Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, thick or thin. They lead your eye around the composition and can communicate information through their character and direction. Download a worksheet that introduces students to the concept of line. Horizontal lines suggest a feeling of rest or repose because objects parallel to the earth are at rest. In this landscape, horizontal lines also help give a sense of space. The lines delineate sections of the landscape, which recede into space.
They also imply continuation of the landscape beyond the picture plane to the left and right. Saint Bavo, Haarlem , Pieter Jansz. Vertical lines often communicate a sense of height because they are perpendicular to the earth, extending upwards toward the sky. In this church interior, vertical lines suggest spirituality, rising beyond human reach toward the heavens.
Cabinet , French, about Horizontal and vertical lines used in combination communicate stability and solidity. Rectilinear forms with degree angles are structurally stable. This stability suggests permanence and reliability.
Diagonal lines convey a feeling of movement. Objects in a diagonal position are unstable. Because they are neither vertical nor horizontal, they are either about to fall or are already in motion. The angles of the ship and the rocks on the shore convey a feeling of movement or speed in this stormy harbor scene. The curve of a line can convey energy. Soft, shallow curves recall the curves of the human body and often have a pleasing, sensual quality and a softening effect on the composition.
The edge of the pool in this photograph gently leads the eye to the sculptures on the horizon. Shape and form define objects in space. Forms exist in three dimensions, with height, width, and depth. Download a worksheet that introduces students to the concept of shape. Studies for a Ceiling Decoration , Charles de la Fosse, about Shape has only height and width. Shape is usually, though not always, defined by line, which can provide its contour.
In this image, rectangles and ovals dominate the composition. They describe the architectural details for an illusionist ceiling fresco. Rearing Horse , Adriaen de Vries, — Form has depth as well as width and height. Three-dimensional form is the basis of sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts. Three-dimensional forms can be seen from more than one side, such as this sculpture of a rearing horse.
Geometric shapes and forms include mathematical, named shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, cubes, spheres, and cones. Geometric shapes and forms are often man-made. However, many natural forms also have geometric shapes. This cabinet is decorated with designs of geometric shapes. Gold Wreath , Greek, — B. Organic shapes and forms are typically irregular or asymmetrical.
Organic shapes are often found in nature, but man-made shapes can also imitate organic forms. This wreath uses organic forms to simulate leaves and berries. Real space is three-dimensional. Space in a work of art refers to a feeling of depth or three dimensions. It can also refer to the artist's use of the area within the picture plane.
The area around the primary objects in a work of art is known as negative space, while the space occupied by the primary objects is known as positive space. Ignoring the subject is much easier if the picture represents a grouping of ordinary objects than if it shows a dramatic scene of storm and death at sea.
Nonetheless, anyone can learn a great deal from reading either of them. Ellen Johnson, an art historian and art critic who wrote extensively about modern art, often used formal analysis. One example is a long description of Richard Diebenkorn's Woman by a Large Window Allen Art Museum, Oberlin , which covers the arrangement of shapes into a composition, the application of paint, the colors, and finally the mood of the work.
In Woman by a Large Window the asymmetry of the painting is further enhanced by having the figure not only placed at the left of the picture but, more daringly, facing directly out of the picture. This leftward direction and placement is brought into a precarious and exciting but beautifully controlled balance by the mirror on the right which. The interior of the room and the woman in it are painted in subdued, desert-sand colors, roughly and vigorously applied with much of the drawing achieved by leaving exposed an earlier layer of paint.
The edges of the window, table and chair, and the contours of the figure, not to mention the purple eye, were drawn in this way. In other areas, the top layer, roughly applied as though with a scrub brush, is sufficiently thin to permit the under-color to show through and vary the surface hue.
The bright apple-green of the fields and the very dark green of the trees are enlivened by smaller areas of orange, yellow and purple; the sky is intensely blue. The glowing landscape takes on added sparkle by contrast with the muted interior. Pictorially, however, [the woman] is anchored to the landscape by the dark of her hair forming one value and shape with the trees behind her.
This union of in and out, of near and far, repeated in the mirror image, emphasizes the plane of the picture, the two-dimensional character of which is further asserted by the planar organization into four horizontal divisions: Thus, while the distance of the landscape is firmly stated, it is just as firmly denied.
