How to Critique Artwork. An art critique is a detailed analysis and evaluation of a work of art. While no two people will experience the same reaction to a work of art, or interpret it the same way, there are a few basic guidelines you can follow to achieve a thoughtful, thorough critique. The basic elements of an art critique are description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment.
This is the sort of thing you’d find on a museum or gallery label, or in the caption in an art book. Knowing the background of a piece can make a big difference in how you interpret and understand it. Start your critique by providing the following information:
Using neutral terms, describe the artwork. Your description should include things like the form and scale of the work. If the art depicts figures or objects rather than abstract shapes, describe what is represented.
Now describe the work in more detail. Talk about the way the art uses these five basic elements of art and design: line, color, space, light, and shape.
Lines in a work of art can be either literal or implied. Different types of lines can create different moods or effects. For example:
Make note of characteristics like hue (red, green, blue, etc.), value (lightness or darkness), and intensity. Look at overall color schemes, and think about how the colors work together.
“Space” refers to the areas around and between objects in a work. When talking about space, focus on things like depth and perspective, overlapping of objects, and the use of empty space versus space crowded with details.
Light in a work of art can look warm or cool, bright or dim, natural or artificial. Take a little time to talk about the role of light and shadow in the work.
Are the shapes in the work geometric, with straight lines and perfect curves, or are they more natural? Is the work dominated by any one particular type of shape, or do you see a variety of different shapes?
Part 1 Quiz
Why is it important for you to learn about the artwork’s background?
Once you have described the work, it’s time to analyze it, or discuss how it all comes together. Start by talking about how the work is composed, keeping a few basic ideas in mind. For example:
Most works of art have one or more points that are designed to catch your attention and draw your eye. In a portrait, this may be the face or eyes of the subject. In a still-life, it could be a centrally-placed or well-lit object. Try to identify which parts of the work are emphasized.
Identify a few key themes, and discuss how the artist used the elements of design (color, light, space, shape, and line) to express these themes. Themes might include things like:
Part 2 Quiz
When critiquing a piece of art, you will not find any contrast between:
In other words, what do you think the artist was trying to say with the work? Why did they create the work? Try to summarize the overall meaning of the work, as you see it.
Now it’s time to get a little more subjective. Think about how you feel while looking at the work. What do you think is the overall mood of the work? Does it remind you of anything (ideas, experiences, other works of art)?
Use examples from your description and analysis of the work to explain why you think and feel the way you do about the piece.
Part 3 Quiz
What might you say about the work at this stage?
Your goal here isn’t necessarily to decide whether the art is “good” or “bad.” Instead, focus on whether you think the work is “successful.” For example, think about the following:
Once you have decided on a few aspects of the work to judge, clearly state the focus of your evaluation. For example, you might say that you are judging the piece on how well organized it is, how well done it is technically, and how successfully it portrays the intended mood or themes.
In a few sentences, explain your judgment of the work. Give specific reasons for your judgment, using your interpretation and analysis of the work.
Part 4 Quiz
What kind of question can help you determine if the work is “successful” or not?
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