Visual Analysis of an Italian Painting.
Art History Visual Analysis Paper
Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums
Milwaukee Art Museum
*IF VISITING THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM, PLEASE ATTACH YOUR TICKET STUB TO YOUR
Your assignment is to visit the exhibition of your choice and choose one work to discuss in
depth, analyzing its overall appearance and composition, iconography, function. Spend at
least 20 minutes carefully studying the work, and write plenty of notes. The more time you
spend looking in a careful, relaxed, and patient way, the more you will find to write about.
The more detailed your notes are, the easier it will be to write your paper; your notes will
remind you of important observations and ideas much more effectively than relying on
Bring a pencil, notebook and if possible a camera (be aware that flash photography is not
allowed) with you on your exhibition visit.
This is a visual analysis, not a research paper, so it will rely heavily on your own
observations and ideas, written in your own words. Be sure to organize your thoughts in the
form of an essay, with an introduction, body of text, and a conclusion. Do not write a
‘laundry list’ of your observations or a freestyle stream-of-consciousness essay as your
Some General Guidelines and Points to Write About
• An overview of the exhibition you are visiting. What is the main theme of the exhibition?
In general, what kinds of works are included (painting, sculpture, photography,
installations, etc). What kind of subjects are represented?
• Introduce your selected work by noting its title, name of the artist (if applicable), its
medium (painting, sculpture, photography, video, etc.), the date when it was made, if
known, and approximate size.
• The focus of the paper is the object itself. Include a formal description of the piece,
emphasizing specific details regarding shape, color, material, decoration, size, etc. What
colors or materials does the artist use? Who or what is represented? How would you
describe the pure forms depicted? Is there a figurative subject, and would you describe
it as realistic, or stylized? How is the composition arranged? If it is a two-dimensional
work, how is space handled – does it appear three-dimensional, or relatively flat? What
gives this impression? If you are looking at a three-dimensional figure, what is the
scale? Is it life-sized, or larger, or smaller? What seems to be the attitude or expression
of any figures? What do you notice most when you look extremely closely at the surface
of the work? Can you see how the artist created it? Do you get a sense of their working
• Consider the iconography and physical appearance of the piece and what it represents.
Based on what we’ve covered in class, the gallery text panels, and your own knowledge,
what is the subject of the piece? As a viewer, what kind of feeling do you get from the
piece, and why? What elements seem most effective – is it the detail of the piece, or the
compositional arrangement, or even the surface quality or texture of the piece?
• Conclude your paper by noting how the piece connects with the main theme of the
exhibition in which it is included, and your subjective comments on why you choose this
as the piece for the focus of your essay.
Reminder: This paper is to be largely based on your observations and direct experience with
your chosen piece. It is not a research paper. If, however, you choose to consult outside
sources and include this information in your paper, it must be directly relevant to your
observations, it must be put into your own words, and a bibliography must be included (this
also pertains to any websites consulted). It is extremely important to avoid copying
information directly from sources without proper citation and documentation because that is
plagiarism and is a serious academic offense.
Visual Analysis of an Italian Painting. Art History Visual Analysis Paper Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums Milwaukee […]