5 steps in visual analysis

 LOOK Watch the art piece.

DESCRIBE Say what did you see about the art piece, without any outside information. For example, “This is a young girl.” Not “This is a goddess.” Focusing on the composition, shape, color, texture, value and so on.

ANALYSE Figure out what happened or in the art piece, or what emotion does the art piece convey. Try to relate the feeling you got and the technics the artist using.

INTERPRET Find out why artists using certain technics, and what they want to say from their works. How do the theme related with the period they lived. Did they be influenced by any other civilizations or artists? And how do they influence others?

JUDGE Do you like the art piece? Why or why not?


When making visual analysis, pay attention on these points:

FORM How do the works look like overall? What do the art pieces made of? What material or technic did artists use?

CONTENT What story or emotion the art pieces are carrying? Funny thing is, form is also part of the content. Because different technics to deal with materials always give us unique feelings.

COMPOSITION What is the art piece made of? How do each part related to each other?

SHAPE Is it rectangular, triangle, round, or something else?

COLOR What colors did artists use? Are they dark or light, saturated or unsaturated?

TEXTURE The surface of the art piece, or the surface of the thing in the art piece.



So let’s get started!

the Birth of Venus  _William-Adolphe Bouguereau(1879)



We see a young girl in the middle withlots of people around her. She is standing in a relaxed “S” shape, holding up her hair. Other characters standing, sitting, swimming, and flying around her with an “S” shape.  The colors are cozy and clear overall.


The girl has an excellent figure. The people around her also have a nice looking. Artists used blue and green colors to pop the characters out.


The girl is Venus. This is the scene that Venus borns. Venus’ lines are gentle and slick, which is almost impossible to appear in a real model. The proportion of her body is also awesome yet unreal. It is the fierce brush from the artist to modify a real life photo into an excellent figure. It also has a comforting, charming composition, which fit the theme very well.

The picture is basically in warm color, but still, we can find several conspicuous saturated cold color. That prevents the whole picture from going too hot or too noisy. We can feel the beauty and peace from the artist.

Then let’s see the color Bouguereau used.

The warm light gives Venus a bright, slender outline on the left, while most part of her body was in a relatively dark area. The wonderful thing is, we still can see so many subtle changes in the dark area, even see some bold cold color on the skin. That makes the air look clear and transparent. The classical painters before Bouguereau all painted skin with yellow and red, nobody dared use the lilacy color in their works.


Spring _Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres(1856)

Many artists like working with strong light, they can use dark color in the shadow to make the picture contrasting. But as mentioned before, Bouguereau depicted a mild light shinning on Venus, so how did he deal with it? He distributed several dark color on men and dolphin, which were originally to be dark. Without these the painting would lose many attractions.

The whole picture conveys a beautiful, innocent, and sacred feeling, I think that’s because of Bouguereau’s loyalty towards religion.  At his era, women were seen as the evil to make men degenerate.  Bouguereau even didn’t get married in his whole life. As a result, teenage girls represents the pure beauty. We can recognize that Venus is not a mature woman, her breasts are in tiny cone-shape.   At his early ages, he created lots of paintings convey some bitter, horror emotion ,such as flogging the Jesus. And they didn’t sell well. The beautiful girls and kids we see now, are compromises he made to be commercial.

JUDGE  The artist was born in the same era with Monet, in which time impressionism was gradually replacing classicism. At the same time, Bouguereau is seen as a trapped technician. Edgar Degas described Bouguereau as “slick and artificial”. I regard classical paintings and impressional paintings as different style that can’t be competed, though impressionism developed later based on classicism. Bouguereau certainly knew his advantages in depicting human bodies. He is not a deviant like Van Gogh or Egon Schiele. He is a classical painter, the most brilliant one in my opinion. And this is one of my favorite from him.





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