Write a substantial paragraph (at least 15 sentences--probably more) on your response to William Hogarth's Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn (an engraving from a painting done in 1738). Your FIRST SENTENCE should be a THESIS sentence. A THESIS gives your controlling idea, central concept, main point. What generalization do you get from the picture? What does the artist "say" about his subjects? What idea or concept pervades the work and unifies a significant number of the details?
WARNING: Beware of writing a thesis sentence that is so general as to be too obvious and, therefore, "empty." For example, DO NOT use as your thesis such a broad generalization as "This picture shows mass confusion in a dressing room." OR "Hogarth depicts a variety of preparations before the actresses go onstage." Such observations may be true, but they are also SO BROAD that almost anyone could have come to these very general conclusions within a few seconds of looking at the picture. Therefore, these generalizations don't reveal enough of a SPECIAL OBSERVATION to call attention to for the paragraph's central idea. They're too broad to be interesting. To get a better thesis, keep challenging yourself to REFINE the broader concepts you begin with, until you have arrived at something more limited. What you should be after, therefore, is a LIMITED GENERALIZATION or a SIGNIFICANT GENERALIZATION. Don't be in too much of a hurry to find a thesis. Good writing is the product of careful thinking. In any writing you do, most ideas that come to you quickly, without much analysis of your subject, will be trite/commonplace/dull simply because you've not examined your subject in sufficient depth to extract from it a provocative, insightful thesis to engage the reader's attention.
(For practice, apply the above challenge to another work of art, Paul Cadmus' Coney Island. If you were constructing a thesis to help your reader view Cadmus' work, you might initially assert something like this: "Cadmus' Coney Island depicts people having fun at the beach." But such a valid statement is so broad as to show almost no special insight into the painting. The challenge here would be to examine the various examples of "fun" and then write a statement that asserts something special about the nature of the fun shown in Cadmus: "While some of the beachgoers depicted in Paul Cadmus' Coney Island enjoy themselves passively, several boorish characters delight in making pests of themselves." OR, "In their crude exuberance, many of Cadmus' beachgoers are having fun in ways that don't require a beach or the ocean for their amusement." A good thesis should arouse the reader's interest. Which of the following theses is likely to interest you the most?--"Cadmus shows people doing their own thing at the beach." OR "Cadmus depicts a number of crude-looking beachgoers who are determined to enjoy themselves no matter how silly, annoying, and downright vulgar they might appear to others.")
Your other sentences should support your thesis with specific details from the Hogarth picture. Assume that your reader will not be looking at a copy of the painting when reading your paragraph--so that you will be encouraged to give detailed descriptions. Thus, one test of your writing here: put your picture aside, read your writing, and decide whether you have described the picture enough so that the reader can VISUALIZE it in its absence. Your reader should be able to visualize MORE than just a few details; make your thesis and description COMPREHENSIVE of a NUMBER of details THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE WORK.
WARNING: Don't focus on how similar or different Hogarth's dressing room and actresses are when compared to a similar scene today. Such a comparison goes outside the painting. Hogarth presumably didn't intend his picture to be compared with future versions of actresses.