Basic Visual Analysis Essay

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In this first assignment you will practice the skill of describing and analyzing a work of art.

Step 1:  Select your Work
Browse the resources I provided and look for a work that is similar to works that we studied in class (note:  do not choose a work that we already covered in class — the point of the assignment is for you to apply what you have learned to a work that you have not seen before).  The work should date from Italy in the early 1400s.

Resources:  click here for a page with links to resources you can use for this assignment

Step 2:  Work Identification
Begin by inserting your image into your document, and then identifying it properly, using the following information from the museum label:

Artist (if known)
Title (note that titles of works of art should be underlined or italicized, like book titles)
Museum Collection

Step 3:  Subject Matter Description
Begin your essay be describing the subject matter in detail.  Be sure to apply what you learned in the “Skill of Describing” tutorial.  Even if there is not much “going on” in your picture, take the time to really look at it, and to describe it in detail.  Try to go beyond just “listing” what is in the picture.  Make your description reveal something about the “personality” of the work.

Step 4:  Style Analysis
Now you are ready to move on to a style analysis.  The 1300s was a period of transition from the old Italo-Byzantine style of painting to the new style of the Proto-Renaissance.  Your task will be to analyze the image, and identify which (if any) elements exemplify the Italo-Byzantine style, and which (if any) exemplify the new Proto-Renaissance style.

Step 5:  Conclusion
Once you have completed your analysis, you are ready to write a conclusion.  Here, you will need to place your work in context, so that you can relate the stylistic features that you analyzed into a larger, and more meaningful context.  Why was art changing during this period?  What did it mean?

Step 6:  List of Resources
Finally, you must also prepare a list of the sources you used for your analysis.  You are not expected to do any NEW research for this assignment (in fact, you are advised not to), but you have been required to read a variety of resources that contributed to your understanding, and these should be acknowledged in your list of resources.

Watch this video for a step-by-step tutorial on preparing your basic Visual Analysis Essay. If you have not already done so, you should also consult my lecture on the Skill of Describing (much of this was covered in the introductory class)

Note:  you may need to turn the volume up; I was recording with low-tech equipment

Basic Visual Analysis Tutorial (Professor Melissa Hall)

Basic Visual Analysis Sample
Click here to see a sample analysis, which you can use as a guide to formatting:

Basic Visual Analysis Grading Rubric

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Focus Click on rubric to enlarge