art appreciation 11

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Guide to Formal Analysis A formal analysis reveals the ways in which an artist manipulates formal devices (composition, line, shape, color, etc.) to convey the subject and/or meaning of a work to the viewer. The key to formal analysis is critical observation of the work of art. Careful observation will suggest to you a thesis, hypothesis or central theme related to the meaning of the work, and your analysis will show how individual components or elements contribute to this theme. Begin by describing the work and then support your thesis through an analysis of the formal elements of the work. A formal analysis is not a personal response to a work of art but an attempt to understand how the formal elements shape a viewer’s response to the work. You are not expected to do outside research for formal analysis. You may, however, wish to draw on information that you have acquired through lectures and assigned readings—if you do, please be sure to cite any outside sources that you use! Check the museum labels or captions in your text. You should consider titles, dates, cultural, social, and geographical locations of the artwork in your assessment of the artworks. What is most important here, however, is that you trust your own observations, and do not rely on the texts or words of others to form your conclusions about the work. Start by describing the work as fully as possible:  Artist, Title, Date, Country, Culture, Accession number (from museum label)  Size (in general terms: life-size, colossal, miniature, etc.)  Materials and methods used (e.g., strip-woven textile, wood, bronze, etc.)  Condition (this will be important only if there are problems; i.e., if a sculpture is missing its head, if paint has faded or flaked away, etc.).  Subject matter Questions to Ask When Doing a Formal Analysis The questions listed below are intended to help you look at and analyze art. They are not a checklist of questions that must be answered in your analysis. Some will be pertinent to your topic; some will not. Part of the assignment is for you to figure out which are the most relevant to your analysis. It is helpful, however, to begin by noting the type of sculpture or painting and the choice of materials. Then analyze the composition before you proceed with your discussion of other formal elements (volume, light, etc.) which are subordinate to these three preliminary artistic choices. Also try to think in terms of cause and effect. For example, “The relief is deeply carved. Its surface is highly polished. The sculpture reflects light and captures shadow causing the bright figures to stand out boldly against the dark background. This sharp contrast between light and dark imparts drama to the scene…” Sculpture A. Type of Sculpture: Is it low or high relief, a freestanding figure, a group of figures, a group of figures, a combination of these? B. Methods and Materials: How was the work made? Was it carved out of wood or stone (subtractive method)? Is it modeled from clay or wax, then cast in bronze (additive method)? How does the choice of method and material affect the shape, scale, or design of the work? C. Composition: Is the arrangement of forms symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is the basic form open or closed? That is, does it have a simple, contained silhouette, or do parts thrust out in various directions? If the sculpture is composed of a number of different figures or forms, how are these arranged in relation to each other? D. Volume: What kind of volumetric forms are basic to the work? Are the forms regular and geometric, such as cones, cubes, or pyramids? Or are the shapes irregular ones? Are they jagged or smooth? How are these organized? E. Space: How do form and space interact? Is the work a relief that creates the illusion of space within it? Is the figure meant to be seen in space from a particular view? Is it frontal? Does it turn in space? Can its composition be understood from one view only, or from many views? F. Line: Is there decorative linear emphasis on the surface of the sculpture? Are the dominant linear elements seen in the forms themselves or are they incised in the surface of the forms? Describe the character of the lines: Primarily horizontal, vertical, diagonal, smooth and flowing? Do lines direct the way in which one “reads” the work? G. Light: How does light affect the work? Are the forms and surfaces arranged so that a particular effect of light and shade will be attained? Does light enhance or play against contour? Does light affect the spatial qualities of the work? H. Color and Texture: Consider the surface texture. Is it polished or unpolished? How does this affect the play of light and the expressive qualities of the work? Consider the color of the material, if visible. Is color added? I. Movement: Do the above factors add a sense of movement or stillness? Does the work have a sense of rhythm? Painting A. Type of Painting: Is it a triptych? Is it a single canvas or panel? Is it one of a pair or series of paintings? If body art, is this part of a larger body project? Is the project finished or in progress? B. Methods and Materials: How was the painting made? What is the relationship between the