AP Better Know an Artist: 4th Quarter

One of the challenges of this class is giving you a good sense of who these artists are. Sometimes we are restricted to studying a single piece, which does not give you a good sense of what they did, what they were about, and what they brought to the art world.

To address this, we are going to have you do a mini-research project on a selected artist. By answering some specific questions and doing an analysis of one of their works, it is my hope that you will get a better sense of these artists.

You will need to choose an artist from the list below. Once you have made your selection, you will need to provide the following information on your artist:

  1. Biographical information: When was the artist born, and when did he or she die? Were they married or single? Did they suffer some kind of tragic illness or addiction?       Were they always artists or only began working late in life? Were they formally trained or self-taught? Try to keep this brief and only mention the aspects of their life that seem to have a bearing on their artwork (ex: your artist was a woman who in turn produced a lot of pro-feminist art work).
  2. Art Movement: What art movement(s) did they belong to, or create? Additionally describe the characteristics of this art movement, and how these characteristics can be seen in the artist’s work.
  3. Personal Artistic Style: This is about personal style as opposed to the art movement. What are the visual characteristics of how your artist works? Do they have a particular way of applying paint, certain colors they favor, or a subject matter they always use? What are the hallmarks of how they paint/draw/sculpt/etc. by which you could always recognize their work.
  4. Select an iconic work, and critique it: Select one work of art by your artist that embodies their style. This is often a work that they are most famous for or that is considered their best work. This must also be a work that we have not discussed in class.  Once you have selected the work, do a formal critique of the image. Your critique may tie in information that you discovered in the previous steps.
  5. Provide additional artwork samples: Include and additional 3-4 images, examples of the artist’s work. Each single image should be around the size of 2” x 3”. The works should be representative of the style of artwork your artist is most famous for.

As a general guideline, the entire project should not take more than two to three pages, not including the sample artwork.

This is the first time this assignment has been assigned so expect that there will be unexpected problems or concerns. Take it upon yourself to ask questions or ask for clarification.

List of Artists to Choose From:

These artists come from the late 19th and  20th centuries, and represent a diverse range of art movements. You may wish to take a look at artwork done by these artists before you select one.

  • Georges Braque
  • Alexander Calder
  • Christo
  • Salvador Dali
  • Richard Diebenkorn
  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Max Ernst
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Duane Hanson
  • Edward Hopper
  • Jasper Johns
  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Frida Khalo
  • Henri Matisse
  • Georgia O’Keefe
  • Claes Oldenburg
  • I.M. Pei
  • Diego Rivera
  • Cindy Sherman
  • Bill Viola
  • Andy Warhol
  • Nam June Paik

Due Date

The project is due by Monday, 4/16, by 11:00 p.m. This will count as two formative grades. Remember to include your name in the file name.

Only Three Ways to Turn in Your Assignment

This file will probably be pretty large due to the included samples. I only want your project in digital format (nothing printed), but my e-mail will not handle your documents. So… turn in your project

  • Portable drive
  • Dropbox. This is a fantastic file sharing service that is free. A few of you use this already. If you are interested, I would be glad to help you get started. Dropbox.com.
  • Another file-sharing service similar to Dropbox. It can be any service that you like, but it needs to be something you can share with me via a link and does not require me to have an account or sign in.


The following is provided as an example of the format I wish for you to follow on your “Better Know an Artist” assignment.

Wayne Thiebaud

1.  Biographical information:

Wayne Thiebaud is a contemporary artist. He was born in 1920 and raised in Long Beach, California. Thiebaud began as a struggling graphic artist as he worked on his Masters of Art and teaching credentials. During the 1950’s Thiebaud’s career as a fine artist really took off and he began to land a series of one-man shows. He continues to paint today, and teaches at the University of California. His deep ties to California manifest in his artwork, where the impact of the rolling hills and strong light of the west coast become apparent.

2.  Art Movement:

Thiebaud does not fit easily into any one art movement. His early work is often called Pop Art, an artistic movement that was predominately fascinated with advertising and graphic art images. While Thiebaud’s paintings do borrow some of the same visual language as advertising art, he did not seem to have the same fixation on American popular culture as, say Andy Warhol. Additionally, his later landscape paintings look as bold and colorful as his earlier work, but landscape has never been a Pop Art subject. He seems to fall into a category of his own.

3.  Style:

Thiebaud has a very recognizable style. He uses thick applications of paint to build up a rich surface. The paint is applied like butter to the canvas, and brush strokes are readily visible. He uses very strong eye-catching colors and shadows, elements that some have compared to advertising art techniques. On close examination, he likes to intensify the “pop” of colors by including bold touches, like bursts of red along a shadow. Much of his early work is based on repetition of objects like pies or pinball machines. Much of his later works are cityscapes or landscapes.

4.  Critique:

5. Additional artwork samples:


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