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There are many ways to approach a critical analysis essay. There is no ‘correct’ way, though most will follow these steps:
In early stages of your paper this might be as simple as creating a list – use bullet points for easy reading and numbering if needed – describing each element that can be seen from a distance or from a first glance at the picture itself (for example colors, shape/form, size).
Work with what you know about art history and anything you already know about the artist so far in order to describe what you see, including any identifiable symbols or themes within the work.
This assessment needs to include an explanation of why it is important so don’t just “the work is red” or “it is blue”. Think about why the artist chose that color, what it symbolizes to them, and how you can use that symbolism in your description.
If you are conducting any research on the artist or work itself look for influences of other artists or related works. It may be helpful to write down a list of similarities between this piece and their previous work so you can compare throughout your essay.
If this is not possible – for example if there are no other paintings by the same artist – then just mention that it does not exist yet to get across that they do have some sort of signature style or specific subject matter which could be used as clues to how you should describe this work.
This is where having your bullet points will come in handy! Keep it simple while still being specific – too many words can cause confusion for the reader while not enough can make it seem like you are just skimming through what you are saying so try to use more of a guideline than an exact number of words – but remember that word count is important so avoid rambling on about one subject if it isn’t necessary.
Some ideas include describing color schemes, identifying symbols within the work, noting emotions expressed by figures or faces depicted, or analyzing composition of shapes. Also include why these aspects of the piece are important to the work as a whole, as well as why they are important to you specifically. In other words how does this painting affect your feelings?
This step should be obvious but make sure not to get stuck writing about what you know because by now you probably have pretty much explained everything there is to say about the subject matter already! Instead delve into symbolism, hidden messages, social context (and how it reflects art trends of its time), or personal interpretations. Remember that this step should be brief; do not spend more than half of your paper explaining what you believe it says.
It is important to put this essay into context by placing it in the history of art – note any other works that came before or after by other artists and how your chosen piece compares. You should also take into consideration the time period that the artist lived in, their social status, etc so see if you can find anything new about them as well as if there are any interesting facts about how they were inspired to create this work.
If possible try to look for something unique between the critic/reviewer and the artist themselves because these outside opinions will be what influence your own personal analysis of the work. Keep it short though; no need to write pages on why someone else thinks it’s good or bad because your opinion will speak for itself.
Now that you have finished writing a critical analysis essay it is time to summarize everything, letting the reader know what they should take away from this work and how it relates to other works of art by the same artist or in general.
This step should conclude any previous points made throughout your paper while also summing up each separate paragraph into one concise idea that applies to the whole piece. Be sure not to end abruptly though because if there was no real purpose behind describing every detail of the work then obviously a summary would be pointless!
Watch out for key words such as “however” or “moreover” which could signal a transition back into discussing what you think about all of the aspects you discussed previously (remember that this should be a personal essay and your opinion matters most!) Try to end on a thought-provoking note; maybe even pose a question the reader could explore further.
If all else fails: If you really can’t think of anything important to say, keep it short and sweet by sticking with what you know (conveying information about the artist or work in general) but make sure to leave room for improvement by mentioning how there is still much more research to do.
When summarizing try not to get too specific because if they really wanted to do their own research they would have already done so and instead just mention that there was no one thing that stuck out as particularly great or bad .