choice and use of pigment and the support? Is it permanent or ephemeral? C. Composition (Surface Organization): How are the forms arranged on the surface of the canvas (picture plane)? Is the composition symmetrical or asymmetrical? Simple or complex? Are rhythms created by the repetition of shapes or colors, or by the relationship of lines and forms to each other? Does the composition change? D. Shapes: What types of shapes are used in the composition? Do they tend to be geometric, or free and irregular? Are certain shapes used more than others are? Do patterns emerge in the use of particular shapes? E. Line: How do lines organize the composition? Are lines important as silhouettes, as edges or forms, as modeling lines (e.g., cross-hatching)? Do particular types of lines dominate the composition (long, quiet horizontals, soft flowing curves, or short, choppy strokes)? Do lines create rhythm or sense of motion? F. Color: What is the organization and intensity of colors? Consider hue, value, and intensity. How do colors relate to each other: in bold contrast or gradual transition? Is color used to focus your attention on certain areas of the composition? How does color help create an illusion of light or depth? G. Space: Is an illusion of space created or denied? Is the depicted space shallow or deep? How are forms arranged within the depicted space? Are they pressed close to the picture plane? Are they set back into the background or into the middle or foreground? What devices are used to create an illusion of space (if there is one)? Consider linear and aerial perspective, overlapping, foreshortening, diminution of scale, etc. H. Volume: What types of volumetric forms take precedence in the painting? I. Light: Can a light source be localized? In what direction does light fall in the picture? What is its intensity and character: evenly distributed, flickering out of shadows, or no depicted illumination at all? Is light used to direct your attention to certain parts of the composition? How does it affect the illusion of space? J. Brushwork: Is it visible? Does it produce tight forms and contours, or free, irregular shapes? How is it related to light, color, form, and rhythm? What kind of surface texture is created smooth, matte, glossy, patchy, open? Does brushwork affect the overall work? K. Movement: Do the above factors play a role in providing a sense of movement or stillness? Do you sense an overall rhythm in the work? L. Point of View: Has the artist established a particular point of view? If yes, where is the viewer situated in relation to the forms in the painting? Looking up from below? Hovering above?vvv Guide to Formal Analysis A formal analysis reveals the ways in which an artist manipulates formal devices (composition, line, shape, color, etc.) to convey the subject and/or meaning of a work to the viewer. The key to formal analysis is critical observation of the work of art. Careful observation will suggest to you a thesis, hypothesis or central theme related to the meaning of the work, and your analysis will show how individual components or elements contribute to this theme. Begin by describing the work and then support your thesis through an analysis of the formal elements of the work. A formal analysis is not a personal response to a work of art but an attempt to understand how the formal elements shape a viewer’s response to the work. You are not expected to do outside research for formal analysis. You may, however, wish to draw on information that you have acquired through lectures and assigned readings—if you do, please be sure to cite any outside sources that you use! Check the museum labels or captions in your text. You should consider titles, dates, cultural, social, and geographical locations of the artwork in your assessment of the artworks. What is most important here, however, is that you trust your own observations, and do not rely on the texts or words of others to form your conclusions about the work. Start by describing the work as fully as possible:  Artist, Title, Date, Country, Culture, Accession number (from museum label)  Size (in general terms: life-size, colossal, miniature, etc.)  Materials and methods used (e.g., strip-woven textile, wood, bronze, etc.)  Condition (this will be important only if there are problems; i.e., if a sculpture is missing its head, if paint has faded or flaked away, etc.).  Subject matter Questions to Ask When Doing a Formal Analysis The questions listed below are intended to help you look at and analyze art. They are not a checklist of questions that must be answered in your analysis. Some will be pertinent to your topic; some will not. Part of the assignment is for you to figure out which are the most relevant to your analysis. It is helpful, however, to begin by noting the type of sculpture or painting and the choice of materials. Then analyze the composition before you proceed with your discussion of other formal elements (volume, light, etc.) which are subordinate to these three preliminary artistic choices. Also try to think in terms of cause and effect. For example, “The relief is deeply carved. Its surface is highly polished. The sculpture reflects light and captures shadow causing the bright figures to stand out boldly against the