Why are we doing this assignment? This project is designed to test how well you as a student have learned how to do basic visual and contextual analysis as a result of what we have learned so far about art in general and how to “read” art. Just like we read a book, you must realize by now that we also read artworks. Once you have studied art, it is difficult to look at an artwork without seeing it as more than just what the human eye can perceive on surface level. The potential for finding inspiration, meaning, understanding etc. makes every artwork a tool for discovery.
For this assignment, every student will need to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts in person. If you only take classes online, and you are more than one hour’s drive from the museum, please contact me and we will think of an alternative museum for you to visit. When you visit the museum, you will need to find two works of art-either paintings, drawings, or sculptures- that you can use for this project. However, I need to offer some words of caution. You will need to use scholarly sources for this analysis project so try not to pick anything by an artist who has not been written about or is too modern for significant scholarly writing on the artist. Oftentimes, art scholars are up to twenty years behind in studying artists once they have gained a solid reputation as an artist. That is not to say that you cannot use modern art-there are several artists with a significant ouvre in the modern and contemporary art sections of the museum, including Pablo Picasso, Donald Judd, Eva Hesse and others. It is perhaps wise to bring your phone and look up the artist to see if they are established. You can go to the art database JSTOR to see if there are any articles on that artist found on your library website.
Points for this Assignment: 150 points.
For this assignment:
• You will use one of the artworks to do a visual analysis answering the questions for visual analysis that are provided with this assignment. DO NOT write them out in question-and-answer format. The point is to incorporate them within your essay. You will need to utilize one scholarly resource to include information about the artist in your visual analysis. Scholarly resources include peer-reviewed articles, books by a scholarly press-this does not include websites (including museum websites) or coffee table books on art. Scholarly publishers on art include: Thames & Hudson, Norton, Prestel, Blackwell etc…If you do not know, look up the publisher and see if they are an academic publisher. Publishing houses like Random House, Harper Collins etc…are not appropriate for this assignment even if they publish biographical material on the artist.
• You will use one of the artworks to do a conceptual analysis answering the questions for conceptual analysis provided with this assignment. DO NOT write them out in question-and-answer format. The point is to incorporate them within your essay. You will need to utilize TWO scholarly sources to include information about the context, circumstances, historical and political climate during the time period when the artist created the work etc…Again do not use websites (even museum websites) Scholarly resources include peer-reviewed articles, books by a scholarly press-this does not include websites (including museum websites) or coffee table books on art. Scholarly publishers on art include: Thames & Hudson, Norton, Prestel, Blackwell etc…If you don’t know, look up the publisher and see if they are an academic publisher. Publishing houses like Random House, Harper Collins etc…are not appropriate for this assignment even if they publish biographical material on the artist.
You must provide the following:
• One visual analysis of no less than 500 words of one artwork found in the Detroit Institute of Arts. You must also provide a picture of the work from either Artstor or other scholarly image source-Pictures of artworks may be used for educational purposes and copyright on photos only exists if the photographer has made an artistic adjustment to the photograph that creates a noticeable change. Since most works will be past seventy years old-there usually isn’t a copyright problem.
• One conceptual analysis (Historical/biographical/religious/iconographic) of no less than 500 words of one artwork found in the Detroit Institute of Arts. You must also provide a picture of the work.
• You must also attach or cut and paste a picture of you in front of one of the artworks and a picture of the ticket you received. If you are not given one, you can ask for a paper ticket.
• You must use this caption format under the picture: Artist Name, Title, Year, Medium:
Example: Claude Monet. Gladioli. 1871. Oil on Canvas. Make the font bold and italicize the title.
• A bibliography of your scholarly sources. Please use Chicago Style found with this link: https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/turabian/turabian-notes-and-bibliography-citation-quick-guide.html.
• Always use quotation marks for quotes. Use footnotes for sources. The format is also found on the above link.
• DO NOT PLAGIARIZE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. You must give credit for both the words and ideas of whatever author whose source you choose to utilize.
• Please make sure you make every attempt to use proper grammar and spelling. If you need help, PLEASE USE THE WRITING CENTER. THAT IS WHY THEY EXIST.
• Place all pictures at the back of your paper-otherwise there are usually adjustment problems in the text.
• Format: Use 12 pt. font: Either Roman New Times or Arial. PLEASE DOUBLE-SPACE.
Due Date: Monday April 10, 2023
Questions for Visual Analysis
These questions are taken from:
Adan, Elizabeth and Karen M. Gocsik. Writing About Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2019.
You must answer at least 5 of the following questions within your essay-work the answers into the essay. Do NOT list the questions and then answer them.
1. Is the artwork representational or abstract?
2. How natural or realistic is the work?
3. What medium has the artist used?
4. What kinds of techniques does the artist use-brushstrokes, texture etc.
5. What is the size and scale of the artwork? How does this affect your perception of the piece?
6. Is there anything I can learn from the title?
7. Are there any notable linear elements evident in the artwork? How would you describe these linear elements? Are they thick, thin, curved straight?
8. Are there any patterns in the ways the lines are used?
9. What types of shapes does the artist use? Are they geometric or organic?
10. What types of color does the artwork use? Warm or cool colors? Bright or muted colors? Are there a large range of colors used? How intense is the color?
