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Art History

A common assignment on Art History is as follows: Art History

  • Go to a museum in your area that has paintings from the time period we are studying and select a painting from that time period (1400-1850 AD) through the Modern Art period. Modern Art is any thing created after 1850.
  • Your analysis of the painting must prove that you actually went to the museum.

Paintings you may choose from include:

art starry night


After you choose a painting, carefully examine the content, the formal elements, and the principles of composition.

After you have carefully observed the art work, write an objective analysis of the painting. In this analysis, BRIEFLY describe the painting and content to include: Historical, Iconographic, Moral, Culture.

art lise sewing

If you would like, you can pretend that you are describing the painting to someone. In your description be sure that you emphasize the principles of composition and the formal elements. Avoid spending too much time discussing the content of the painting.

In the first paragraph of your paper, be sure to indicate the name of the artist, title of the piece, date of completion, and the medium used. If you viewed the work at a museum other than the Columbus Museum of Art, indicate the museum.

Use the following outline to organize your discussion (this should be the MAJORITY of your paper).

Media: Oils, Fresco, Watercolor, Encaustic, Tempera, and Acrylics

The Formal Elements:

  1. Line: What type of line was used?
  2. Form: What are the predominate shapes used? How did the artist create an illusion of three dimensional form?
    • Chiaroscuro - subtle gradation from light to dark (a method of modeling form)
  3. Color
    • Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colors
    • Complimentary Colors
    • Saturated hue – pure color
    • Value: Tinting and Shading
  4. Texture – What is the texture of the work? (DO NOT TOUCH THE WORK…EVER.) Is the canvas rough or smooth? Is there evidence of brush strokes? Impasto?
  5. Space – Overlapping , Foreshortening, Atmospheric Perspective, Linear Perspective
  6. Principles of Composition: Unity Balance, Focal area(s),
    • Take a pencil to the museum. The staff does not permit people to use pens in the museum.

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