It is an analysis of the material qualities of an object that are controlled by the artist, including elements such as line, space, shape/form, color, value, texture, scale, composition.
A formal analysis assumes a work of art is:
- a constructed object
- with stable meaning
- that can be determined by studying the relationships between the elements
This is not a just description of the work but an exploration of why the form supports the content and context of a work, whereas a description would only state what appears on the surface. A formal analysis is meant to be pursued from an objective perspective and should not include opinions on the piece itself, or any outside information about the artwork, artist, or time period. Even if you ultimately use a formal analysis as part of a larger writing that expresses personal opinion and/or a reading into the meaning of an artwork, the portion of your writing that is devoted to a formal analysis should stay focused only on the material qualities of the work itself.
Formal Analysis Assignment Due before Week 3 Tutorial
1. Listen to the podcast, look at the websites, and read all three required readings.
2. Consider the three images that follow these instructions. Choose one of these images and, in your own words, discuss three formal elements of this image in relation to the principles of design, and provided vocabulary. Describe what elements you notice, what they look like, and what effect it has within the larger artwork. This discussion will be your formal analysis for this assignment. It would be helpful to view these images in person, and take notes while you are at the gallery to develop a thorough analysis.
3. This writing is 300-500 words. It should not be structured like a regular essay (i.e. you do not need an intro, body, conclusion or a thesis statement), but you should write out your analysis in complete sentences, contained within a single paragraph.
4. Make sure to include the artist, title, and year somewhere in this paragraph (most likely, you will do so within the first couple of sentences).
5. Be objective. Stay focused on the form of your chosen work – do not bring in outside information (like historical context, personal biography, or your judgement of taste i.e. like or dislike).
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog, (around 1665) Oil on Canvas – 81.3 x 64.1 cm.
Church In Yuquot Village, 1929. Oil on Canvas, 108.6 x 68.9 cm