A Short Guide to Writing About Art, 11th edition

  • Sylvan Barnet

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The best-selling guide to writing about art


Sylvan Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing About Art guides students through every aspect of writing about art. Students are shown how to analyze pictures (drawings, paintings, photographs), sculptures and architecture, and are prepared with the tools they need to present their ideas through effective writing. Coverage of essential writing assignments includes formal analysis, comparison, research paper, review of an exhibition, and essay examination. New to the 11th edition is a chapter on “Virtual Exhibitions: Writing Text Panels and Other Materials.”


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Published by Pearson (July 14th 2021) - Copyright © 2015

ISBN-13: 9780137612604

Subject: Art

Category: Art History Survey


In this Section:

  1. Brief Table of Contents
  2. Full Table of Contents


  1. Writing About Art
  2. Writing About Art: The Big Picture
  3. Formal Analysis and Style
  4. Analytical Thinking
  5. Writing A Comparison
  6. Writing an Entry in an Exhibition Catalog
  7. Writing a Review of an Exhibition
  8. Virtual Exhibitions: Writing Text Panels and Other Materials
  9. How to Write an Effective Essay
  10. Style in Writing
  11. Art Historical Research
  12. Some Critical Approaches
  13. Writing a Research Paper
  14. Manuscript Form
  15. Writing Essay Examinations


  • Chapter 1: Writing About Art
    • What Is Art?
    • Why Write about Art?
    • The Imagined Reader as the Writer's Collaborator
    • The Functions of Critical Writing
    • Some Words about Critical Thinking
    • A Sample Critical Essay
    • What Is an Interpretation—and Are All interpretations Equally Valid?
    • Expressing Opinions: The Writer's “I”
  • Chapter 2: Writing About Art: The Big Picture
    • Standing Back: Kinds of Writing (Informing and Persuading)
    • Close-Up: Drafting the Essay
    • Checklist of Basic Matters
  • Chapter 3: Formal Analysis and Style
    • What Formal Analysis Is
    • Formal Analysis Versus Description
    • Sample Essay: A Formal Analysis
    • Postscript: Thoughts about the Words "Realistic" and "Idealized"
    • Cautionary Words about Slides and Reproductions in Books and on the World Wide Web
  • Chapter 4: Analytical Thinking
    • Subject Matter and Content
    • Form and Content
    • Getting ideas for Essays: Asking Questions to Get Answers
    • Another Look at the Questions
  • Chapter 5: Writing A Comparison
    • Comparing as a Way of Discovering
    • Two ways of Organizing a Comparison
    • Sample Essay: A Student's Comparison
    • Rebecca Bedell: "John Singleson Copley's Early Development: From Mrs. Joseph Mann to Mrs. Ezekial Goldthwait"
    • Checklist for Writing a Comparison
  • Chapter 6: Writing an Entry in an Exhibition Catalog
    • Keeping the Reader in Mind
    • A Sample Entry
    • Checklist for Writing a Catalog Entry
  • Chapter 7: Writing a Review of an Exhibition
    • What a Review Is
    • Three Sample Reviews
  • Chapter 8: Virtual Exhibitions: Writing Text Panels and Other Materials
    • Kinds of Exhibitions
    • Kinds of Writing Assignments
  • Chapter 9: How to Write an Effective Essay
    • The Basic Strategy
    • Looking Closely: Approaching a First Draft
    • Revising: Achieving a Readable Draft
    • Peer Review
    • Preparing the Final Version
  • Chapter 10: Style in Writing
    • Principles of Style
    • Get the Right Word
    • Writing Effective Sentences
    • Write Unified and Coherent Paragraphs
    • A Note on Tenses
  • Chapter 11: Art Historical Research
    • Accounting for Taste
    • Historical Scholarship and Values
  • Chapter 12: Some Critical Approaches
    • Social History: The New Art History and Marxism
    • Gender Studies: Feminist Criticism and Gay and Lesbian Studies
    • Biographical Studies
    • Psychoanalytic Studies
    • Iconography and Iconology
  • Chapter 13: Writing a Research Paper
    • Primary and Secondary Materials
    • From Subject to Thesis
    • Finding the Material
    • Art Research and the World Wide Web
    • Keeping a Sense of Proportion
    • Reading and Taking Notes
    • Checklist for Note-Taking
    • Incorporating Your Reading into Your Thinking: The Art of Synthesis and Drafting and Revising the Paper
    • Checklist for Reviewing a Revised Draft of a Research Paper
  • Chapter 14: Manuscript Form
    • Basic Manuscript Form
    • Some Conventions of Language Usage
    • Quotations and Quotation Marks
    • Acknowledging Sources
    • Documentation
    • Footnotes and Endnotes: Chicago Manual Style
    • Chicago Manual of Style
  • Chapter 15: Writing Essay Examinations
    • What Examinations Are
    • Writing Essay Answers
    • Last Words

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