Art Critiques

Analysis; a vital part of art criticism

Sunday: Developing an Artistic Eye and How-to Critiques

The second part of art critiques or criticism is the Analysis. Specifically, this is determining what the features suggest and deciding why the artist used such features to communicate particular ideas.

You are looking to answer the question, “how did the artist do it?”

Some of the various elements that make up analysis include:

  • determining the subject matter.
  • distinctive features or characteristics (elements of art) such as line, color, texture, or shape.
  • principles of design or composition such as repetition, harmony, rhythm, symmetry, geometric, or whether the piece is horizontally or vertically oriented.
  • discussion of elements that contribute to the appearance of image.
  • use of light (contrast or shadow).
  • use of color (warm or cool).
  • treatment of landscape and space.
  • portrayal of movement and how it is achieved.
  • effect of the particular mediums used.
  • your personal perception of balance, proportion, and scale (relationship between the parts as compared to other parts and to the whole as well).
  • personal emotional reaction to the piece of art.

Sample piece to discuss:

Meadow with Poplars

Meadow with Poplars was created by Claude Monet. Created using oil on canvas.

Color and Light: Monet uses pops of color and contrasting highlights of purple and yellow or red and green in the foreground to bring it closer to the viewer. This is contrasted by the cool colors used in the background makes it further recede. The mountains and haystacks appear to have a blue-ish tint in the background.

He uses color to render air and depth.

Effect of medium: Monet uses an impasto technique (applying painting so thickly that you can see the brush or knife strokes). By fluidly applying the paint in the background creates the look of haze (atmosphere).

Distinctive feature: in particular the impasto technique creates texture at the bottom of the painting.

Subject matter: Landscape with poplars (trees) and in the background are haystacks. Both of which are subjects he returns to and makes a series of paintings on poplars and haystacks.

Balance, proportion and scale: The scale seems off to me since the sky takes up more than the top third of the painting. The woman seems to be in proportion with the size of the three poplar trees on the left side of the painting. Both the woman and the trees are located on the left side of the piece of work.

Movement: Monet uses yellow grass located to the right of the woman is curved to imply a curve through the field towards the mountains.

Design principles: Monet uses the rule of odds (3 trees) for visual appeal. I find the painting is heavier on the left side. This piece of art is horizontally oriented.

Personal reaction: I find myself personally drawn to many of Monet’s paintings. I really appreciate the Impressionist genre and love landscapes. Monet’s paintings are realistic. I love the hazy appearance in this particular painting. His focus is less on specific details throughout the painting and rather in setting a scene and creating a mood. This field looks like a quiet and peaceful place to spend time. I can practically smell the flowers in the field.


Art Criticism and Formal Analysis



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