Overall recommendations on structure The process of writing a generic college essay consists of the following stages: At this preliminary stage, the lineup is not very suitable: You start to erase and rewrite all the time, and the sheet botched before us already discourages us. Plan your essay by coming up with the necessary topics and then sequence them logically and chronologically.
Instead it is an explanation of visual structure, of the ways in which certain visual elements have been arranged and function within a composition. Strictly speaking, subject is not considered and neither is historical or cultural context.
The purest formal analysis is limited to what the viewer sees. Because it explains how the eye is led through a work, this kind of description provides a solid foundation for other types of analysis. It is always a useful exercise, even when it is not intended as an end in itself.
The British art critic Roger Fry played an important role in developing the language of formal analysis we use in English today. Inspired by modern art, Fry set out to escape the interpretative writing of Victorians like Ruskin.
He wanted to describe what the viewer saw, independent of the subject of the work or its emotional impact. Relying in part upon late 19th- and early 20th-century studies of visual perception, Fry hoped to bring scientific rigor to the analysis of art.
Even more important were his studies as a painter, which made him especially aware of the importance of how things had been made. One of the most influential systems was writing about art formal analysis papers by the 17th-century French Academician Roger de Piles His book, The Principles of Painting, became very popular throughout Europe and appeared in many languages.
Color, both as establishing a general key and as setting up a relationship of parts; line, both as creating a sense of structure and as embodying movement and character; light and dark, which created expressive forms and patterns at the same time as it suggested the character of volumes through light and shade; the sense of volume itself and what might be called mass as contrasted with space; and the concept of plane, which was necessary in discussing the organization of space, both in depth and in a two-dimensional pattern.
Towering over all these individual elements was the composition, how part related to part and to whole: A Study of His Development. Fry made his argument through careful study of individual paintings, many in private collections and almost all of them unfamiliar to his readers.
Although the book included reproductions of the works, they were small black-and-white illustrations, murky in tone and detail, which conveyed only the most approximate idea of the pictures.
Nonetheless, he set out to make his case with words. The lengthy analysis of the picture begins with a description of the application of paint.
This was, Fry felt, the necessary place of beginning because all that we see and feel ultimately comes from paint applied to a surface.
After a digression about how other artists handled paint, Fry returned to Still-life with Compotier. These strokes are strictly parallel, almost entirely rectilinear, and slant from right to left as they descend.
And this direction of the brush strokes is carried through without regard to the contours of the objects. The size of the strokes, their shape, the direction they take on the canvas, and how they relate to the forms they create are all explained.
Already the painting seems very specific. On the other hand, the reader has not been given the most basic facts about what the picture represents.
For Fry, that information only came after everything else, if it was mentioned at all. Each form seems to have a surprising amplitude, to permit of our apprehending it with an ease which surprises us, and yet they admit a free circulation in the surrounding space.
It is above all the main directions given by the rectilinear lines of the napkin and the knife that make us feel so vividly this horizontal extension [of space]. And this horizontal [visually] supports the spherical volumes, which enforce, far more than real apples could, the sense of their density and mass.
He continued in a new paragraph: One notes how few the forms are. How the sphere is repeated again and again in varied quantities.
To this is added the rounded oblong shapes which are repeated in two very distinct quantities in the compotier and the glass.
If we add the continually repeated right lines [of the brush strokes] and the frequently repeated but identical forms of the leaves on the wallpaper, we have exhausted this short catalogue.The Purdue University Online Writing Lab serves writers from around the world and the Purdue University Writing Lab helps writers on Purdue's campus.
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