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Guide to Writing a Formal AnalysisThe BasicsIn the simplest terms, a formal analysis is an analysisof any artwork in terms of its formal qualities. This type of analysis will identify different forms and elements the artist used; however, it goes beyond just listing these aspects. It describes the artist’s use of varying elements (line, color, space, and/or texture) and interprets the meaning behind those elements. Keep in mind that not every art element or design principle will apply to every piece of art! A well-written formal analysis should include the following three items: identification of the formal elements and/or design principles usedclear and elaborative descriptions of the identified elementsexplanation of the effect the elements have on the overall work of art****The Four Parts of Analysis***1.DESCRIPTION–defining and describing the work of art using art elements and the principles of design.“What do you see?”a.Basic Facts (artist’s name, medium, title, date, location, condition)b.Art Elements (line, shape, light, color, texture, space)2.ANALYSIS–researching the reasons why the artist used certain elements and exploring what these features suggest about the work. “How did the artist do it?”a.Subject Matter (iconography)b.Formal Qualities (perspective, brushwork or handling, proportion, composition)c.Design Principles (unity, variety, balance, emphasis, scale, mass/volume, rhythm, setting, interior/exterior relationship)3.INTERPRETATION–discovering the meaning behind the artwork and relating it to historical context.“Why did the artist create it and what does it mean?”a.Theme (overall meaning of the work)b.Style (personal style, national style, period style)c.Patronage (commissioner of the work)d.Historical Context (evidence of the time)4.JUDGMENT–assessing if the work succeeded in conveying its intended purpose, in relation to other works from the same period. “Is it a good piece of art?”a.Art Historian Critiqueb.Historical Significancec.Personal Statement
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