Twentieth Century Art

1) Each essay can only be begun after you have finished the online multimedia presentations for that Module: that’s how and where you will get all the information you need to write the essay.

The goal of each essay is to compare and contrast the assigned pair of artworks for that Module, focusing on how they are importantly similar and/or different.

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Specifically, try to decide why I am having you compare and contrast this particular pair of artworks. Based on the assigned online multimedia presentations for that Module, your personal observations supported by these sources, and your careful—concrete, detailed, and specific—visual analysis of the artworks, are there important ideas, influences or themes they share, or that differentiate them? Is their artistic style or historical background, their political or sociological context, or otherwise, importantly similar and/or different? Etc. The point is for you to identify and examine meaningful issues (similarities and/or differences) as well as substantial points of comparison (and/or contrast) between the assigned pair of artworks. For each issue or point you discuss with respect to one artwork, therefore, you must immediately discuss the same issue or point with respect to the other artwork: think of the essay as creating a dialogue between the two artworks.

a) A good way to structure your essay is to begin with a thesis statement (a summary of your argument), then proceed to a detailed discussion of your argument, which supports your thesis statement with a variety of subsidiary issues and points, and end with a conclusion.

b) In each essay, you must support your argument with specific references to assigned online multimedia presentations for that Module; and you must cite your sources. Your essay must not just reflect and incorporate but actually cite a meaningful and well-chosen variety of relevant material for that Module—or it will be significantly downgraded.

i) In researching and writing each essay, you may only use or in any way rely on assigned online multimedia presentations for that Module; your personal observations supported by these sources; and your careful—concrete, detailed, and specific—visual analysis of the artworks. Only means only: essays that use or in any way rely on sources other than assigned online multimedia presentations for that Module will be significantly downgraded.

c) Your essay must properly cite its sources—or it will be significantly downgraded. You may use either Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography is necessary) or MLA-style footnotes (“works cited” section is always necessary), if you are familiar with either system.

d) You must carefully proofread and edit your essay for accuracy and factuality; for grammar, style, and usage; and for flow, structure, and substance. Essays with counterfactual statements, incorrect facts or unsupported assertions will be significantly downgraded, as will essays with awkward phraseology, careless grammar or spelling errors; pastiche essays that replace actual analysis with copying and pasting strings of paraphrases or quotes; disorganized essays that do not logically flow from one issue or point to another.

2) Throughout your essay, avoid the following superficial problems—or your essay will be downgraded:

a) Bald opinions, especially ones that merely assume and project emotions and feelings onto people and things: “The colors in this painting are happy”; “The figure at the center of this painting looks sad”; etc.

b) Encyclopedia-style discussions that merely repeat generalities of when and where the artist was born and died; where she lived, studied, and worked; general descriptions about the artistic movement, period or style to which she belonged; etc.

c) Extraneous personal observations: “I have always loved this artist, and was happy to see a painting by her that I had never seen before”; “I don’t like this painting because the subject matter is depressing”; etc.

d) Statements that are obvious: “Despite their similarities, there are many differences in this pair of artworks”; “All artworks are intended to communicate meaning”; etc.

e) Unhelpful artistic, historical, political, and sociological generalizations: “The 20th Century was a time of great political uncertainty and social upheaval”; etc.

3) Throughout your essay, also avoid the following deep, structural problems—or your essay will be significantly downgraded:

a) Discussing one artwork, full stop; then discussing the other artwork, full stop; then tacking on a paragraph that finally gets around to actually comparing and contrasting them. That’s not a comparison: the point, rather, is continuously and throughout your essay to compare and/or contrast the pair of artworks issue-by-issue and point-by-point.

b) Merely describing the contents of the pair of artworks, as if you’re seeing them for the first time, have no deeper idea what is actually going on, and can only guess what all of it means, or why any of it matters. Describing what you’re looking at, as if you’ve never seen it before, is not evidence of learning: the point, rather, is to show that you comprehensively, meaningfully, and substantially engaged with the work for that Module by focusing on concrete, detailed, and specific—learned/nonobvious—information about the pair of artworks, such as important ideas, influences or themes they share, or that differentiate them, issues relating to their artistic style or historical background, points about their political or sociological context, or otherwise.

c) Inserting into your essay randomly chosen cites to/passages from the online multimedia presentations for that Module, to make it appear as if you did the work for that Module, but without actually doing it. That’s also not evidence of learning: the point, rather, is to show that you did the work for that Module by, continuously and throughout your essay, comprehensively, meaningfully, and substantially engaging with it.

4) If your essay contains ideas or language that are not your own, you must clearly and explicitly cite whose ideas or language they are: paraphrases of someone else’s ideas or language as well as quotes of their actual words must be clearly and explicitly cited; but only quotes also need to go within quote marks. (Questions about plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty, which are punishable by penalties ranging from a failing final grade for the class, through suspension from the college, to outright expulsion? Any essay that uses or in any way relies on any source that it does not clearly and explicitly cite will be failed, with a grade of zero: that grade of zero will not be dropped for any reason, and each of your three essays will count equally.

Module 02: Fauvism and Cubism: Matisse, “Bonheur de Vivre” [= “Joy of Life”] (1905–06) vs. Picasso, “Demoiselles d’Avignon” [= “Young Ladies of Avignon”] (1907).


Listen to/watch/read online presentations:


On Matisse and Fauvism:












On Matisse’s Early Idylls:





a) [Source: ARTH online.]

b) [Click on “long description/show details.”]

c) [Source: Barnes.]

d) [Source:]


a) [Source: ARTH online.]







On Picasso and Cubism:







d) [Source: Edinburgh.]







On Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon”:





b) [Read pp. 1–14. Cite as: Green, “An Introduction to Les Demoiselles,” p. __]








b) [Source: Fleming.]

c) [Source: Fleming.]

d) [Source: Grand Palais. For English subtitles, click on “CC,” then click on “Settings” and select “Subtitles,” then select “Auto-translate” and “English.”]



On the Influence of African Art, Cézanne’s Late Trio of Female Bathers, and the Matisse/Picasso Rivalry:




18) [Click on “description,” then “in-depth.”]








a) [Source: PBS/Charlie Rose.]


compare and contrast Matisse, “Bonheur de Vivre” (1905–06) vs. Picasso, “Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907). The Matisse is reproduced at:; the Picasso is reproduced at:

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