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Modern Art

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Paper Assignment II

Art and Society: Renaissance to Modern Art
University of Houston
Dr. Sandra Zalman

Due: November 13 by midnight via turnitin on Blackboard -

This paper asks you to compare two works of art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, to consider how nineteenth-century artists departed from past academic works to take interest in the new urban spaces of modernity. Go the MFAH and find the following two paintings:

Berthe Morisot, The Basket Chair, 1885 (Room 222)
Gustave Caillebotte, The Orange Trees, 1878 (Room 222)

In your paper, you will analyze the visual relationship between modernism, class and gender, considering both the formal characteristics and subject matter of the paintings you will examine. While attending to the formal characteristics of each work, analyze the ways in which gender and class may play a role in relation to subject matter, composition, and the intended audience. How are the spaces of modernity depicted in these scenes? If the flânuer is the quintessential modern artist, but cannot be embodied by a woman, what is the role of gender in these works? How does the representation of gender factor into the aims of these artists? Construct your argument based on a visual analysis of these two paintings, paying particular attention to how the artist constructs the spaces of modernity, who is depicted and in what way, and how the viewer is, or is not, accounted for.

In your a conclusion, consider the impact of the museum space in framing your experience, discussing and analyzing the placement of these works in the museum – what dialogue might be facilitated by these works’ proximity to each other? What relationship might the curators have been considering when they hung these works?

Note that this is not a research paper. You will be graded on your analysis of the visual material, and the conclusions you can draw from your analysis. Some background information will be necessary to relay, but the majority of the paper should be based on your own observation and analysis.

Formatting requirements:

1) 5 pages 2) double-spaced 3) 1-inch margins 4) 12-point font

Content requirements:

1) Your paper must have a thesis statement (the last sentence of the first paragraph), articulating a clear argument that you will support throughout your paper. A thesis statement is an argument – therefore “the paintings are different” is not a thesis statement, since it is a fact. This website provides excellent information about developing a strong thesis statement: 2) Your paper should be clearly organized into paragraphs with topic sentences that let the reader know what the subject of that paragraph will explore. 3) You must describe both works, and use the visual evidence (description) to support your central argument (analysis). Refer above for questions to consider in your paper. 4) A paragraph analyzing the museum context, thinking about how the curators exhibited the works and what connections can be drawn through their placement in the museum. 5) While you are not required to do research outside of class readings, all sources – including wall text - that you consult for your paper must be cited with a footnote. Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. For the proper format for citations, please consult the Chicago Manual of Style:
See this footnote for how to cite the wall text.

You may want to consult with the Art History Writing Fellows, whose schedule is available here:
The Writing Center on campus also offers tutoring and help with your paper:

Visiting Information: Please note the paintings you are asked to view at the MFAH are located in the Audrey Jones Beck Building at 5601 Main Street. The museum is closed on Mondays, except Monday holidays. Visit for hours and directions. Admission is free every Thursday, the first Sunday of the month, and should also be free by showing this assignment at the front desk. Free parking is available in the lot north of the Caroline Wiess Law Building, and on the street, where permitted.

[ 1 ]. Wall text, Title of Painting, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

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