dark background. This sharp contrast between light and dark imparts drama to the scene…” Sculpture A. Type of Sculpture: Is it low or high relief, a freestanding figure, a group of figures, a group of figures, a combination of these? B. Methods and Materials: How was the work made? Was it carved out of wood or stone (subtractive method)? Is it modeled from clay or wax, then cast in bronze (additive method)? How does the choice of method and material affect the shape, scale, or design of the work? C. Composition: Is the arrangement of forms symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is the basic form open or closed? That is, does it have a simple, contained silhouette, or do parts thrust out in various directions? If the sculpture is composed of a number of different figures or forms, how are these arranged in relation to each other? D. Volume: What kind of volumetric forms are basic to the work? Are the forms regular and geometric, such as cones, cubes, or pyramids? Or are the shapes irregular ones? Are they jagged or smooth? How are these organized? E. Space: How do form and space interact? Is the work a relief that creates the illusion of space within it? Is the figure meant to be seen in space from a particular view? Is it frontal? Does it turn in space? Can its composition be understood from one view only, or from many views? F. Line: Is there decorative linear emphasis on the surface of the sculpture? Are the dominant linear elements seen in the forms themselves or are they incised in the surface of the forms? Describe the character of the lines: Primarily horizontal, vertical, diagonal, smooth and flowing? Do lines direct the way in which one “reads” the work? G. Light: How does light affect the work? Are the forms and surfaces arranged so that a particular effect of light and shade will be attained? Does light enhance or play against contour? Does light affect the spatial qualities of the work? H. Color and Texture: Consider the surface texture. Is it polished or unpolished? How does this affect the play of light and the expressive qualities of the work? Consider the color of the material, if visible. Is color added? I. Movement: Do the above factors add a sense of movement or stillness? Does the work have a sense of rhythm? Painting A. Type of Painting: Is it a triptych? Is it a single canvas or panel? Is it one of a pair or series of paintings? If body art, is this part of a larger body project? Is the project finished or in progress? B. Methods and Materials: How was the painting made? What is the relationship between the choice and use of pigment and the support? Is it permanent or ephemeral? C. Composition (Surface Organization): How are the forms arranged on the surface of the canvas (picture plane)? Is the composition symmetrical or asymmetrical? Simple or complex? Are rhythms created by the repetition of shapes or colors, or by the relationship of lines and forms to each other? Does the composition change? D. Shapes: What types of shapes are used in the composition? Do they tend to be geometric, or free and irregular? Are certain shapes used more than others are? Do patterns emerge in the use of particular shapes? E. Line: How do lines organize the composition? Are lines important as silhouettes, as edges or forms, as modeling lines (e.g., cross-hatching)? Do particular types of lines dominate the composition (long, quiet horizontals, soft flowing curves, or short, choppy strokes)? Do lines create rhythm or sense of motion? F. Color: What is the organization and intensity of colors? Consider hue, value, and intensity. How do colors relate to each other: in bold contrast or gradual transition? Is color used to focus your attention on certain areas of the composition? How does color help create an illusion of light or depth? G. Space: Is an illusion of space created or denied? Is the depicted space shallow or deep? How are forms arranged within the depicted space? Are they pressed close to the picture plane? Are they set back into the background or into the middle or foreground? What devices are used to create an illusion of space (if there is one)? Consider linear and aerial perspective, overlapping, foreshortening, diminution of scale, etc. H. Volume: What types of volumetric forms take precedence in the painting? I. Light: Can a light source be localized? In what direction does light fall in the picture? What is its intensity and character: evenly distributed, flickering out of shadows, or no depicted illumination at all? Is light used to direct your attention to certain parts of the composition? How does it affect the illusion of space? J. Brushwork: Is it visible? Does it produce tight forms and contours, or free, irregular shapes? How is it related to light, color, form, and rhythm? What kind of surface texture is created smooth, matte, glossy, patchy, open? Does brushwork affect the overall work? K. Movement: Do the above factors play a role in providing a sense of movement or stillness? Do you sense an overall rhythm in the work? L. Point of View: Has the artist established a particular point of view? If yes, where is the viewer situated in relation to the forms in the painting? Looking up from below? Hovering above?vvv

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