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How to Critique & Write About Art

1. Describe: Elements & Subject


What do you see? (Explain everything you see, even unknown objects)
Whats in the foreground/background?
Where is the scene? (time of day/season, inside/outside)
Describe elements of art.
What colors are used?
What shapes are visible?
Is there negative space?
What textures do you see?
Identify genre (portrait, still life, landscape...)
Identify style of art

2. Analyze: Composition & Design


How are lines, shapes, colors, and textures used in the piece of art?
Look for center of interest (focus, eye grabber)
line: strong, dominant, thin, directional, broken, outline, structural, curved
Color & value: warm, cool, light, dark, solid, transparent, bright, dull, monochromatic,
realistic or abstract
Texture: Smooth, rough, coarse, soft
Space: Perspective, foreground, middleground, background, point of view
Form: 2D vs 3D form
Contrast, emphasis, rhythm, pattern, movement, balance, unity, repetition

3. Interpret: Meaning & Content


What is going on in the artwork?
How does this make me feel?
What is the most important part of this piece?
What is the purpose of the piece?
Use the evidence in numbers 1 & 2 to figure out the
meaning of the art
What is the artist saying? What are your reasons?

4. Evaluate: Skill & Technique


Is it a quality piece of art--Why or why not?
Is the art successful? Why?
Club Night, George Bellows
How does it compare to similar works?

Example of an effective thesis statement:

In Club Night, George Bellows uses high contrast, shape, and line to capture the energy of the
athletes and provide an evocative and sensational interpretation of the club scene.
Club Night Analysis

In Club Night, George Bellows uses high contrast, shape, and line to capture the

energy of the athletes and provide an evocative and sensational interpretation of the

club scene. He increases the drama by condensing the boxing ring to a bright sliver of

space, which sets the stage for the focus of our image. The mens agitated forms tower

over the crowd, their bodies illuminated with smoky light. The artist places the boxers in

the upper edge of the canvas, following the rule of thirds. We, the viewers, are placed in

the second row (the foreground) amid the blood thirsty crowd. This painting invites the

upperclass to experience the gritty scene as if they, too, were a part of it. Bellows early

boxing paintings chronicle brutal fights, which was a response to a state ban on public

boxing. During that time, New York ring managers got around the law by declaring their

establishments to be clubs. We can infer that Bellows was interested in both the

working and leisure classes in New York due to his portrayal of the two fighting men,

and the audience members dressed in tuxedos. Many of his other paintings depict a

similar theme that include dock workers to fashionable citizens paraded in the park.