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Art as Communication

This section deals with art analysis. *A disclaimer: Many artworks are intended to elicit emotions. Evaluation requires one to respond to the ways it touches you before you begin an intellectual appraisal. Experience the work before you begin to study it. Begin with how it makes you feel.

How Art Works

Artist – Critical Factors

Often, viewers know a little bit about the artist and immediately assume that any aspect of the biography is central to understanding the artwork. This simplifies analysis but leads to misplaced confidence. Factors like the artist’s


can be important, of course, but the impetus for most works is the artist’s exploration of ideas or composition. Psychoanalytic analysis of the creator is rarely the best approach to viewing the work.

Artwork – Critical Factors

Basing the analysis of the work on the artist’s biography or psychology can ignore the critical factors that the artist was investigating. The artwork should always be discussed in terms of

Medium – the materials the artist used
Technique – the way the materials were manipulated
Form – the design qualities of the artwork. The elements and principles of design
Content – the subject matter of the artwork
Context – the circumstances of the creation and viewing of the artwork

Some of these factors are unimportant to the reading of the piece, but some will be key. Consider these different attributes whenever you analyze an artwork.

Viewer – Critical Factors

It could be argued that the viewer’s perception  is the most important part of the artwork because the members of the audience inevitably insert themselves into the reading of the work. The aspects of the viewer that affect the way the art is understood are