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A How-To Guide… Formal Analysis Introduction to Art September 4, 2009 Formal Analysis A formal analysis is quite simply an analysis of the forms utilized in the work of art. It is a close inspection of the artist’s use of aspects such as color, shape, line, and space, in addition to others. The formal analysis moves beyond simple description in that it connects the elements of the work to the effects they have on the viewer. Remember: A formal analysis is a thoughtful, descriptive statement of what is seen. An effective formal analysis answers the simple question: “What do you see?” Some Important Points Usually a formal analysis looks only at the elements of art and principles of design Sometimes it includes interpretation The point is to look carefully Elements of Art Color Value Line Shape/(Form) Texture Space Composition Iconography/Subject Matter And so, some questions you need to ask… For Paintings, Drawings, and Etchings… What element do you first notice? What is the second element you notice? How does the artist use color? Are there stark contrasts or is it blended? Are there symbolic meanings behind the color choices? How does the artist use line? Are forms linearly arranged or disordered? Are there geometric shapes implied by the forms in the piece? Are the forms in the piece realistic or abstract? Are they fully one style or do they mix the two? For Sculptures and 3-D Pieces… What is the medium of the piece, and how does it affect the viewer’s impression? (For example, stone gives a sense of permanence and strength.) What was the purpose of this piece? In what setting was it originally placed? Is the piece representational or abstract? Is the artist exploring forms or space within forms? Is the piece a portrait of a person? What type of impression does it give of the subject? Is the pose strong or relaxed? Are there objects with the person? For Architecture and Space… What is the form of the structure, and what is the function? How do form and function complement each other? Is the structure useful? How do people move throughout the structure? Are there significant accommodations or restrictions to this movement? Is the building or space structurally sound, given its location, design, and materials? Do the exterior and interior complement each other? Is either adorned with ornamentation in the form of statuary, color, or paintings? How to begin writing… Format Introduction An evocative statement/thesis Body Paragraph(s) Three or more pieces of evidence to support statement/thesis (reference the “Elements of Art” list) Conclusion A conclusion that is convincing Introduction: A brief, but thorough description of the work What is the title? Who is the artist? What year was it created? What is the artistic style? What is the physical condition of the work? Is it dirty, clean, restored? What is the country or culture of origin? (see next slide) What is the subject matter? Historical Information In other words… What country or region was it made in? Does it belong to a particular movement, age, or school of thought? Is the work typical or not typical of its period, style, or artist? What artistic influences can be seen in the artist's work? The Block, 1971 Romare Bearden One of six panels, Each panel 48” x 36” Cut and pasted printed, colored, and metallic papers, photostats, pencil, ink, marker, gouache, watercolor, pen, and ink on Masonite Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Begin with a thought-provoking or evocative thesis; something that will hook your reader. For example: Bearden’s collage art, such as The Block, 1971, effectively combines elements of cubism to create a visual narrative about the realities of an African-American urban lifestyle. Body Paragraph(s): Analyze the work What elements of art are most prominent or important to the artwork? Consider first how each important element functions alone. Example: Line and color play equally important roles in Kandinsky’s Composition IV. Analyze how the most important elements fit together to create the piece. Consider how the elements fit together. Example: Seemingly random patches of brilliant yellow, red, and green arch around a large hill-like shape of bright blue. Narrow, black lines dissect the picture plane and define the shapes random colors. Recommendations Read the image as you would read text. Begin on one side and work across, relating what you see, or find the most important part of the image and read from that point. Do not skip around. Describe some important details and/or discuss the materials or methods used to make the artwork. Summarize the overall appearance of the piece. Try to avoid interpretation. Conclusion Push the point Be convincing Now for some practice Gallery Walk There are eight(8) stations set up around the room -- one for each element of art used in formal analysis In groups, you will move from one station to the next, answering the questions associated with that station for each work of art. Feel free to brainstorm in your groups, however, know also that you will not have much time to answer and rotate. The Artwork QuickTime™ and a decompressor are neede d to see this picture. Raphael Madonna, Child, and St. John the Baptist (1504) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are need ed to see this picture. Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night (1889) Pablo Picasso Three Musicians (1921) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are neede d to see this picture. Agesander, Anthenodoros, & Polydorus; Laocoon & his Sons (approx. 40 BC) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are need ed to see this picture. Frank Gehry, Disney Concert Hall (1991) Piet Mondrian Composition I (20th Century) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are neede d to see this picture. QuickTime™ an d a decompressor are need ed to see this picture. Auguste Rodin The Thinker (1932) Albrecht Durer Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1498 QuickTime™ and a decompressor are neede d to see this picture. Artist unknown Christ the Pantocrator (12th Century) QuickTime™ and a decompressor are neede d to se e this picture. Olympic Stadium, Beijing (2008) FINISHED!
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