Prof. Patrick Gallagher
Art Analysis Writing Assignment
The Formal Analysis
Due Monday, April 24, 2013
Choose one work in one of the exhibitions at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art dated before 1400 CE.
Note the dates for the exhibitions. Hopefully you will have gone on the Art Club's trip to the museum. If you wish to go somewhere else, please clear it with the instructor.
Guidelines for the assignment
The Art Analysis writing assignment for Art History 1 is designed to develop your skill in analyzing and writing about works of art. Each formal analysis will follow the guidelines stated below. Papers must be typed or word-processed in 12-point type and be double-spaced. Allow sufficient margins for comments, about one to one and a half inches on each side.
The paper must include a Bibliography and Citations.
Keep in mind that a formal analysis is not a research paper; it is an exercise in perception and articulation. A formal analysis requires you to be aware of what you are seeing and to understand how and why a work elicits a certain response in you, or suggests a particular meaning to you. It includes a description of a work of art, but it goes beyond mere description because it tells how the described object "works." That is, it analyzes how the component parts work together, and how the artistic choices (choices of medium, shape, color, etc.) communicate the message of the work to the viewer.
Choose one work that particularly engages you. Take time to look at the work in detail; make a simple sketch of the work, get a reproduction or if allowed, take a picture. Include the image with your report. Ask yourself: "How does the piece ‘work’? What is the artist doing? Why do I have a particular response (such as joy, fear, curiosity)?" Your response is, to a great extent, the result of the choices the artist has made in the process of creation. You will find useful ideas for thinking and writing about works of art in the text, Sylvan Barnett’s A Short Guide to Writing About Art.
The following is a specific outline for this paper. Part of your grade will be determined by how well you follow this outline. Other important aspects are thoroughness, clarity, and a demonstrated sensitivity to the work of art.
Include specific information about the work within the first few paragraphs of your essay analysis: title, artist, date, dimensions, medium of the work, and the name of the exhibition in which the works was displayed.
Introduce the reader to the work of art by writing a brief, overall description of it. Discuss the Elements of Art and Principles of Design that you think are important in understanding and analyzing this work.
Discuss the medium the artist used and how the artist exploited the particular qualities of this medium.
Always refer to the artist by her or his last name, not the first name.
Explain your personal response to the work based on its form as you analyzed it in the previous sections.
Again, include a rough sketch of the artwork or get a reproduction or if allowed, take a picture.. (This will help you see and understand the work. You will not be graded on your drawing skill.) Include a copy of the picture with your report.
Staple the pages together; make sure your name is on the paper.
The following list of the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design will help you to focus on the most important aspects of the work you are analyzing.
Discuss the element or principles that seem to create the meaning of the work or contribute to its aesthetic quality. Not all elements or principles will apply to all works of art.
Elements of Art
shape and mass
light, value, color
time and motion
Principles of Design
unity and variety
proportion and scale
Although different texts may sometimes use different terms, the basic concepts are the same. The...