Art History Formal Analysis Thesis

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Formal analysis is a specific type of visual description.

Unlike ekphrasis, it is not meant to evoke the work in the reader’s mind.

The idea of analyzing a single work of art, especially a painting, in terms of specific visual components was not new.

One of the most influential systems was created by the 17th-century French Academician Roger de Piles (1635-1709).

Each form seems to have a surprising amplitude, to permit of our apprehending it with an ease which surprises us, and yet they admit a free circulation in the surrounding space.

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It is above all the main directions given by the rectilinear lines of the napkin and the knife that make us feel so vividly this horizontal extension [of space].

Instead it is an explanation of visual structure, of the ways in which certain visual elements have been arranged and function within a composition.

Strictly speaking, subject is not considered and neither is historical or cultural context.

Fry made his argument through careful study of individual paintings, many in private collections and almost all of them unfamiliar to his readers.

Although the book included reproductions of the works, they were small black-and-white illustrations, murky in tone and detail, which conveyed only the most approximate idea of the pictures.


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