How to Look at Art – The Formal Analysis

How to Look at Art – The Formal Analysis

This is part 1 of “How to Look at Art.” In the field of art history, there is a generally agreed upon system of “looking” at art. In this post, I’m introducing you to the first part: formal analysis.

So, what is a formal analysis?

A formal analysis normally consists of looking at the physical characteristics of an artwork. And this isn’t just relegated to painting. It’s typically for all artwork!

Some things to consider when you’re performing a formal analysis are:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Medium Scale
  • Figurative or non-figurative
  • Color

A formal analysis matters! It matters because by identifying specific figures, places, mediums, colors, subject matters, etc., this will help you understand the context which will help you further understand this piece.

Wanna strengthen your formal analysis chops? I have an exercise for you! Stare at an artwork for 30 seconds. Now, write down everything you noticed. Next, stare at that same piece for 2 minutes now. Did you notice a lot more in those 2 minutes?

Let me know your results in the comments below! Tata! 🙂

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