Homework: Museum Paper

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Give the title of the work, the name of the artist who created it, if known, the country and time
period when it was created, and the museum where it now exists. Give the date of your visit to
the museum.
Is the work a painting, a graphic, a sculpture, a pottery or a piece of architecture? What materials
were used: tempera, acrylic, oil, stone, wood, metal, ceramic, etc.? What technique was used:
engraving, lithography, etching, low or bas relief, high relief, casting, carving, etc.?
Why did you select a given work or works? What interested you?
Context and Subject Matter
What was the cultural context of the work?
What meaning did it have for the people that created
What is represented? Is it a portrait, a genre scene, a landscape, a mythological or biblical scene?
Are there symbols in the work? What does it mean? If you know the source of the story, for
example the illustration of an ancient myth or a biblical story, give the appropriate citation. How
is the subject portrayed?
What is its emotional context?
Formal Elements
Artists use the formal elements of line, color, value, texture, shape, and rhythm to describe form,
space, plane, and mass. Space can be three dimensional, as in sculpture or architecture, or two
dimensional as in a painting. Artists may use devices like linear perspective to give the illusion
of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface, or they may use the properties of color
and line to create spatial movement on the surface plane. Plane refers to flat two-dimensional
space and generally refers to the surface of a painting or graphic. Mass, which is also known as
“volume” refers to three dimensional space.
Answering the questions will help you to analyze how the artist used the formal elements of art
to create the work of art you are considering. If you are writing about a piece of sculpture, just
use the questions that apply. Try to use as many as you can.
Do the lines go primarily in horizontal and vertical directions, echoing the frame of the work, or
are they primarily diagonal?  Are the lines flowing or jagged? Can you follow the edges of the
forms? Are the edges of the forms sharply delineated or are the brush strokes obvious, tending to
obscure sharp edges and lines?
Are the forms arranged in orderly patterns or do they seem chaotic? Do they seem to be static, or
do they create a sense of movement? Do the forms create an illusion of three dimensional space
or do they seem to lie flat on the surface? Is there a strong sense of three dimensional mass or is
the emphasis on surface texture? Is the texture smooth or rough?

How does the artist use light? Does the light come from a consistent source? Does it seem to
mold objects into three dimensions or does it flatten them? Are there strong contrasts of light and
dark or only subtle modulations? What sort of emotional effect is produced by the light and
What colors does the artist use? To what degrees are the colors saturated (intense hues) or
grayed? Are the colors complementary or analogous? Is the color used realistically, symbolically
or expressively?  
Use the conclusion to sum up your reaction to the work. Here are some questions you may wish
to answer. In what way do the formal elements support or contradict the ideas implicit in the
subject matter? How was the work displayed and what effect did that have on your appreciation
of it?
The title page should contain your name, the title of your essay, the class for which you are
writing the paper, and the date. You may wish to prepare a cover sheet with an image of the
work that you are discussing. If you use footnotes/endnotes/parenthesis, be sure to use one
writing style format. 


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