Visual/Formal Analysis

Visual/Formal Analysis Guidelines:


Each student is required to complete a formal visual analysis of one work of modern art of his or her choosing. The artwork may not be one that has been reviewed or discussed in any of our lectures, readings or supplementary material for the class and therefore will require you to locate a work through a major museum or other collection. As there are an unending supply of modern artworks, this should not be a difficult task. (If you do choose a work that has been discussed within the class material, your grade for this assignment will be lowered 10 points out of a possible 100.) Please be sure that the artwork you have selected is an example of modern art which should be roughly from 1850-1970.


Your Visual Analysis should include a clear and stated thesis/argument that you support with visual evidence from the work itself. It should be formal and thoughtful investigation of the artwork, similar to what we do in class, to express how the work is an example of a certain style or category of modern art, and/or how it exhibits a meaning or message through its depiction. You will want to carefully consider the medium of the artwork, the date the work was completed, and the subject matter of the work. After you have spent some time contemplating the artwork, form an argument that draws on our class readings, lectures, and discussions. This is no time to be brief! You should explain your points with specific details, as if the reader has never seen the artwork you’ve selected, and has little knowledge of modern art history. You may find it easiest to select a work from the time periods we have already covered in class, however, you are by no means limited to that. [If you do select a work from a later time period of Modernism, it may be helpful to look ahead to see if an upcoming class reading better relates to your analysis.] As I have mentioned, you may wish to do a minimal amount of research on the artist or artwork to strengthen your argument, though it is not required, but you should remember that research is not the focus of this paper. You are to make your own points about the artwork and the artistic decisions made by the artist while creating the work, and consider the historical background of the time in which it was created. If you do include any research, or quote from any of our class readings that pertain to the subject matter (which I encourage you to do if possible!), you must be sure to include bibliographical citations for any texts that you use within your paper.  Failure to do so is plagiarism and will result in a zero for the assignment.

You must include an image of the artwork you are discussing as well as a complete identification for the work (at minimum this must include the artist’s name, title, and date of the work).


The Visual Analysis is to be 2-3 pages in length, 12-point font, double-spaced, with normal margins, in Times New Roman or a similar standard font. It is due at the start of class on Thursday, September 27th. Failure to submit the work on time will result in a 10-point deduction for each day late. The Visual Analysis is worth approximately 10% of your final grade.


As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns you have about the assignment, as I am happy to help. (I am also very willing to review any drafts of the assignment that are emailed to me before Tuesday, September 25th.)

Please proofread your papers before submitting them!!

**As another helpful guide, you may wish to watch Kahn Academy’s video “Art historical analysis (painting), a basic introduction using Goya’s Third of May, 1808”


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