Visual Analysis Paper

Part I (Visual Analysis): Pick a single work of art that interests you and that relates to the geographical areas and time periods covered by our class. Then, find a good quality digital image of it. I recommend using the Artstor database to find a high-res image. (You will need to enter your Surf ID and password to access it.) If you are having difficult with finding one, please ask me. Once you have an image, examine the work carefully, and take notes on the questions listed below.

Part II (Research): Access the digital resources available through the MiraCosta library, or your local public library, and find a minimum of three sources that deal with the work of art, the artist, the culture that the work comes from, and/or the period of time for the work that you have selected. Of these three sources, two must be scholarly sources and only one can be an appropriate website. (Digital versions of scholarly books or journals count as scholarly sources, not as websites.) Your textbooks are not valid sources for this paper, nor are Wikipedia or other generalist encyclopedias. If you are uncertain about a source, please ask me. We will be having an online library orientation to help you with the research portion of the assignment.

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Part III: Write a detailed essay in four to five double-spaced type-written pages in a 12-point font. Devote approximately one and a half pages to a visual analysis of the work of art that you have selected. Thoroughly answer the questions listed below under “Part I.” In the remaining pages, discuss the work in terms of its artistic and historical context as it appears in your research from the three sources that you have chosen. You will be graded on spelling, grammar and writing skills, so please make sure to proofread your work. Please make sure not to unintentionally plagiarize from your sources: if you quote or paraphrase another author’s ideas, you will need to make a citation to that source. If you use the same wording as the author does, you will need to directly quote from the source, and provide a citation. You will also need to include a bibliography. You may use any official citation style for your essay (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc). You can find information on how to properly use academic citations on the MiraCosta Library’s website.

I highly recommend visiting the Online MiraCosta College Writing Center for this assignment.

For Part I (Visual Analysis), consider the following issues:

Scale: What is its approximate size in relationship to you? Is it hand-sized, half your size, person-sized, larger than you, etc.? How does this affect your relationship to the work?

Material: What is the work made of? Do the materials that it is made of affect its appearance?

Subject Matter: What is the subject of the piece? Is its subject characteristic of the period in which it was made (i.e. Are many other artists at this time making works with similar subjects)?

Composition: How are the forms arranged or organized? Consider the forms as a two-dimensional design on the surface of the canvas, or as three-dimensional forms in space. Is there a particular element that serves as the visual focus? Why is your eye led to this area? Are the different parts of the composition linked in such a way as to guide the eye around the piece? How is this achieved? If you are considering a painting, is a sense of recession into space created? How? How are forms arranged along the edges of the canvas? Are forms complete or cut off?

The Human Figure: If your work includes human figures, how are they depicted? Are the bodies proportioned and portrayed realistically? Are their poses natural? If they are clothed, is the depicted realistically or is it stylized?

Light, Color and Brushstroke: If you are considering a painting, is there uniform light or does there appear to be a single light source? If so, where does the light appear to originate? Does this affect the composition? Do the colors employed affect your perception of the piece? How is the paint applied? Can you see the brushstrokes?

For Part II (Research), consider the following issues:

Context: When and where was the piece created? Do you think that this work is typical of its period? Why or why not? Does this work have a specific function? How does its function affect its appearance? What important historical events were happening in the time and place where this artist was working? How might these events have influenced the artist in making this artwork?

Artist: What type of artistic training did the artist have? How might that have influenced their style? Did the artist have any important patrons who purchased their works? Was there anything important culturally (such as politics, religion, or philosophy) that might have influenced this artist?

Other: Please feel free to include other important information that interests you about this artist, artwork, or style of art making.

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