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HOW TO LOOK AT ARTWORK FOR YOUR PAPER
A successful visual analysis answers questions like:
• What is happening in this artwork?
• What is the first thing you notice about
• What was its intended function?
• Is the artwork similar to an artwork you
learned about in class?
• What is in the foreground? What is in the
• Discuss the formal elements: line, shape,
light & dark, mass & volume, color, space,
texture, and time & motion.
• Consider elements of design: focal point,
rhythm, repetition, and proportion.
• How big is it?
• Look at the colors. Discuss the hues,
values, and intensities.
• After examining it, is there anything new
or unexpected you notice?
• Does it look like an artwork you have
seen in class? What does it look like and
how does it look like it?
• Why did the artist make this piece?
• What is it made of (medium/materials)?
Ask these questions about the idea of the museum and the display environment!
• How are the artworks arranged in the museum – by culture, time period, style, artist?
• How many artworks are in each room? (just an estimation)
• How are the artworks arranged in a gallery room – side-by-side, one-on-top-of-another?
• What kind of lighting is in the room? Is there a skylight or any open windows?
• How do you feel when you enter the gallery room – overwhelmed, intrigued, surprised,
excited? Why do you think you feel that way?
• Is there wall text? Where is it located – near you or on an opposite wall?
• Does the wall text help you understand the art pieces?
• Does every artwork have an explanatory caption or only a few pieces? Which ones? Why?
• Are there any artworks that the museum puts in a prominent location? Which ones? Why?