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ARTH 276: Studies in Western Art II

Analyzing a Work of Art

As you view a work of art, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my response to the work?
  • What is the title? Does it help explain the work?
  • How do the visual elements (line, color, space, texture) contribute to the work? What about the design (proportion, balance, unity/variety, rhythm)?
  • When, where, and why was the work made? By whom?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • What medium is used?

For more information about formal analysis, see The Art of Writing about Art and A Short Guide to Writing about Art.

Researching Art

Whether searching for information about an artist or work of art, there are some basic steps to follow in the research process. This outline can help you find what you need in the library with greater efficiency.

  • Locate background information for an overview of your topic.
    • Start with print sources in the reference collection (N section) on the main floor as well as online tool like Oxford Art Online and Oxford Reference.
    • Note key words or subject terms that can be used in your search.
  • Use Primoto search for books, films, catalogs, and some articles about your topic. 
    • Review the bibliographies found in books to uncover additional sources.
  • Search art related databases to find articles in magazines and journals on your topic.
  • Search the open web to supplement the information you found in the library. Keep in mind that the quantity and quality of information found on the web is not as substantial as information in books and journals.
  • Ask a librarian for help.