11. How does the artwork use lighting in the artwork?
12. How is the artwork lit within the museum?
13. How do the surrounding artworks effect your perception of this artwork?
14. Does the artwork use perspective of any kind?
15. Does the artwork appear two-dimensional (flat) or three dimensional?
16. Is there a focal point in the artwork?
17. How are the elements of the artwork arranged in relation to one another?
18. What types of materials did the artist use to create the artwork? Is there visible evidence of the tools the artist uses?
For sculpture only:
1. What sculptural material has the artist used? (Stone, metal, wood, etc.)
2. Has the artist used casting, carving, construction or other types of assembly?
3. Is the artwork three-dimensional? Does this lend to a more or less natural portrayal of the subject?
4. Does the sculpture have a light or heavy mass? Does it seem solid or heavy?
5. Is the sculpture displayed in a way that it can be clearly seen?
6. How does the display in the museum affect the artwork? (Lighting, etc.)
7. Is the sculpture painted or decorated?
8. Does the sculpture stand on a pedestal?
9. Is the sculpture representational or abstract?
10. What is the size and scale of the sculpture? How does this affect your perception?
11. What types of shapes did the sculptor use?
12. Does the sculpture contain color, line, shape?
Questions for Contextual Analysis
The first 13 questions come from: https://www.studentartguide.com/articles/how-to-analyze-an-artwork
The remaining questions have been adapted from:
D’Alleva, Anne. Look! The Fundamentals of Art History, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.
You MUST answer at least 5 of these questions. You MUST answer questions 1, 11, 14 and 18. Do NOT list the questions and then answer them.
1. Supported by research, can you identify when, where and why the work was created and its original intention or purpose?
2. Have people been included? What can we tell about them (i.e. identity; age; attire; profession; cultural connections; health; family relationships; wealth; mood/expression)?
3. Can we work out relationships between figures from the way they are posed?
4. What do the clothing, furnishings, accessories (horses, swords, dogs, clocks, business ledgers and so forth), background, angle of the head or posture of the head and body, direction of the gaze, and facial expression contribute to our sense of the figure’s social identity (monarch, clergyman, trophy wife) and personality (intense, cool, inviting)?
5. What props and important details are included (drapery; costumes; adornment; architectural elements; emblems; logos; motifs)? How do aspects of setting support the primary subject?
6. What is the effect of including these items within the arrangement (visual unity; connections between different parts of the artwork; directs attention; surprise; variety and visual interest; separates / divides / borders; transformation from one object to another; unexpected juxtaposition)?
7. Does the artwork communicate an action, narrative or story (i.e. historical event or illustrate a scene from a story)? Has the arrangement been embellished, set up or contrived?
8. Do key objects or images have symbolic value or provide a cue to meaning?
9. What is the overall mood (i.e positive; energetic; excitement; serious; sedate; peaceful; calm; melancholic; tense; uneasy; uplifting; foreboding; calm; turbulent)?
10. Which subject matter choices help to communicate this mood (i.e. weather and lighting conditions; color of objects and scenes)?
11. Which events and surrounding environments have influenced this work (i.e. natural events; social movements such as feminism; political events, economic situations, historic events, religious settings, cultural events)? What effect did these have?
12. Which key biographical details about the artist are relevant in understanding this artwork (upbringing and personal situation; family and relationships; psychological state; health and fitness; socioeconomic status; employment; ethnicity; culture; gender; education, religion; interests, attitudes, values and beliefs)?
13. How might your own upbringing, beliefs and biases distort your interpretation of the artwork? Does your own response differ from the public response, that of the original audience and/or interpretation by critics?
14. Who was this artwork intended for? How do you think that affected the artwork? What were the patron’s motives in sponsoring this work? To what extent did the patron participate in its creation?
15. Is there any religious symbolism in the artwork? Does the artwork encourage meditation, devotion etc…and how?
16. Who was able to see the work? Under what circumstances? What was the response of contemporary viewers to this work?
17. What was the political, religious, or social context in which this work was created?
18. What political, religious and/or social messages are being conveyed through the subject matter or artistic style of the work?
19. How does the title affect the meaning of the artwork for the viewer?
If these things are missing, your grade will be significantly affected:
• The required scholarly sources. If you use websites for sources, you will lose 25 points minimum up to 25% of your possible grade for each analysis.
• The number of words-at least 500 words for EACH analysis or you will lose 25 percent of your possible grade for each analysis.
• Not answering 5 questions for both types of analysis.
• Not attempting to make the writing clear and understandable.
• Not giving credit for sources.
• Change in writing style within the paper-this indicates plagiarism.
Some issues I’ve had in the past:
Students emailing me two days before the assignment is due and saying they didn’t have time to go to the museum-You have almost a month. I will ignore this type of email.
Students emailing me two days before the assignment and saying they just got ill and they don’t have time to finish the assignment. Once again, you have a month. Exceptions will of course be made for chronic illness with a doctor’s notice.
Play it safe and do the work early so you at least get a great deal of it done before the week it is due! Or take your chances…but it will be your responsibility for the result.
And no, I will not accept virtual visits to museums-I need you to go-that is a very important part of learning about art-seeing it in person! Plus, with your student ID, it is Free! We can make arrangements for you to visit a museum closer to home if you live far away, but we must choose the alternative together!
Try to enjoy this assignment-it looks like a lot but it really isn’t. Enjoy the museum!