Art critique doesn’t require a lot of time if you have sufficient critique writing skills. It’s an interesting assignment for students of art colleges as well as high schoolers. All you need is to study some effective art critique techniques. It will help make your essay creative and attention-grabbing.
You may need professional assistance if there’s no time for looking through literature on critique writing. This article will serve as a guideline for your excellent paper (and you can always blow your GPA through the roof, just check our custom writing service.)
1. 📑 Writing an Art Critique: Basics
What do you do when your professor asks you to write a new type of paper? That’s right. You start researching what kind of writing you have to complete.
So, let’s take a closer look at the art criticism definition.
An art critique paper involves a comprehensive analysis and assessment of the object of art. Also, when conducting the review, you understand the aim of the artist.
Critical analysis of artwork stimulates and encourages the discussion of art. When you write it, you express your opinion. And when you receive a critique, you learn from others.
Every person evaluates art differently. Some pay extra attention to the color scheme and composition. Others appreciate realistic qualities in artworks. And some people look for expressiveness and emotion.
You may think that because of these differences, we can’t objectively critique art. Luckily, there is an accepted way to conduct a formal analysis of an artwork. It’s called Feldman’s method, and it consists of four steps: description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment.
Writing an art criticism essay may be a difficult task for some students. But don’t worry – using our guide, you can write this paper easily.
2. 📝 Step-by-Step Art Critique Guidelines
First, let’s take a closer look at structure elements of artistic analysis:
- The introduction. In this part, you should provide essential information about the artist, the artwork, and its features: title, materials, location.
- The thesis. Here you should come up with an argument about the art object.
- The body. This section implies a full description of the intent of the artist. Explain the piece of art from your first reaction and impression points of view.
- The conclusion. In this section you summarize what you’ve learned about the artwork.
Need more tips? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write the main parts of your art criticism paper:
- Before you start writing, create an outline. It will help you develop the structure of your essay. In the draft, answer these questions:
- What do you want to write about?
- What are the key points?
- What evidence supports your ideas?
- Based on the outline, decide on what factual information about the artwork you will need. Then use credible sources to collect all the necessary data.
- Provide a clear thesis statement – the main idea that would reflect your vision of an artistic piece. Don’t underestimate the importance of a thesis! It will guide you through writing the entire essay. It will also help your readers understand your art criticism better.
- Once you’ve started your analysis, take a note of your first spontaneous reaction to the artwork. By the end of the process, you may better understand your first impression, or you may even change your mind!
- Write the main body of the critique using the four-step Feldman’s method. Study the artwork and assess its content, as well as its purpose. Explain which features of the piece of art you spot as the most exciting and less successful.
- Finally, write your conclusions about the artwork based on all the information you have gathered.
3. 📋 Art Critique: Format and Structure
As you can see, there is nothing complicated in writing an art critique.
You may ask: Are there any secrets or life hacks?
It’s simple! To write a perfect paper, follow the four steps we’ve mentioned before: description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment. Understanding these steps will allow you to evaluate any artwork fully and objectively.
When you start writing a critique, remember that a useful analysis provides your view of the object’s strong as well as weak attributes.
3.1 🏞️ Description
First of all, describe the artwork. At this stage, you don’t have to analyze anything. Basically, you just answer the question: what do you see?
Here are some important points that you can include in your artwork description:
- The title of the work and the name of the artist.
- What is the artwork made of?
- What colors, shapes, and textures did the artist use?
- Speak about the techniques used by the artist.
- Describe color contrasts, movement, and shading. Find elements that help to attract the viewer’s attention.
- Speak about the objects you see in the artwork. Does it depict people, plants, or abstract forms?
E.g., this is an oil painting of a woman in profile. She’s wearing a black dress in contrast with a brown background.
3.2 🧐 Analysis
The next step you take when writing an art critique assignment is analysis. To analyze an artwork means to evaluate how its elements correlate with each other. At this stage, you figure out what helps the artwork to convey an idea or a mood.
When writing this section, consider the following points:
- Do the features of the piece complement each other?
- Do they create chaos or harmony?
- Discuss the most prominent elements of the artwork, such as balance, proportion, similarity, and contrast.
- Search for historical underpinnings that became a basis for the artwork under analysis. How does it tell the story of its time?
- Are there any interesting effects, such as movement or soft focus? If yes, then say how the artist achieved them.
- Think about your own emotional reaction to the artwork. Try and formulate what elements helped to convey the feeling.
E.g., the tonal range of the painting creates a dark and brooding atmosphere. The sharp shadows create dramatic contrasts.
3.3 💡 Interpretation
In this next section, we are looking for the meaning behind the artwork. It may seem like a tough task, especially if the artwork is cryptic or too unusual. But don’t worry: at this stage, the interpretation is entirely up to you!
Remember: you shouldn’t make your interpretation too arbitrary! Provide evidence and point out what exactly influenced your understanding of the artwork.
Here are the elements that you can include in your interpretation:
- How does this art object make you feel?
- What do you think of when you’re looking at the artwork?
- What did the artist want to tell you as a viewer?
- What do you think about the title of the work? Does it influence your interpretation?
- If you can’t understand a painting or a sculpture, don’t hurry to give a negative response to it. Think of other critics who have provided a positive evaluation of the examined artwork. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your opinion! All you need is to find a good way to express it.
E.g., in this painting, the artist wanted to show us the king’s personality and achievements.
