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How to Write an Art Thesis

26 Jan 2017Writing Tips

Thesis writing is complicated no matter what the subject. An art thesis, like a literature thesis, is far more subjective than some of its scientific and economical counterparts. This subjectivity often makes the liberal arts more difficult to write thesis for than subjects like economics or politics.

When dealing with an art thesis, here are some helpful tips that will help you get through it in no time flat.


If you are comparing and contrasting artworks or describing a piece of art, there are some things you should know about the way art is quantified. Visual art is comprised of the following characteristics.

  • Line. Obviously, two-dimensional representations of an object are formed from lines and patterns. Pay attention to line and shape in all artwork, as it is the most obvious characteristic and ignoring it would be to ignore a considerable portion of the work.

  • Color. Another obvious one, color is often symbolic. It draws the eye in and illuminates the art in both a literal and figurative way. Make sure you note the use of color or its absence when comparing two works or analyzing a singular piece.

  • Tone. Tone is the light and dark values in a piece. Often this, too, is symbolic of a deeper meaning behind the piece. Comparing the values (moral and literal) in two pieces of artwork and simplify the search for a shared or contradictory theme.

  • Volume. Ask yourself about the space in the painting. How close together are things? How big are the objects? What is close together and what is far apart? Why does the artist do this?

  • Texture. What looks rough in the picture? What looks soft? Texture is used to varying degrees in all forms of art. Its absence can indicate a special attention or visual metaphor within a piece.


All pieces of art, as soon as they are viewed, become part of an international conversation. Each artwork contributes something else to the explanation and observations of the world around us.

Always address this conversation in an art thesis. No art is created in a vacuum. Look at the other artists working in this same time period and the climate in which the artist lived and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the artist doing differently than other artists of their time?

  • What is similar?

  • What indicates the time period?

  • What political events might have influenced the creation of this piece?

  • What social events might have influenced the creation of this piece?

  • What might personal events in the artist’s life have inspired them to create this art?

  • What is this piece communicating?

Always try to relate the artwork back to a larger conversation. Even if artists living in the same region did not know each other, they most likely had similar interactions with their environment. If they did not, analyze the differences and compare them to the differences in the art work: the connections are almost always clear.

Art theses, while difficult is not impossible, so long as you are comfortable with the subjectivity and are prepared to think rationally.

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