While the mood of the picture is conveyed most obviously through the position and attitude of the figure, still the entire painting functions in evoking this response. Lonely but composed, withdrawn from but related to her environment, the woman reminds one of the self-contained, quiet and melancholy figures on Greek funerary reliefs. Like them, relaxed and still, she seems to have sat for centuries. It makes the picture seem vivid by referring to something entirely other.
The image also is unexpected, so the description ends with an idea that catches our attention because it is new, while simultaneously summarizing an important part of her analysis. An allusion must work perfectly to be useful, however.
Otherwise it becomes a distraction, a red herring that leads the reader away from the subject at hand. The formal analysis of works other than paintings needs different words.
In Learning to Look , Joshua Taylor identified three key elements that determine much of our response to works of sculpture. The Egyptian sculptor, cutting into a block of stone, has shaped and organized the parts of his work so that they produce a particular sense of order, a unique and expressive total form.
The individual parts have been conceived of as planes which define the figure by creating a movement from one part to another, a movement that depends on our responding to each new change in direction. In this process our sense of the third-dimensional aspect of the work is enforced and we become conscious of the work as a whole. The movement within the figure is very slight, and our impression is one of solidity, compactness, and immobility.
This space becomes an active part of the composition. We are conscious not only of the actual space displaced by the figure, as in the former piece, but also of the space seeming to emanate from the figure of Mercury.
The importance of this expanding space for the statue may be illustrated if we imagine this figure placed in a narrow niche. Although it might fit physically, its rhythms would seem truncated, and it would suffer considerably as a work of art. Rudolf Arnheim also used formal analysis, but as it relates to the process of perception and psychology, specifically Gestalt psychology, which he studied in Berlin during the s.
Less concerned with aesthetic qualities than the authors quoted above, he was more rigorous in his study of shapes, volumes, and composition. In his best-known book, Art and Visual Perception.
A Psychology of the Creative Eye , first published in , Arnheim analyzed, in order: In other books, notably Visual Thinking and the Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts , Arnheim developed the idea that visual perception is itself a kind of thought.
This was not a new idea, but he explored it in relation to many specific visual examples. Arnheim began with the assumption that any work of art is a composition before it is anything else:. When the eyes meet a particular picture for the first time, they are faced with the challenge of the new situation: If the picture is representational, the first task is to understand the subject matter.
About the first, Arnheim wrote:. The central object reposes in stillness even when within itself it expresses strong action. He chastises the merchant with a decisive swing of the right arm, which forces the entire body into a twist. The figure as a whole, however, is firmly anchored in the center of the painting, which raises the event beyond the level of a passing episode.
Although entangled with the temple crowd, Christ is a stable axis around which the noisy happening churns. As soon as we split the compositional space down the middle, its structure changes.
It now consists of two halves, each organized around its own center. Appropriate compositional features must bridge the boundary. But the division is countered by the continuity of the space behind the column. The space is momentarily covered but not interrupted by the vertical in the foreground. The lively interaction between the messenger and recipient also helps bridge the separation. All formal analysis identifies specific visual elements and discusses how they work together.
If the goal of a writer is to explain how parts combine to create a whole, and what effect that whole has on the viewer, then this type of analysis is essential. It also can be used to define visual characteristics shared by a number of objects. When the similarities seem strong enough to set a group of objects apart from others, they can be said to define a "style. All art historians use it. Site design by www. Formal Analysis Formal analysis is a specific type of visual description.
Glossary of Art Terms abstract/abstraction - Abstract means the modification of a (usually) natural form by simplification or distortion. Abstraction is the .
ART CRITICISM AND FORMAL ANALYSIS OUTLINE. ART CRITICISM. Defining Art Criticism · Art criticism is responding to, interpreting meaning, and making critical judgments about specific works of art. · Art critics help viewers perceive, interpret, and judge artworks. · Critics tend to focus more on modern and contemporary art from .
The idea of analyzing a single work of art, especially a painting, in terms of specific visual components was not new. One of the most influential systems was created by the 17th-century French Academician Roger de Piles (). Writing a Formal Analysis in Art History The goal of a formal analysis is to explain how the formal elements of a work of art affect the representation of the subject matter and expressive content.
Learn vocabulary visual art formal analysis with free interactive flashcards. Choose from different sets of vocabulary visual art formal analysis flashcards on Quizlet. Find the right terms to talk about and critique paintings in this list of art words, grouped by topics such as composition, brushwork, or mood.