strategies for analyzing works of art

There are three main strategies for analyzing works of art: contextual theory, formal theory, and expressive theory. Contextual theory focuses on the political, social, or religious context of a work of art. Formal theory focuses on its visual characteristics. Expressive theory relates a work of art to the experience of the artist who created it. This week you will be using expressive theory and will discuss a work of art by relating it to the life of the artist.

The history of art is populated with many fascinating characters, and their work often reflects the triumphs and tragedies that shaped their lives. Once again, you will choose an artist from this week’s reading and will present a work of art that you feel reflects some aspect of this artist’s life. You are welcome to speculate about the artist’s intentions but be sure to explain your reasoning.

The following list is designed to help you, but you may choose any artist from the reading. You may even choose an artist not discussed in the reading as long as they are associated with a movement that is covered this week. Van Gogh is not on the list of suggested artists because you are probably already familiar with his work and life. It is tempting to write about what you know but I would like you to learn about an artist that you are unfamiliar with.

Odilon Redon
Henri Rousseau
Auguste Rodin
Camille Claudel
Paul Gauguin
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Suzanne Valadon
William Morris
Frederic Leighton
Aubrey Beardsley
Gustave Klimt
Antoni Gaudí
Edvard Munch
James Ensor


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