Choose an artwork within the parameters of the class to describe in detail. This work can be any work between from Prehistoric through Late Medieval Art.
Everyone will write about the visual features of an artwork at minimum, but I encourage you to take a point of view and ideally develop a thesis (or argument)
about what this artwork communicates about the civilization that created it. Try to focus on an artwork that you can explore in depth and make a critical
argument about rather than discussing many works or emphasizing the artist’s biography (unless this is crucial to your point of view). For example, what
does a particular sculpture or painting say about the values, power, ideals and artistic concerns about the state in which it was created? I suggest that you
begin by analyzing the formal elements of this artwork as described in the text’s Introduction (material, style, composition, …). Then consider the following to
support your point of view about the artwork. You may discuss these attributes in a different order, but I suggest addressing the more general ideas first
before going into greater depth about the meaning and cultural significance of the artwork.
Visual Form (line, pattern, texture, shape and volume, perspective, balance, proportion and scale, emphasis, unity and variety…)
Media and Technique (What type of art is it? Sculpture, painting, …? Do you know anything about the technique with which this work was created? What is the
size/dimensions of the art,…)
Function (Does this artwork have a functional purpose? Or does it have a more symbolic function, such as communicating a narrative about an emerging
nation; if so, you may choose to address this more thoroughly in considering its content and meaning later in your paper.)
Artistic Movement and Style (Is this artwork Prehistoric, Roman, Late Medieval…?)
Content and Meaning (What is the subject of this work? What is its meaning?)
Context -What are the social, political, religious and economic factors that influenced the artist (if known) and their works? This may offer insight into why a
work was created and takes the visual form that it has. This also prompts us to consider whether or not the work was created in service of the artist or state
that may or may not have been at odds with each other. Was this created when artists were responding to upheaval and uncertainty, or promoting empirical
conquest? How does the style and form of the work respond to the national climate or changing standards in art?
Aesthetics – As you consider context along with other factors that help us understand art, consider how an artwork reflects the philosophical beliefs of a
culture as well as the subjective visual ideals, standards and values of a society. For example, we discussed how the Parthenon at the Akropolis shows an
emerging western aesthetic drawing heavily from symmetry, mathematics and phi, the golden ratio, as promoted by architects and sculptors such as Phidias.
This is representative of the ancient Greek emphasis on idealism as achieved through mathematical ratios and symmetry, and Aristotle’s belief that beauty
must involve symmetry. We considered how this aesthetic influenced the Renaissance and Humanism and may still have power over our culturally specific
beauty standards and understanding of visual (and architectural) power today.
*Remember to refer back to the image as evidence of how we can read these greater arguments through its form
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