Art appreciation – formal analysis of an artwork

Art appreciation – formal analysis of an artwork.


This assignment normally requires for you to visit an original artwork in person.

However, this is no longer a requirement. You may do this same assignment using any work from THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT (Links to an external site.)

For the image requirements for this paper please submit a screen shot (feel free to crop the image) of the artwork you chose from THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT. You can also download an image from another website to illustrate your paper, but please remember to cite the source of the image in your works cited page. 


1) Print off these instructions and the Formal Analysis Worksheet before you go.

2) Perform a detailed formal analysis of a single work of art WHILE YOU ARE IN FRONT OF THE WORK.

      a) This is an exercise in looking.  Therefore, any discussion of the artist’s biography, historical context, or your personal experience will not be counted towards the word count.  

      b) Your essay should include a discussion of all the elements and principles listed in the Formal Analysis Guide

Actions.  Each element and each principle should be addressed using three sentences. You discussion of each element or each element may discuss one example in depth, or several examples. For example, you might use three sentences to discuss the color in a figure’s shirt, or you might identify the artist’s use of color in three different places.

      c)  To organize your essay, your overall argument and conclusion should address how the artists used the principle of emphasis.  

      d) Your essay should be 1000-1500 words. Use APA or MLA format.

3)  Turn in an image of the artwork with your essay.

4) Not required: Turn in a picture of yourself in front of the artwork or the museum as proof of having visited.

5) Compositional Design. A compositional design is the student’s visual expression of how the elements and principles work in a specific work of art. No two students will ever have the same compositional design on the same painting. For an example of a compositional design for the painting Las Meninas, see 1.10.12c on p. 185 in your textbook. As you can see, a compositional design is not a recreation of the work of art, but instead it shows the relationships between the elements and principles and emphasizes the ones that are most important.

CHOOSING AN ARTWORK: (Please note that you are not required to see an artwork in person.)

For the purposes of this assignment please chose your artwork carefully.  No copies or reproductions! In other words, the work must be one of a kind. 

It must be a work that is publicly exhibited and the main purpose of the object is to be art.

For this assignment, the work must be a painting, sculpture, or drawing.

Places where works of art can be found:

  • Parks 
  • Public buildings such as churches, city and federal government buildings, and hospitals.
  • Museum of Art or an Art Gallery

  This EXCLUDES items whose main purpose has some other function –  Such as:

  • A car
  • Taxidermy 
  • Furniture
  • Crafts
  • Holiday decorations 
  • Historical exhibits at a history museum
  • Scientific exhibits at a science museum 
  • Any other exhibit at a non-art museum or non art-related institution (such as NASA.) 
  • Ballet or other dance performance
  • Music/ Musical concerts

If you have concerns about the art you have chosen, send a picture and ask before turning it in. 

Art appreciation – formal analysis of an artwork

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