Art by Barry Watson

VISUAL ART CRITICISM: Teaching analysis to primary students

VISUAL ARTS: Teaching analysis to primary students

Art criticism is vital to learning the language of Art, also known as Visual Art.
Analysis is the second stage of art criticism, description being the first. Interpretation and Judgement are the last two.

We cant go too heavy at the primary level, students just need to understand that an analysis gives a explanation on how the formal elements of a work of art affect the artist’s representation of the subject and content.
It’s good to assist students to understand the three parts of the artwork first – foreground, mid-ground, background.

Here are some artwork and guiding questions follow

Analysing the artworks above…
To understand how the artist created moods, messages, or ideas in the artwork, students can be asked:
What do you see happening in the different sections? This takes care of the visual gathering of information, so that students can give adequate descriptions.
Now make a list of the elements of art, versus the elements of the artwork which may be the human, the trees and so on.
Ask students to now describe the artwork and its elements using the elements of art.

FIRST GIVE – General Information

1. Type of art – category, dimension.
2. Subject Matter (Who or What is Represented?)
3. Artist name
4. Date of artwork. Older students can be guided on deciding how many, originality, references to similar work
5. Provenance – discuss source, location of originality. Older students can discuss cultural influences
6. Location (Where is the work of art now? Where was it originally located? Does the viewer look up at it, or down at it? If it is not in its original location, does the viewer see it as the artist intended? Can it be seen on all sides, or just on one?)
7. Technique, Materials and Medium

SECOND DO A Brief Description

The description of the work makes good reference. In a few sentences use your words to tell the reader about what the artwork looks like. What is in the art, does it look like anything else, does it represent something, is it abstracted from something, what is the subject, what is the focus, what elements are dominant and how are they used.


This is the key part of your paper. It should be the longest section of the paper. Be sure and think about whether the work of art selected is a two-dimensional or three-dimensional work.

Art Elements

1. Line (straight, curved, angular, flowing, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, contour, thick, thin, implied etc.)
2. Shape (what shapes are created and how)
3. Light and Value (source, flat, strong, contrasting, even, values, emphasis, shadows)
4. Color (primary, secondary, mixed, complimentary, warm, cool, decorative, values)
5. Texture and Pattern (real, implied, repeating)
6. Space (depth, overlapping, kinds of perspective)
7. Time and Motion
Principles of Design
1. Unity and Variety
2. Balance (symmetry, asymmetry)
3. Emphasis and Subordination
4. Scale and Proportion (weight, how objects or figures relate to each other and the setting)
5. Mass/Volume (three-dimensional art)
6. Rhythm
7. Function/Setting (architecture)
8. Interior/Exterior Relationship (architecture)

Art Criticism and Formal Anaylsis here

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