3.4 ⚖️ Judgment
And now it’s time to express your opinion! At this point, you’re deciding if the work succeeded in creating a mood or telling a story.
It’s essential to be objective when judging an art object. Remember: even if there’s something you personally don’t like, the work still can be successful! And don’t forget to provide evidence that supports your judgment.
Here are some points that can help you write the fourth part of your review:
- How do you think: is the work successful or not?
- Does this art object seem original or not?
- What do you feel when looking at this piece of artwork?
- Go back to your first impression. Has anything changed? What did you learn?
- If nothing changed, explain your first reaction to the work.
- What have you learned from this work that you might apply to your own artwork or your thinking?
E.g., the artwork successfully conveys the atmosphere of a battle through its composition and color scheme. Learning about its backstory helped me to appreciate the painting even more.
4 ✍️ How to Critique Different Art Forms
As you can imagine, all kinds of masterpieces are subject to art criticism. For example, you can choose to write about paintings, drawings, sculptures, or even buildings. And, naturally, all these forms of art have their specific features!
These tips will provide you with an art critique template for anything, be it an oil painting or a cathedral.
4.1 ✍️ Painting Critique
Paint is a medium that emphasizes light, colors, and space. You can discuss these and many other points in your critique, for example:
- What school of painting does it belong to? Is it typical or unusual for this particular school?E.g., Monet’s Water Lilies is a typical Impressionist painting.
- Describe the way the artist applies paint. Are there broad paint strokes, small points of color, or just a smooth surface? What effect does it help to achieve?E.g., Van Gogh’s broad brush strokes help to create a sense of motion.
- Describe how the light is depicted. Where does the light come from? Is there a strong value contrast? In what way does the shadow function? What, in your opinion, does it evoke?E.g., strong contrast makes the central figures stand out.
- Speak about the handling of space in the picture. Does it look flat or three-dimensional? What kind of perspective is used? (e.g., one-point perspective, or bird’s eye view?)E.g., in this painting, Picasso uses multi-dimensional geometrical shapes.
4.2 🗿 Sculpture Critique
Similarly, many specific factors influence the overall impression of a sculpture. Here are some things to pay attention to:
- Say if the material gives a particular texture to the statue. Is the surface smooth, or is it uneven?E.g., Rodin’s sculpture has an unusual earthy texture.
- The surrounding space is just as important as the sculpture itself. Describe the place (in the museum, in a park, in front of a building) where it is situated. What does it add to the sculpture?E.g., the statue appears to walk along the road.
- Speak about the color of the sculpture. Is it painted? Does it rely on natural lights and shadows?E.g., the statue is white. A museum floodlight lights it from above, creating expressive shadows.
- Describe the composition of the sculpture. What does it look like when you approach it? Did the sculptor provide any instructions on how to position it?E.g., the statue is enormous and can be viewed from all sides.
4.3 🏛️ Architecture Critique
You can write art critiques on architecture, too! Just bear in mind the following points:
- What architectural style does it belong to?E.g., the cathedral is a typical Gothic building.
- Was it built with a purpose? Did a specific person request it?E.g., the Palace of Versailles was requested by Louis IV as a symbol of his monarchy.
- Did one architect complete the building, or were there any alterations? Why were they made?E.g., the spire was added to the cathedral much later. It became the integral part of its image.
- What do the exterior and the interior look like? What effect do they produce? Is there a contrast between them?E.g., the building has a high ceiling painted like the sky. It also makes the organ music sound louder.
- Are there statues or paintings on the walls? Discuss them as well!E.g., statues on the cathedral’s facade illustrate scenes from the Bible.
4.4 📸 Photography Critique
Analyzing a photograph is a lot like critiquing a painting. Still, there are some unique features to consider:
- How does the photographer use focus? Is any part of the image blurry? What effect does it produce?E.g., the background is out-of-focus, which has a dreamy effect.
- Is the picture monochrome? If yes, describe its tone, contrast, and shadows. If no, describe the use of color.E.g., the picture is in black and white, with stark contrasts.
- If it’s a photo of a face, pay extra attention to the emotion it expresses. If it’s dynamic, discuss the sense of motion.E.g., the photograph conveys a sense of cheerfulness through the girl’s expression and the use of light.
5 ☝️ Art Critique Tips
Want more advice on how to write an art review essay? Here are some tips to follow:
- Don’t focus too much on description or decoding the hidden meaning behind the artwork. It’s better to find a balance between all four elements of a critique.
- Focus on many different visual aspects of the object you’re discussing. This will make your analysis varied and more complete.
- If possible, visit the gallery or an exhibition to see the artwork for yourself. It can be especially helpful if you’re writing about a sculpture.
- Try to find something you can appreciate in any piece, be it high or low art.
- You can use the artist’s interpretation of their work in your essay, but leave room for your own ideas!
- If you’re going to read your critique in front of your class or group, make a presentation to accompany it!
- Once finished, read your critique aloud. Then, read any of the critique papers from a magazine. You can use it as a sample. Think of what can be added to your assignment to make it even better.
- Don’t forget to check your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation!
Art critique writing should embody all your creativity, experience, and knowledge. Use our tips to deliver an adequate evaluation of an art object.
Which piece of advice do you find the most useful? Tell us in the comments below!
Learn more on this topic:
🤔 Art Critique FAQ
- Identify a genre/style/epoch.
- Note typical features of the genre/style/epoch in the artwork.
- Note what is peculiar, not typical for this style, etc.
- Refer to the broader context, other works of the author.