers and Artists
  13. Ancient Greek Artwork
  14. Ancient Native American Art
  15. How New Artists Include Themes and Techniques of Older Generations
  16. History of African Art
  17. History of Asian Art
  18. Cultural Influence In Artistic Trends
  19. How Local Natural Elements Influence Artistic Design Around the World
  20. Changes in Historically Important Artistic Periods

Aren’t those topics cool? To get a better idea of some interesting facts on the History of Art, plus additional guidance on how to write an expository essay about it check the hyperlinks. Below is a sample expository essay on one of the topics listed above to give you additional assistance: 10 facts, how to.

Sample Expository Essay on Art as the Historical Documentation of Buddhism

Art has a long history of serving as a record keeper for historical events and this is also true of Buddhism. There are three foundations or Jewels of Buddhism. The first is the Buddha, and the second is Dharma which is the teachings. The third is the Sangha — the community. Buddhists are generally distinguished from non-Buddhists through taking refuge in the third Jewel. Other facets of the practice include supporting the monastic community, becoming a monk, developing a mindfulness in meditation, practicing meditation, cultivating higher discernment and wisdom, studying the scriptures, practicing devotion, and practicing traditional ceremonies (Kohn 143). In early South Asian artwork, the four great miracles of the Buddha’s life are described along with his life cycle. It is encompassed by the aforementioned ideals through a combination of influential styles and symbols which were indicative of the political, social, and economic condition of the specified period.

From this transitional time period of the Buddhism expansion came the four panels depicting the stories from the holy text pertaining to the life of the Buddha. The stupas are depicted in chronological order, focusing on the four great miracles in the life of Buddha (Saunders). The Buddha is represented in symbols of trees, pillars, thrones, and the wheel of Dharma. All until the moment when Buddha is shown as human and has reached the enlightenment. Greek and Indian combinations in terms of the iconology are demonstrated throughout the forms that Buddha takes in all four panels. Form of the Buddha in the first panels shows the perfect oval egg for the head, eyebrows which show an Indian bow curve, lotus bud eyes, ears which represent a Sanskrit symbol, and the embodiment of a lion through the wide breast and narrow waist. The head is meant to represent a bull while the arms are indicative of elephant trunks. The hands are lotus petals (Saunders).

Early text suggests that the Buddha was born on the Indian subcontinent during the 5th century BC where his father was an elected chieftain. The Theravada text states that he was born in modern-day Nepal in the year 563 BC, raised in Kapilavastu. One of the four great miracles, depicted as one of the four great events was this birth. In the common artwork, the Buddha emerges from the right hip of his standing mother Maya with a halo. The halo is the symbol of divine radiance and is affiliated with deities and royalty in South Asian communities. The artwork borrows from Greek and Roman art in terms of the wreaths placed around the woman’s head, the people holding cornucopias, and the long-sleeved clothing (Dehejia).

The second great miracle was the Buddha’s enlightenment. After the birth of this prince, it was prophesized by an astrologer that he would either be a king like his father or a holy man upon leaving the palace walls. It is clear that his father was against the notion of a holy man because he was forbidden to leave. Upon his departure, he encountered an old suffering man, a sick suffering man, a corpse, and an ascetic holy man which all encouraged the four sights and his spiritual quest. He began studying under famous religious teachers that day, first mastering meditation. Discovering that mere meditation did not end suffering, the Buddha continued on his path to fasting, holding his breath, and exposing himself to pain in order to end suffering, but this did not work. It was through this near death experience and closeness to the earth that he discovered the idea of moderation in terms of self-mortification and self-indulgence. When he was 35, he sat in a sacred fig tree to meditate in Bodh Gaya, India. He did not rise until he achieved enlightenment. The second piece of artwork shows the Buddha under a tree meditating while he is attacked by demons of Mara.

After achieving enlightenment, a monastic order was instituted at the first teaching of his new band of followers. Teaching the path to awakening, he traveled and taught until his death. The third panel is the first sermon, which is meant to portray the humanity in the Buddha as he preaches to a crowd. The deer in the panel is used to describe the location of Deer Park at Sarnath. The two deer here are meant to demonstrate the willingness and appreciation of the earth and all creations of the enlightenment that the human Buddha attained. Between the two deer the dharma is placed which is an icon from Hindu indicative of kingship. While normally attached to Hindi gods to demonstrate their materialistic authority, in this case it is used to demonstrate the spiritual authority. This panel demonstrates the period which was the first Buddhist law (Dehejia).

The journey to nirvana is the concept demonstrated in the fourth panel. On this panel his death in India is indicative of the entire Buddhist belief. The panel shows chieftains mourning the immense loss while looking over his body with grief and lack of understanding while the monks are at peace, enlightened by the idea that his passing is nothing more than a release from the endless cycle of rebirth.

References:
Dehejia, Vidya. Stupas and Sculptures of Early Buddhism. Asian Art, Vol. 2 No. 2 1989.
Freedberg, David. “The power of images.” Art History 15.2 (1992): 275-278.
Kohn, Michael. The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Shambhala. 1991.
Gombrich, Richard. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988.
Preziosi, Donald, ed. The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology: A Critical Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Robinson et al., Buddhist Religions, page xx; Philosophy East and West, vol 54, Williams, Mahayana Buddhism, Routledge, 1st ed., 1989.
Saunders, Dale. Murda: A Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculptur.e New York Pantheon Books, 1960 pl. 11.

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