Art Dissertation Topics

Art is a huge subject spreading over many centuries from cave art to wall graffiti in the twenty-first century. In today’s universities, Art comprises a lot of interrelated topics, it morphs into different disciplines. Looking into this, selecting the right dissertation topic can be very difficult, but the below guide should give some exciting and interesting topics to catch the tutor’s eye. Each of the below central themes are topically ‘hot’ at the present time.


Russian avant-garde art

Russian art around the period of the late Tsarist era and the immediate years after the revolution saw an explosion of artistic talent and experimentation. A dissertation on this theme has huge scope and connects into the changing political climate of the day as well. As Russia headed toward revolution, there was a division between those artists in exile, and those artists who remained. Which represented the truer form of art is a point currently debated in art circles.

  • How the early constructivists – Matyushin, Miturich and Tatlin developed the abstract movement of sculptural art founded by Antoine Pevsner and Naum Pevsner as they returned to Russia in 1917.
  • To what extent does Kandinsky’s work have a primarily religious motivation.
  • Discuss the experience of the exile in Russian art, with reference to Kandinsky within Bauhaus culture, and how this differed (post revolution) to the culture of those who stayed.
  • How did Elena Guro contribute to the transition of Russian art between symbolism and futurism? An analysis of her influence on Russian art of the period.
  • An analysis of the use of light in Russian avant garde art, with a focus on ‘Movement in Space’ (1922) by Matyushin.
  • An analysis of the Zor-ved organisation and its impact into Russian art of the immediate post-revolutionary period.

Primitive Art

There has been a renewed interest in primitive art forms and animist ideas within art. In looking at primitive art it allows a focus upon native cultures and early art production, as well as seeing how the principles of primitive form impacts artists today. As well as seeing primitive art aside from post-colonial discourse, countries such as Australia are now actively promoting aspects of aboriginal and tribal art. In taking this interest there is a danger that the art becomes part of the non-tribal art world and it loses its original meaning.

  • Did the circulation of African art in the early Colonial period engender Primitivism?
  • How is aboriginal art perceived in the post-colonial context?
  • What were the different reasons for the interest of Picasso and Matisse in Primitive art?
  • In actuality, was primitivism a movement that was actually Eurocentric and biased against the very art it supposedly promoted?
  • How did Gauguin exemplify the primitive art movement?
  • With a focus on Dubuffet, does his childlike art form show a key development of primitive art form?

Pop Art

Pop art has enormous fluidity and presents so many opportunities for analysis and study. Looking into pop art provides the chance to focus on certain specifics in modern cultural life. There is a debate over when exactly the pop art movement actually ended, or whether it still exists today in a morphed form. Aside from the name of Warhol there is so much more to pop art, and it was able to move art in poster form back into the homes of the middle classes.

  • Can popular album covers (Beatles – Abbey Road, Kiss – Destroyer etc.) be considered influential works of art in their own right?
  • A comparison between American and British pop art.
  • Did pop art bring art back into the US living room?
  • Was pop art able to abolish the distinction between fine art and commercial art methods?
  • Is pop art still a recognised artistic form in the twenty-first century?
  • Is the Autopsy of Paris Hilton (2007) a departure from both traditional pop art, and also part of a wider movement of art with celebrity?
  • Did Warhol’s death end the pop art movement?
  • Define the influence of Dada on pop art.

General topics

Below are some general ideas that did not fit into a neat box. Any of the below would provide an interesting angle that could be converted into a powerful dissertation theme. The topics immediately below are all well-researched and have considerable journal information currently available.

  • How does European figurative painting show themes of awakening sexuality? With a focus on the work of Balthus.
  • Was Degas an impressionist or a realist?
  • Does Holbein project the politics of his age in the series of tiny woodcuts, The Dance of Death, should they be viewed as dangerous satire?
  • Can Hieronymus Bosch be seen as an artist who overstepped the conventions of his time?
  • Does the feminist movement of the 1960’s present a better understanding of the “male gaze” in regard to the modern art gallery?

Stepping outside the conventional is also a possible side area in art. Art can be seen in cartoons, in physical body displays and in modern sculpture. When choosing the dissertation topic, it can be fascinating to choose an area that has not been extensively written on. Although the topics may be under researched, there is material there that can be expanded upon with more scope for originality. There is huge scope, for example, in looking at cartoons, and the interest in Manga art in the West shows that art forms are increasingly borrowed and developed anew.

  • What is Art?
  • Discuss the development of artistic representation of women within Marvel comics and how this has changed for the conventions of the time.
  • Is Graffiti a legitimate art form?
  • How do Bacon’s “Screaming Popes” display the pathos of human vulnerability.
  • Compare “The Scream” by Munch with “Scream” by US artist Paul Stanley. How has Stanley developed the theme of the original into a new dimension? Does the same art repeat from one generation to the next under a new banner?
  • A focus on the art of LS Lowry, did Lowry present a new art form or develop existing ideas?
  • Is there anything new possible in art anymore?



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