The process of looking at a painting, sculpture, photography, and other examples of visual art, providing insight into its mode of execution and meaning, is termed as visual analysis. The pieces of art can also be analyzed for their impact on art, culture, politics of the country, and historical significance.
A lot of such mediums as writing, painting, photography, film, journalism, photo-journalism are mostly used for informative and entertainment purposes. But the process of visual analysis applies to them focusing on execution, themes, forms, and compositional elements of artworks. That is why, as a type of essay, visual analysis essays are mostly used by the students of Communications and Art History faculties.
Among the variety of art branches, the classical paintings remain the most popular topics for visual analysis essay due to their historical significance. For example, let’s analyze Transfiguration, the famous painting of Raphael. If we look at it the first time, we will just see a well-known biblical scene. But if we look deeper, we will be able to distinguish excellent painting techniques, relationships between characters, deep symbolism, and beautiful color choice. This deep insight into the piece of art calls the process of visual analysis. And in this article, we would like to give you instructions for performing a formal analysis of art pieces.
The students who’s major in Art History, English, and Communication are the most active users of visual analysis of art. With the help of visual analysis, Art History students systematically investigate and study the world of art. They look at pieces of art from different periods, analyze, and then discuss them in class.
As the purpose of every writer is to give an image to reader’s head, English literature students are also engaged in visual analysis. Like any piece of art, this image can be clear, or it can be hidden under the characters. It can be factual or emotional. It can challenge you to analyze your emotions or just gives you facts and realities.
Communication major is a giant major in using visual analysis. As its students explore as many mediums as photos and print media, news and films, theater, and music performances, visual analysis for them is the usual practice.
Writing a visual analysis essay can be a challenge for students of all majors, no matter is it art or journalism. But there are some key principles which can be applied to any piece of art, whether it’s a famous painting or photo.
Let’s take, as an example, the most common piece of art for formal analysis and analyze the painting.
There are some key points; we must take into account while analyzing the medium.
1. Who is an artist, and what art period this painting belongs to? Depending on the era of art, we should use different standards of analysis. For example, the subject of the classical painting is, as a rule, a historical event, a scene from literature or Bible. On the other hand, modernists tend to sophisticate classical subjects and develop another approach to art. So using the same standards of analysis to both art forms would be unacceptable.
2. What was the purpose of the artist?
For example, sometimes, classical painters were hired by noble and rich families or the Vatican. That is why the subject of a painting was chosen by the paymaster.
3. What is the audience of this painting?
Some of the artists were interested in amazing masses. Others made their art just for other artists and just for their understanding.
4. What historical context does this painting/artist have?
Before writing the essay, you should make brief research of analyzed painting or artist. Different historical periods have various types of art understanding. By pointing out the features and essence of a specific artistic movement, you will be able to have a better deep understanding of the painting. For example, the points of the Renaissance painter’s analysis will differ greatly from one of the Surrealist artists.
Taking into account all these key points, you’ll get all the needed information for writing an excellent visual analysis essay.
Analysis can also be deeper by exploring different interpretation points, combinations of colors, various reactions, and critics to this piece of art. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper.
Step by step guide to the formal analysis of art
Every Art History student is taught to perform a formal analysis of art at entry-level classes. This is a fundamental skill, which should be developed over the years. But you cannot apply the same types of analysis to every piece of art, because of its unicity.
First of all, specify the most important information about the artist and the piece of art.
Secondly, you should describe in detail all the visible aspects of the painting. What are the subject and main characters of the artwork, and what image does it show in the viewer’s mind? The main points to pay attention to:
The general part of your essay will be the visual analysis of the painting. This analysis depicts the description of the main art elements and design of work.
Note that each piece of art is unique, and depending on that, various design principles and art elements can be discussed in your visual analysis essay.
It’s sufficient to have five paragraphs in a visual analysis essay to reflect the most important aspects of the painting and discuss them relating to your work.
To have an idea about high-quality visual analysis, you can refer to examples on YouTube or on the internet. This is a great way to experience the basic principles and format of such type of work.
Visual analysis is an essential skill not only for students, major in art or communication, and who are aimed at building a career in these fields but also for all people who face digital media in everyday life and should be able to analyze its messages.
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