Analyzing artwork the Mona Lisa
Analyzing artwork the Mona Lisa
Below are examples of the types of questions you might ask. I do not want you to specifically answer each question in your remarks. I want you to interpret your chosen
artwork in a way that works for you.
Part I – Description
Start looking at the artwork
• What is the title of the work?
• What is it? (painting, sculpture, photograph, weaving, mixed media, etc.)
• What is the media/ what is it made of? (for example, what is the type of paint
used; is canvas or paper used; are beads, ribbon or organic materials
included; etc.) • Who is the artist?
• When was the work created?
• Is the style of the artwork realistic (duplicating real life), abstract (a stylized
version of real life), non-objective (nothing like real life at all, such as shapes
• What is “happening” in the work, i.e., what do you SEE, not your interpretation?
(For example, you might say about the Mona Lisa, “A seated woman is staring out at the viewer. She is smiling mysteriously. Her hands are folded and she appears calm
• Do you have any information about the artist personally? Why he or she created the work? Anything that influenced him or her in creating the work?
Note: Often artists include an “artist’s statement” which is usually found next to the
work. They may also include a statement about their work generally, which is often found near the visitors’ book in our gallery. When you are checking to see, be sure
to sign the visitors’ book.
Part II – Analysis
Look at the artwork from a design elements perspective
• What kinds of colors did the artist use? Monochromatic, cool, warm, primary,
secondary, etc.? What impact do they make in your opinion?
• What is the size of the work? How does this affect the viewer in your opinion?
• What kinds of lines does the artist use—horizontal, vertical, diagonal? Short, long,
medium? Curved, straight? What impact do they make in your opinion? • What kinds of shapes do the lines create? What impact do they make in your
• What movement (rhythm) do the shapes and lines create? What impact does this
• What is the relationship of positive to negative space? What is the greatest
interest in positive space? What impact does that make in your opinion? • Is the artwork balanced or unbalanced? If balanced, is it symmetrical? What
impact does this make in your opinion?
Note: Realize that you are describing the design elements, but you are also discussing their impact in your opinion. The describing without the discussion is
Part III- Your interpretation of the work
This part asks for a personal, but educated and in-depth, interpretation of the artwork – what does it say or mean to you after the thorough analysis you have done
above. Here are some examples of the types of questions that you might consider discussing in your presentation on this section:
• What drew me to this artwork?
• What adjectives would I use to describe my response to the artwork, e.g.
disturbing, confusing, joyful, etc. Why?
• What is my personal response to the form (colors, shapes, lines, etc.) of the
• What is my personal response to the content of the artwork?
• Do I think there is symbolism in the artwork? What does this mean to me?
• Is there aesthetic value (beauty in a broad sense) to the artwork? In what way? • Does the artwork remind me of something in my personal life? How does this
affect my experience with and interpretation of the artwork?
• How does the artwork affect me emotionally, i.e., what does it make me feel?
• How does the artwork affect me intellectually, i.e., what does it make me think?
Part IV- Evaluate the work
Judgment, the final step, is often the first statement that is expressed about an artwork before it has really been examined. Judgment in that case is neither informed
nor critical but simply an opinion. This goes well beyond a first reaction of, “I like/hate it.”
• What kind of value does this work have? What’s its purpose? What are emotional and expressional values? To whom is this valuable?
• What do you think about the work? Don’t be afraid to express your opinion.
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