Art Essay

Similar to any academic discipline, an art essay has various purposes and therefore, requires unique approaches. It is, therefore, critical for a student to carefully analyze the specifications before writing art essay.

Types of Art Essay Assignments

Basic Informational or Explanatory Essay

This is usually assigned in introductory art history courses. This type of essay requires some research that provides information or explanation to the reader. For instance, such art essay includes a summary of the Neo-Classical period and the time frame, the typical art of the period, and specific artists that were reflective of that period. Reflection and/or evaluation are not required unless specified.

Analysis or Application

Writing art essay assignments of this type require critical thinking as students are asked to use the knowledge they have so as to respond in specific ways, depending on the main theme of the paper. In art, one might be asked to write about Picasso and at the same time, apply the characteristics of impressionism to the work. Given the same piece, one might be asked to analyze the form, texture, colors, tone, line use, symbolism, perspective, shading, lighting, etc. This requires “breaking the piece” down in an analytical way to establish an overall impression or theme.


Writing art essay works of this type is usually reserved for advanced courses at the graduate level. Given that students have a strong academic and/or technical expertise, they will be required to evaluate the works of others where they are given certain sets of criteria or where they are allowed to use their own criteria for such judgment.


This type of art essay entails the students to compare or contrast two periods, two artists of the same period, or two works by the same artist. This requires some critical thought and it is best to start with the use of Venn diagram which serves as a graphic organizer. There are two ways to organize such essay. If one is to compare and contrast Dali and Ernst, for example, there are definite areas of comparison; both artists belonged in Surrealistic Period. However, there are differences that are specific to each artist. The writer has a choice to address all areas of comparison and all areas of contrast, or to take specific characteristics (line, perspective, lighting, texture, etc.) and compare/contrast each one.
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