So you are thinking about your Comparative Study.

Your art teacher has possibly/probably already asked you to have a couple of goes at this component, making the selection, the analysis and the comparison as sort of rehearsal for the real thing, (so the idea should not come as  a complete surprise!?)

But with the end of year 1 fast approaching and that long summer on the horizon, you may be wondering if there is anything useful you could do (when you are not lying on a beach or doing all the things that you might prefer to do).

As a reminder, you must examine and compare at least three pieces, at least two of which should be by different artists. They don’t have to be paintings – the wording refers to “artworks, objects or artifacts” – so it’s perfectly possible to compare (for example) a Viking brooch with an Aztec mask, etc.

Ideally, you will have experienced at least one of the works “in real time” such as a painting at an art gallery, a sculpture in a park or an artefact from the local community – although this is not essential.

Good quality reproductions can be referred to if you do not have access to ‘real’ art.

The works selected for comparison and analysis should come from contrasting cultural contexts, so even though you love (for example) Pop Art, please try to restrict yourself to having just one example in your study. It’s hard, I know, but think of the poor examiner who is seeing his 61st Warhol “Marilyn”. There are artists other than Andy Warhol.

The IB say that you should “use research and inquiry skills to investigate and interpret the selected pieces, applying aspects of critical theory and methodologies to the works examined and presenting their findings as a personal and critically reflective analysis, using both visual and written forms of notation”.

Finding your art from contrasting cultural contexts is important, and the works could, of course, be more or less random choices.

On the other hand, you could choose a linking idea or theme.

 How about self-portraits? Here are five links (and quotes) from some “TOP TEN” art theme sites all from the Guardian (online newspaper)

1 The top 10 self-portraits in art

From an anxious Lucian Freud to an enigmatic Rembrandt and a noirish Cindy Sherman, these self-portraits take the selfie to a new artistic level


OK, self-portraits as a theme for your comparative study might be a bit obvious…

but what about corpses?

2 The top 10 corpses in art

From toppled toreadors to inanimate aristocrats, with a Christ or two on the way, take a tour of art’s most interesting cadavers


Or crime scenes?

3 The top 10 crime scenes in art

From Magritte’s assassin to Caravaggio’s cardsharps and Warhol’s unforgettable take on race riots of the 60s, here are the best artworks that tackle jealousy,


Or skyscrapers?

4 The top 10 skyscrapers in art

From Warhol’s eight-hour epic Empire to Gaudí’s plans for his own Hotel Attraction, the high-rise has loomed large in the artistic imagination


Or picnics?

5 The top 10 picnics in art

From scandalous scenes in the French countryside to Rubens’ plea for the pleasures of peace, here are the finest al fresco dining paintings in history



  • Focus your analysis and interpretation by considering the role of the artist, the artwork, the audience and the cultural context.
  • Show your understanding through both visual and written forms; use the most appropriate means of presenting and communicating your findings.
  • Include relevant and helpful graphics e.g. annotated sketches and diagrams, annotations on copies of artworks, other visual organizing techniques such as flowcharts, relative importance graphs, concept webs etc
  • Include an introduction: tell the examiner what you are going to be discussing – summarize the scope of your investigation.
  • Balance visual and written content!
  • Acknowledge all sources.