In a 3-4 page paper, write a formal analysis of one of the works of art listed below. Formal analysis is a kind of writing that combines description with analysis. You are to describe what you see in your chosen work and analyze how its formal elements come together to create meaning or affect a viewer. An effective formal analysis breaks a work down to its individual building blocks and then reassembles them to give the reader fresh insight onto its form and content.
Your paper should begin with an introductory paragraph that contains a brief description of your chosen work and states your thesis. The following paragraphs should address the formal characteristics you believe best enable your reader to understand the work. Your descriptions should be vivid and thorough. Imagine you are writing for someone who has never seen this work of art. Your paper should end with a concluding paragraph that brings your argument to a close. An effective conclusion does not merely restate your thesis.
This paper does not require any research. Your argument is to be based entirely on what you see, not on any outside information. Reading about these artists more often than not will lead you astray, as you will end up writing about what you have read and not about what you see in front of you. **The one exception to this rule might be the Kehinde Wiley painting, where it could be beneficial to learn who Anthony of Padua was, but even here, I advise against leaning too much on outside research.
Artstor: You will find the works of art about which you are to write by using Artstor, an online database of high resolution images of works of art. All Penn State students have access to Artstor through the PSU library. It does not require any special software to use, beyond an up-to-date web browser.
To access Artstor, go to libraries.psu.edu Research Databases. Artstor enables you to zoom in on images, often to the level of individual brushstrokes. Take advantage of this feature to gain a very specific and detailed understanding of the construction of your chosen works.
Choose one of the following works of art. Be sure you have found the correct work on Artstor by verifying the title and year.
1) Kehinde Wiley, Anthony of Padua, 2013
2) Paula Modersohn-Becker, Kneeling Mother Nursing Her Child, 1907
3) Alex Katz, Red Tie, 1979
Spend a significant amount of time observing these works. Writing down your observations can be useful in the creation of an outline of your paper. Sketching them can also be very helpful.
Make your descriptions as specific and precise as possible. Dont be afraid to state the obvious.
Everything you say should be backed up with visual evidence from the works. It is not enough to say, Painting A is a sad picture. What specific elements of the painting make it sad, and how do they convey that emotion?
Do not discuss whether or not you like your chosen work of art. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how this work functions visually, not your individual tastes.
Think broadly about your chosen work. Consider a wide range of formal properties. These could include palette (i.e. use of color), size, subject matter, use of light and shadow, depiction of narrative, materials, modeling, composition, naturalism vs. abstraction, brushwork, pose, etc.
Outline your paper in advance. Think about the most sensible way to order your thoughts so as to best communicate your understanding of the work of art. Start with the general and work your way to the specific.
A work of art is the product of many choices on the artists part. Give some thought as to why these artists went about depicting these subjects how they did.
Rubric: The paper will be scored out of a maximum 60 points according to the following rubric:
Writing: 0-20 points
Is the paper clearly written and free of grammatical and typographic errors? Does the paper have a reasonable and discernible structure? Is each paragraph devoted to a single theme or idea that is encapsulated by a topic sentence?
Description: 0-20 points
Does the paper thoroughly describe the work of art? Does it create a vivid mental image of it for the reader? Is the description developed in a sensible fashion?
Analysis: 0-20 points
Does the paper have a clear thesis that is well-supported by visual evidence? Does it go beyond description to advance an interpretation of the work of art?
Formatting: Papers must be word processed, double spaced, with standard margins. Titles of works of art are to be italicized. Your paper must have a title (Formal Analysis Paper or Alex Katzs Red Tie are not titles).
Academic Integrity: You may discuss your observations of these works with other classmates, but you are to write your papers on your own. All papers will be submitted to a plagiarism check on Turnitin. Evidence of plagiarism will result in a failing grade and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. See the syllabus for a full discussion of plagiarism, and please ask me if you have any questions on this matter.