This is my own student approach to formal visual analysis. I produced a memorable acronym that reminded me of the basic points to cover. The acronym isMASTERCLASS CHAP (sorry for the sexism but I couldn’t find anything else to fit).

    • Material, e.g. oil on canvas and size, the physical object, what is it made of? and why that material?
    • Abstract or representational and provide an initial description of the image.
    • Subject matter, a detailed description of the subject or the image, name the subject if known and the significance of the subject.
    • Tone and all the related elements of shade, mass, form, perspective, composition, eye movement, outline, lighting, rhythm, harmony, balance.
    • Emotion, expression, e.g. taut, sentimental, initial feeling of mood.
    • Relationships, what does it remind you of, other similar images or other images by the same artist.
    • Colour, explain the use of colour and whether the main emphasis is colour or line. This was an important distinction that developed during the Renaissance.
    • Line and whether the work was first drawn or if it was painted directly on the canvas.
    • Artist or artists, if known.
    • Style and period, movement, date, genre. Always remember to examine the artwork for a date.
    • Symbols and signs used.
    • Context of object, purpose, location.
    • History of the object and the historic perspective at the time, subsequently and today, views of critics at the time, impact.
    • Analysis, more abstract critique of rhythm, line and mass.
    • Private versus public vision.who is audience artist is trying to communicate with, what language is used, what political and social message is conveyed, if any.

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