Visual analysis

Selecting one object from a group of fifteen, you will write a concise, two-page visual analysis of
the work. You will aim to describe the work as accurately as you can, given you are working from
a photographic reproduction, and consider how its compositional elements work together to
create a coherent work of art. How do the visual elements work together to create a message,
tell a story, or create a mood.
Things to consider when writing a formal analysis (in no particular order):
Keep in mind that you always need to Back Up Your Statements!

  1. Record your first impression(s) of the artwork. What stands out? Is there a focal point (an
    area to which the artist wants your eye to be drawn)? If so, what formal elements led you to
    this conclusion? Your impressions can help you reach your thesis.
  2. What is the subject of the artwork?
  3. Composition: How are the parts of the work arranged? Is there a stable or unstable
    composition? Is it dynamic? Full of movement? Or is it static?
  4. Pose: If the work has figures, are the proportions believable? Realistic? Describe the pose(s).
    Is the figure active, calm, graceful, stiff, tense, or relaxed? Does the figure convey a mood? If
    there are several figures, how do they relate to each other (do they interact? not?)?
  5. Proportions: Does the whole or even individual parts of the figure(s) or natural objects in the
    work look natural? Why did you come to this conclusion?
  6. Line: Are the outlines (whether perceived or actual) smooth, fuzzy, clear? Are the main lines
    vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved, or a combination of any of these? Are the lines
    jagged and full of energy? Sketchy? Geometric? Curvilinear? Bold? Subtle?
  7. Space: If the artist conveys space, what type of space is used? What is the relation of the
    main figure to the space around it? Are the main figures entirely within the space (if the
    artwork is a painting), or are parts of the bodies cut off by the edge of the artwork? Is the
    setting illusionistic, as if one could enter the space of the painting, or is it flat and twodimensional, a space that
    one could not possibly enter?
  8. Texture: If a sculpture, is the surface smooth and polished or rough? Are there several
    textures conveyed? Where and How? If a painting, is there any texture to the paint surface?
    Are the brushstrokes invisible? Brushy? Sketchy? Loose and flowing? Or tight and controlled?
  9. Light and Shadow: Are shadows visible? Where? Are there dark shadows, light shadows, or
    both? How do the shadows affect the work?
  10. Size: How big is the artwork? Are the figures or objects in the work life-sized, larger or
    smaller than life? How does the size affect the work?
  11. Color: What type of colors are used in the work? Bright? Dull? Complimentary? Does the
    artist use colors to draw your attention to specific areas of the work? How? If a sculpture,
    examine the color(s) of the medium and how it affects the work.
  12. Mood: Do you sense an overall mood in the artwork? Perhaps several different moods? If
    so, describe them. How does the mood interpret how you view the work?

Sample Solution