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HON 2200 : Kresser, Art Research


Check Canvas for the details of your assignment:

  • Write a detailed description of your chosen artwork. Imagine your reader cannot see the artwork and needs your words to help imagine it. Approx. 400 words. See Assignment Sheet under Files for more details!
  • Also include an Annotated Bibliography of 3 written sources you can use to learn more about your artwork.

Principles of Description

From: Barrett, Terry. Criticizing Art : Understanding the Contemporary. 3rd ed., McGraw-Hill, 2012, pp. 90- 94.

On reserve at the Front Desk of the library. Ask for call number N7476 .B38 2012  

Principles of Description

  • Description is criticism
  • Description is an essential element of criticism
  • Descriptions are factual
  • Factual descriptions depend on interpretive and evaluative decisions
  • Descriptions are lively
  • Description is a data-gathering process
  • Description is a data-reporting process
  • Describe subject matter
  • Describe medium
  • Describe form
  • Describe context
  • External information is a source of description
  • Description, interpretation, and evaluation are interdependent activities
  • Descriptions and interpretations are meaningfully circular
  • Descriptions are based on relevance to a larger idea

Describing an Artwork

From: Sayre, Henry M. Writing about Art. 4th ed., Prentice Hall, 2002, pp. 64-65.

On reserve at the Front Desk of the library. Ask for call number N7476 .S29 2002

Questions to ask before writing about a work of art

What is the subject matter of the work?

  • What is its title?
  • Does the title help you interpret what you see?
  • Can you imagine different treatments of the same subject matter that would change the way you read the work?

What formal elements are important to the work and how do they relate to its subject matter?

  • How is line employed in the work?
  • Does it seem to regulate or order the composition?
  • Does it seem to fragment the work?
  • Is it consistent with traditional laws of perspective or does it violate them?
  • What is the relation of shape to space in the work?
  • How do light and dark function in the work? Is there a great deal of tonal contrast, or is it held to a minimum?
  • What is the predominant color scheme of the work? Are complementary or analogous colors employed?
  • What other elements seem important? Is your attention drawn to the work's texture? Does time seem an important factor in your experience of the work?

How are the elements organized?

  • Is there significant use of visual rhythm and repetition of elements?
  • Is the composition balanced? Symmetrically? Asymmetrically?
  • Do the work's various elements seem proportional, and how does the question of scale affect your perception?
  • Does the composition seem unified or not?

How has the artist's choice of medium played a role in the presentation of the various elements and their organization or design?

  • Are effects achieved that are realizable only in this particular medium?
  • If more than one medium is involved, what is their relation?

What does this all mean?

  • What are the artist's intentions? How do these intentions manifest themselves in the composition? Are there other feelings or attitudes that the composition seems to evoke, and what specific elements or design choices account for those feelings?