For this short essay (minimum of 2 typed pages), you will select a single work of art that was produced between the years 1800 and 1940. The object you can choose to write about does not have to have been made by an artist we looked at in class, and you are free to select an object from any culture (i.e., “Western” or Non-Western). Ideally, this assignment would completed based on your observations an actual work in a museum or gallery collection, but given the circumstance created by COVID-19, you are free to write about an artwork viewed virtually online.
A formal analysis includes an analysis of the forms appearing in the work you have chosen. These forms give the work its expression, message, or meaning.
A formal analysis assumes a work of art is (1) a constructed object (2) that has been created with a stable meaning (even though it might not be clear to the viewer) (3) that can be ascertained by studying the relationships between the elements of the work.
To aid in writing a formal analysis, you should think as if you were describing the work of art to someone who has never seen it before.
When your reader finishes reading your analysis, she/he should have a complete mental picture of what the work looks like. Yet, the formal analysis is more than just a description of the work. It should also include a thesis statement that reflects your conclusions about the work.
The thesis statement may, in general, answer a question like these: What do I think is the meaning of this work? What is the message that this work or artist sends to the viewer? What is this work all about?
The thesis statement is an important element. It sets the tone for the entire paper, and sets it apart from being a merely descriptive paper.