Art History

Write a formal (visual) analysis of one artwork of your choice. The selection of the artwork is important; choose a work that is relevant to the themes and periods we have covered in class, and one which interests you.
You may choose from the lecture powerpoints, the textbook, or the online collections of the Met or any museum who has made their collection available online.

The goal of formal analysis is to explain how the formal elements of a work of art affect the representation of the subject matter. The emphasis of your essay should be on analyzing the formal elements, not interpreting the history of the artwork. That said, description of the formal elements is not enough; you must contextualize the formal elements so the reader understands how each of the visual elements shapes the work’s effect on the viewer. You must provide an argument or main point, which you explain and back up, using formal analysis in each of your body paragraphs.

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Start by looking at the artwork, and take notes. If you get stuck, return to the visual elements. What is the overall composition? How does the object maker/artist use line, color, shading, etc.? How are the visual elements arranged? Is there a focal point? Is there a sense of movement? 

Use the terms we’ve gone over so far to discuss the object with the appropriate vocabulary: color, line, composition, negative space, perspective, foreshortening, register, subtractive/additive sculpture, sculpture in the round, high relief, low relief, texture, scale, etc…

Introduction: Your thesis statement should appear clearly in the first paragraph, introducing the main point of the essay. The argument throughout your essay should reflect this main thesis statement. Visit for more details.

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Body: Your paper should be logically organized into paragraphs. It may be helpful to start each paragraph with a sentence that relates to the thesis statement. You should think about the structure of the overall essay before you begin, so that the reader follows a clear plan for your argument.

Conclusion: The end of your essay should briefly summarize what you’ve laid out in the argument. You should however avoid repeating or restating the introduction.

I chose Jalais Hill, Pontoise, 1867.

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