Case Study

Your initial reading is a close examination of the work you’ve chosen before you read about it. In order to describe what you see, you might consider:
What do you notice first? Why? What do the colors convey? How? How is the space occupied? Is there a foreground and a background (2D) or is the piece sculptural (3D) with mass and volume? Is there an implied shape, such as a triangle, square, or circle, that brings balance to the composition? Are there diagonal lines that make it dynamic?

Next, read the materials provided about the work of art. You are welcome to do additional research on the internet as long as you use reputable websites, such as those from museums and art publications. Go back to your piece and take an even closer look. Think about what you’ve read and what you see. How does its meaning deepen from additional information the work of art?

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Then, consider how the formal elements play into the artist’s intention or audience’s interpretation of the work. Making connections and observations about form and content are the key to writing a strong analysis. Remember to cite as appropriate. 

Include several of areas from the first and second points to bring you to the third point.

1. Initial Reading (what do you see and understand when you first look at the work?)

  • Medium (materials)
    • Formal Elements
  • Subject

2. Contextual Research

  • Content
  • History
  • Emphasis
  • Effect
  • Symbolism
  • Relevance
  • Political Parallels
  • Social Implications
  • Audience?
  • Influences?
  • Captions/Title/Text
  • Ethical/Logical/Emotional Appeal?

3. Meaning
Bring it together. What does the work of art mean? Develop a persuasive, cohesive analysis that includes what you see through form and context. 


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