Formal Visual Analysis Paper Assignment

Submitted by harrisol on Fri, 02/23/2007 - 8:44am.
Formal Visual Analysis Essay Assignment
Due:  Tuesday Week 7 in Lecture

Assignment:  Choose one work of art on view at the Tacoma Art Museum.  This could be a painting, photograph, print, or sculpture. Complete this worksheet on the field trip February 15.  Write a 3-5 page essay in which you make and support an argument about this work of art.  Craft a clear thesis and argument.  Use evidence from the visual analysis you complete at the museum and additional research you might conduct.  Be sure to cite your sources.  Turn in the completed essay and the worksheet.

Name:  _______________________________________________________

I.  Basic Information:

    a.  Title _________________________________________________

    b.  Artist ________________________________________________

    c.  Artist Birth and Death Dates:  _____________________________

    d.  Medium: ______________________________________________

    e.  Size:  ________________ (estimate)

    f.  Year: ___________

II.  Make a sketch of the work:

III.  First Impressions:

    a.  What attracts you to this work?

    b.  What do you see present in the work (objects, shapes, situations)?  Make an

    c.  What physical sensations does the work produce?  How does it make you feel?

    d.  What do you think this work is about?  What were the artist’s intentions?

IV.  Analysis
    1.  Content:
        a.  Are the images representational, abstracted, non-objective?

        b.  Is the work religious, secular, mythological, historical?

        c.  Do the images tell a story?  If so, what is the story?

        d.  What ideas or symbols do you see in the work?  What do they mean?

IV. Analysis continued
    2.  Formal Analysis
        a.  What kind of composition does the artist use?  (central placement of
                            the subject, symmetrical, asymmetrical, triangular, circular).  How does
                            your eye move through the work?  What do you  see
                            first, second, third…  How has the artist achieved this?

        b.  How large is the work in relation to the viewer?  How does this
                             scale make the viewer feel?

        c.  Where is the viewer in relation to the subject?  (In the scene, at a safe
                              distance, looking up, looking down, etc)

        d.  Space:  How has the artist dealt with space?  If the work is two
                             dimensional, does it have deep or shallow space?  How has
                             the artist achieved this?  (linear perspective, atmospheric perspective,
                             overlapping shapes, shading).  If the object is three-dimensional,
                             how does the sculpture relate to the space it occupies?

        e.  Line:  Can you identify a system of lines in the work?  Are diagonal
                             vertical, or horizontal lines suggested?

        f.  Color:  Is the color realistic, expressionistic or symbolic?  Is color
                             used to emphasize a certain feature of the work?

IV. Analysis Continued
    2.  Formal Visual Analysis continued

g.  Light:  How is light used?  Is it realistic, artificial, soft, dramatic,
                             expressionistic?  What is the source of light and what does it

        h.  Texture:  How does the artist use texture (descriptive, decorative,

    3.  Context

        a.  When was the work made?

        b.  Was the work part of a series?

        c.  Who was the patron?  Under what circumstances?

        d.  Was the work a part of a tradition, movement or style?

        e.  Who was the intended audience?

        f.  Where was the work meant to be seen?

        g.  How was the work intended to be used?

V.  Formulate a thesis:  Review your first impressions and analysis.  Based upon this formulate a thesis that presents an argument you plan to make about this work.  The thesis should relate to what you think the work is about.  It will be supported with evidence from the analysis of content, formal visual elements and context.  

VI.  Attach an outline of your paper.  Cite specific evidence from your analysis of content, formal visual elements and context.


Argument I:

    Evidence a, b, and c.

Argument II:

    Evidence a, b and c

Argument III:

    Evidence a, b, and c.


VII.  Write the Paper.  Turn in this worksheet with the paper.