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ARTH 702 Art Criticism - Swartz: Home


Afrum I (White), James Turrell 1967 via SCAD DID

This guide provides recommended research tools and skills for your ARTH 701 research assignments.

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Four Stages of Art Criticism

Description Analysis Interpretation Judgment
  • note what is immediately visible
  • describe main shapes, colors, directions
  • call attention to characteristics of execution
  • go beyond descriptive to reveal relations among things named
  • raise questions
  • accumulate evidence for interpretation and judgment
  • Form a hypothesis
  • give the work a rank in relation to other works of its type
  • Determine if work is technically good

*taken from Edmund Burke Feldman in Varieties of Visual Experience (1992)

Key Tips

Use a variety of search terms. An artist, concept, technique, etc. may be known by various names. If a term/phrase doesn't provide results, try an alternative way of phrasing it.

Use discipline specific sources. Approach your topic from different perspectives.  You may need to read anthropology or social science articles to understand your chosen piece.

Accumulate sources gradually and organically. Aim to locate a few promising sources at a time, read and process them, then re-incorporate new information and leads into your topic and subsequent searches.

Place scholarly sources at the core of your bibliography; reviews, reference info, etc. can be used to gain ideas and facts, but are not substantial enough as stand-alone sources.

Useful Online Resources

General Resource Finding Aids

Art Specific Finding Aids

Analyze a Work Of Art

When analyzing a work of art, it's helpful to develop and apply a list of relevant questions. Consider:

  • Subject matter - What is being depicted? (May require researching a related place, figure or event - e.g. from religion or mythology)
  • Material and form - What is the size, shape, line, texture, color, etc.? How do these affect the way you "see" the subject?
  • Social and historical contexts - When, where, and why was the work made?
  • What were the artist's intentions (if known)?

Barnet's A Short Guide to Writing About Art provides many useful examples of analytical questions and is a required/recommended text for most ARTH 100/102 courses.

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