The Assignment, in a Nutshell: A formal interpretation (of 750 to 1,000 words) of a work of art or visual culture reproduced in the course textbook. This must be a thesis-driven, well-organized, well-written paper that describes the formal elements of your chosen work in some detail, but that also analyzes those descriptive details and shows how they prove your main point.
The Basics: What is Formal Interpretation?
Formal interpretation is one of the most important skills an art historian can cultivate, and it is central to what we will be doing in this course. The concept is three dimensional: Put simply, a formal interpretation is (1) a written account of (2) a close examination of an object that (3) helps support a particular “reading” of that work. You can think of it as the process of translating a visual text into language to make a specific point.
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