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The 4 Steps of Art Criticism
Transcript of The 4 Steps of Art Criticism
The 4 Steps of Art Criticism
Critiquing an artwork is like playing detective.
You must assume that the artist has a secret
message hidden within the work. Your job is
to find the message and solve the mystery.
We will be using a simple four step approach that will help you find the hidden meanings in art. These four steps must be taken in order:
1. Description-What do I see?
2. Analysis-How is the work organized?
3. Interpretation-What message does this artwork communicate?
4. Judgment-Is this a successful work of art?
Make a list of all the things you see in the work: size of the work, the medium used, the process used, the subject, object, details and elements of art used. You must be objective.
Discover how the principles of art are used
to organize the art elements of line, color,
value, shape, form, space and texture.
Explain or tell the meaning or mood of the work. You make guesses about the artwork, as long as they appear to be supported by what you see in the work. Use your intelligence, imagination, and courage. Don’t be afraid to make an interpretation that is different from someone else’s. After all you are different from other people.
Determine the degree of artistic merit.
You may use aesthetics to help you decide
whether the work is successful. A work
can be very successfully aesthetically, but
you might not want to live with it.
Critique a Work of Art
1. What do you see?
List all the information from the credit line on your paper.
What is the subject of this work?
2. How is this work organized?
What Art Elements are used?
What colors are used?
About how large is each can?
Are the cans spaced evenly?
In what way is the bottom row of cans different?
3. What message does this artwork communicate to you?
Why do you think the artist made the bottom row different?
Why do you think the artist spaced the cans as he did?
Form a conclusion about the meaning of depicting ordinary soup cans.
4. What do you think of the work?
Do you think it is a successful work of art?
Why or Why not?
Andy Warhol. 100 CANS. 1962. Oil on canvas. 182.9 x 132.1 (72 x 52"). Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Buffalo, New York. Gift of Seymour H. Knox, 1963. ©2003 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/TM Licensed by Campbell's Soup Co. All Rights Reserved.
Andy Warhol was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. He began his career as a commercial artist in New York City. He was a painter, movie director and producer, and publisher. Warhol was a leader of the Pop art movement, an art style that celebrated images from contemporary culture, such as comic book characters and everyday objects, helping viewers to see them in a whole new light. Warhol's favorite subjects included celebrities and product packaging, as in 100 CANS. When asked why he chose soup cans as his subject, he explained that he had soup for lunch every day for 20 years.
Alma Thomas. IRIS, TULIPS, JONQUILS, AND CROCUSES. 1969. Acrylic on canvas. 152 x 127 cm (60 x 50"). The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay.
At first glance, this painting appears to consist of simple shapes and bright colors. The title of the work, however, should help you understand what the dabs of color represent. Notice how large the painting is. How big does that make each dab of color? Can you imagine the garden these flowers grow in?
Jose Clemente Orozco. BARRICADE. 1931. Oil on canvas. 139.7 x 114.3 cm
(55 x 45"). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. Given
anonymously. © Estate of Jose Clemente Orozco/SOMAAP, Mexico/Licensed
by VAGA. New York, NY.
Orozco was one of the Mexican muralists who combined the solid forms of ancient Mexican art with the powerful colors of European Expressionism. This work depicts the peasants fighting for freedom during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. What could you do to find out more about the event this painting depicts.
Your interpretation of this work will depend on the clues you have collected during the first two steps of art criticism-description and analysis-plus your personal life experiences. People have different experiences which will produce a variety of interpretations, all of which could be acceptable.
Hughie Lee-Smith. THE PIPER. 1953. Oil on canvas. 55.9 x 89.5 cm. (22 x 35 1/4"). Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley J. Winkelman. © Hughie Lee-Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Georgia O'Keeffe loved the West. She shocked
the public with paintings of objects from her
environment that people were not used to
seeing hanging on a wall. She painted
COW'S SKULL:RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
because she wanted to create something
uniquely American. Do you think she succeeded?
Georgia O'Keeffe. COW'S SKULL:RED, WHITE, AND BLUE. 1931. Oil on canvas. 101.3 x 91.1 cm (39 7/8 x 35 7/8"). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1952. (52.203). © 2003 The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Notice how the artist has blended the woman into the painting. You don't see her until you look carefully. What may have been the artist's reasons for doing this? The title of this work, PAPIAMENTO, is the name of a language spoken in the Antilles. What else could you find out about the work and its artist that might help you to understand it better?
Julio Larraz. Papiamento. 1987. Oil on canvas.
143.5 x 209.5 cm (56 1/2 x 82 1/2"). Courtesy of
Nohra Haime Gallery, New York, New York.