Choose one artwork, or a pair of art works that is currently on display at a museum in Baltimore or you can conduct a virtual museum visit. Visit the museum and write a response paper centered on your museum experience AND your chosen object(s) using formal and contextual methods of analysis.
Steps to completion:
1) Your paper will be a detailed analysis of one or two works on display at the museum, and your experience of the museum environment itself.
The primary emphasis of the paper should be your own description and analysis, informed by what you have learned about style and historical contexts.
This is NOT a research paper.
2) You are encouraged to include references to other works at the museum, or images we have studied in class in order to supplement your discussion, but the primary focus of your discussion should be the object(s) observed at the museum and an analysis of the museum space itself.
3) The work(s) you choose can be of any medium e.g. painting, sculpture, calligraphy etc. The exact work(s) you choose does not have to be featured in our textbook, but the work(s) you choose to write about should correspond to a point within the chronology and periods we will have studied in class by the end of the semester.
4) FORMAT: your paper should be 2-3 pages long (EXCLUDING title page, image(s), bibliography) and should be double spaced, using 12pt font and 1″ (inch) margins.
Your paper must include images of the main work or works you have chosen to respond to with full image captions underneath them (artist, title, date, medium etc)
5) Local Museums:
- Baltimore Museum of Art http://www.artbma.org/ (
Links to an external site.)
- The Walters Art Museum http://thewalters.org/
(Links to an external site.)
- The American Visionary Art Museum http://www.avam.org/ (
Links to an external site.)
- The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum http://www.
greatblacksinwax.org/ (Links to an external site.)
- Reginald F. Lewis Museum http://www.
rflewismuseum.org/ (Links to an external site.)
- The Jewish Museum of Maryland http://
jewishmuseummd.org/ (Links to an external site.)
Essay Schedule: Due Sunday, March 8 at 11:59 pm
Museum Visit: Formal Analysis Paper Assignment
Description: A formal analysis includes an analysis of the forms appearing in the work you have chosen. These forms give the work its expression, message, or meaning.
To aid in writing a formal analysis, you should think as if you were describing the work of art to someone who has never seen it before. When your reader finishes reading your analysis, she/he should have a complete mental picture of what the work looks like.
Yet, the formal analysis is more than just a description of the work. It should also include a thesis statement that reflects your conclusions about the work. The thesis statement may, in general, answer a question like these:
What do I think is the meaning of this work?
What is the message that this work or artist sends to the viewer?
What is this work all about?
The thesis statement sets the tone for the entire essay, and sets it apart from being a merely descriptive paper.
Format for the Paper: Two to three pages (not including title page), black ink, double spaced, 12 pt, 1” borders. Make sure you proofread your papers for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other errors. Make sure your paper includes a thesis statement. Your grade will reflect your ability to follow these guidelines.
In the first paragraph, called the introduction, you will include:
- The name of the artist (if known),
- The title (which is italicized every time you use the title in your paper), date, and medium (if known)
- What you think is the subject
- A very brief description of the work
- Your thesis statement – usually the last sentence of your first paragraph.
The rest of the formal analysis should include not only a description of the piece, but the details of the work that have led you to your thesis. Your paper should have a sense of order, moving purposefully through your description with regard to specific elements (ex: one paragraph may discuss composition, another may focus on the description of the figures, another with color, another about line, etc.). Finally, in your conclusion you should end your paper with a restatement of your thesis.
NO RESEARCH IS TO BE USED IN THIS PAPER
You are relying on your ability to visually “read” a work of art and make interpretations about it based on your analysis of it. Please use descriptive language and adjectives to describe your work. Begin with a general description, and then move on to the more specific elements. Any research (quotes or plagiarism) will = a 0, for this assignment.
Points to consider when writing a formal analysis (in no particular order): Keep in mind that you always need to Back Up Your Statements!
- 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?
- What is the subject of the artwork?
- Composition: How are the parts of the work arranged? Is it dynamic? Full of movement? Or is it static?
- 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?)?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 two-dimensional, a space that one could not possibly enter?
- 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?
- Light and Shadow: Are shadows visible? Where? Are there dark shadows, light shadows, or both? How do the shadows affect the work?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
Once you have spent some time analyzing your work, notice if your first impression of the work has changed, now that you have taken a closer look? How? If you came up with a thesis statement before doing this in-depth analysis, you may want to change it if your impression of the work has changed.