Art formal analysis paper
Paper details:
Art 1035
Formal Analysis Paper
Learning Objective: the goal of a formal analysis is to explain how the formal elements of a work of art affect the representation of the subject matter and expressive content. The emphasis should be on analyzing the formal elementsnot interpreting the artwork.
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, they 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 of the analysis that sets it apart from being a merely descriptive paper.
Format for the Paper:
2.5-3 pages
Double-spaced
12 pt. Times New Roman
1 borders.
Make sure you proofread your paper for incorrect grammar, spelling, punctuation,
and other errors.
In addition, make sure your paper includes a thesis statement. Your grade will
reflect your ability to follow these guidelines.
Suggested Structure for a Formal Analysis:
Introduction: The introduction should identify the title of the work of art, the name of the artist, and the date when it was created. You may also indicate the medium, the period in which it was created and its current location. While biographical information about the artist is not necessary, if you know something about the artists interests or the interests of the period that may have influenced this work, you may include it here. Typically, your introduction should conclude with your thesis statement, which will suggest the meaning or content of the work in order to introduce the formal elements you have chosen to analyze.

The Thesis Statement: Your thesis should provide a framework for your analysis and suggest your interpretation of the work. A thesis statement does not necessarily involve a statement of argument or original insight, but it should let the reader know how the artists formal choices affect the viewer.
Body/Development of Analysis: In the most straightforward organization, each element you discuss in your paper should be analyzed in its own paragraph. You may find it helpful to begin each paragraph with a topic sentence about the significance of the element and end with a concluding statement. You may also organize your analyses of the formal elements according to major figures, a focal point, or other significant effects in the composition.
The Analysis: Although description is an important part of a formal analysis, description is not enough on its own. You must introduce and contextualize your descriptions of the formal elements of the work so the reader understands how each element influences the works overall effect on the viewer. You may include your emotional responses to a work, but you must explain them and back them up with evidence, the formal elements that elicit your emotional response (Barnet, 34).
Conclusion: The conclusion may summarize your findings and relate back to the theme presented in your introduction; however, you should avoid simply repeating what you offered in the introduction. You may also include any new ideas, insights, or understandings you gained about the work through the analysis process.
Note: All description and analysis should relate to your thesis.
Things to consider when writing a formal analysis (in no particular order): Keep in mind that you always need to Back Up Your Statements!
1.Record your first impression(s) of the artwork. What stands out? Is there a focal
point (an area to which the artist wants your eye to be drawn)? If so, what formal elements led you to this conclusion? Your impressions can help you reach your thesis.
2. What is the subject of the artwork?
3.Composition: How are the parts of the work arranged? Is there a stable or unstable
composition? Is it dynamic? Full of movement? Or is it static?
4.Pose: If the work has figures, are the proportions believable? Realistic? Describe the
pose(s). Is the figure active, calm, graceful, stiff, tense, or relaxed? Does the figure convey a mood? If there are several figures, how do they relate to each other (do they interact? not?)?
5.Proportions: Does the whole or even individual parts of the figure(s) or natural objects in the work look natural? Why did you come to this conclusion?
6.Line: Are the outlines (whether perceived or actual) smooth, fuzzy, clear? Are the main lines vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved, or a combination of any of these?

Are the lines jagged and full of energy? Sketchy? Geometric? Curvilinear? Bold?
Subtle?
7.Space: If the artist conveys space, what type of space is used? What is the relation of
the main figure to the space around it? Are the main figures entirely within the space (if the artwork is a painting), or are parts of the bodies cut off by the edge of the artwork? Is the setting illusionistic, as if one could enter the space of the painting, or is it flat and two-dimensional, a space that one could not possibly enter?
8.Texture: If a sculpture, is the surface smooth and polished or rough? Are there several textures conveyed? Where and How? If a painting, is there any texture to the paint surface? Are the brushstrokes invisible? Brushy? Sketchy? Loose and flowing? Or tight and controlled?
9.Light and Shadow: Are shadows visible? Where? Are there dark shadows, light shadows, or both? How do the shadows affect the work?
10. Size: How big is the artwork? Are the figures or objects in the work life-sized, larger or smaller than life? How does the size affect the work?
11. Color: What type of colors are used in the work? Bright? Dull? Complimentary? Does the artist use colors to draw your attention to specific areas of the work? How? If a sculpture, examine the color(s) of the medium and how it affects the work.
12. Mood: Do you sense an overall mood in the artwork? Perhaps several different moods? If so, describe them. How does the mood interpret how you view the work?
Once you have spent some time analyzing your work, notice if your first impression of the work has changed, now that you have taken a closer look? How? If you came up with a thesis statement before doing this in-depth analysis, you may want to change it if your impression of the work has changed. Your thesis statement should reflect your view of the object.
For Help:
Writing help is through Zoom at the Writing center. -Make an appointment.
See Sylvan Barnetts A Short Guide to Writing about Art Thesis and formal analysis sections.
Remember that I am also available via Zoom office hours and email.