The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. Pablo Picasso
2. Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. Edgar Degas
3. No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. Oscar Wilde
4. To send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist. Schumann
5. The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity. Walt Whitman

October 24, 2016

Manet's "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe"

The above link is to a kind of summary of the material we have watched; however, it may help you remember some things in order to comment on the watched documentary.

Task: comment on how Manet managed to break all the rules by creating this work.

Deadline: October 30th, 2016

Course no. 2: The Critical Essay. The Formal Analysis

The artistic discourse community:

- a socio-rhetorical group of people who share common goals directly related to art; certain mechanisms of communication (eg. art magazines); specific vocabulary, grammar, semantics, rhetoric; specific GENRES

- genre: type of texts that share the same communicative purpose

The Critical Essay = a genre whose communicative purpose is to offer a personal opinion on a specific subject. Therefore we can consider it subjective writing. Nontheless, subjective does not mean total lack of evidence for what we claim.

The Formal Analysis
- a type of critical essay

- to analyse = to take a thing apart; to decompose it in order to see what its components are and how they work together as a whole => to analyse a work of art = to deconstruct it into smaller elements such as : subject-matter; formal elements; principles of design; style; purpose, etc.
- purpose: to describe, interpret and/or evaluate a work of art, that is, to analyse a work of art
- prerequisite: direct access to the real work or to a good reproduction
- each such important element is then analysed in order to see what role it plays in the whole

- the standard move-structure of a text belonging to the subgenre of formal analysis:

MOVE I: Introducing the work and the artist

  • step 1: identifying the work (some details about the title, author, theme, subject-matter, medium, dimensions, period of creation, current location, purposes of creation)
  • step 2: identifying the artist: only that biographical information considered relevant for the work analysed

MOVE II: Transition:

- usually offers a personal first response to the work

MOVE III: Analysing de-constructed elements:

  • step 1: analysing first element : describing the first element + interpreting the first element + /- evaluating the first element (e.g. a character in the work)
  • step 2: analysing element 2 (e.g. the principle of the perfect symmetry)
  • step 3: analysing element 3 (e.g. the dominating colour)

MOVE IV: Concluding:

- offering a final interpretation +/- evaluation of the whole work, based on the previous analyses


- study the texts:

1. The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Jeanne Cenami by Jan van Eyck, written by Erwin Panofsky

The text you are supposed to read is really Panofsky's text (which can be found in the book Anda-Elena Cretiu: Discourse and Communication in Visual Arts, Casa Cartii de Stiinta, 2014, or in Genre-Structured Discourse in Art Texts, Presa Univ. Clujeana, 2003) (in our library). The links below are only commentaries on the text and may help you better understand it. 

Erwin Panofsky and his interpretation of art works
another version of the text

2. Ten Lizes by Andy Warhol by Anca Teodora Pora

3. Write a formal analysis on a subject of your choice.

- comment on the analyses made by the authors, that is, on the descriptions and interpretations and/or evaluations offered; did they convince you?; can you find other possible interpretations to those elements?; are there other elements you would have chosen instead? which? why?

DEADLINE 1 (for task 1): November 1st 

DEADLINE 2 (for task 2): November 30th 

DEADLINE 3 (for task 3): October 31, Nov. 7

October 09, 2016

Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon"'Avignon

You can place your comments on the viewed material here. Why does such a previously perceived as "hideous" work of art mean so much in art history?
DEADLINE for your comments : October 23rd

BASIC TAXONOMY (course one continued)

Here are the most important terms we will be using throughout this year's study; please be sure you get well acquainted with all of them:

  • THEME: the general content of the art work (general aspect/subject) (e.g. the landscape)
  • SUBJECT-MATTER: the sum of identifiable objects, persons, places, references in the artwork (e.g. the rosegarden)
  • MEANING (or, CONTENT): is revealed through interpretation; sometimes the title may be of help, but most often than not, it is revealed through careful iconographic and/or iconologic interpretation
  • ICONOGRAPHY: the overt or hidden symbolism in the artwork, rendered through images (signs, symbols)
  • ICONOLOGY: the meaning revealed through the study of the cultural, social, historical background of the artwork (through literary, historical,aso, texts)
  • DESCRIBING ART: the verbal pointing to the features; a means of gathering the support for interpretations; it concerns the subject-matter, the most expressive formal elements; the principles of design, aso.
  • ANALYSING ART: explaining how the described elements get their meanings, the artist's choices; inferring meaning; evaluating technique
  • INTERPRETING ART: a most important and complex activity; the arriving at the meaning of the artwork by employing different strategies of interpreting based on the information gathered through iconographical and iconological insights
  • EVALUATING ART: determining how good the artwork is, according to some criteria,either clearly stated, or implied, while providing reasons and evidence for judgments

Course one: An overview on the peculiarities of the discourse about art

The members of the (artistic) discourse community share a number of features:
  • a set of common public goals
  • mechanisms of intercommunication
  • mechanisms to provide information and feedback
  • GENRES - which are specific to the common goals
  • specific lexis
  • discourse expertise in the specific field
TASK: Can you exemplify these common features: e.g. What common goals do artists have? Which are the mechanisms through which they communicate among themselves?
Art and communication : visual + verbal/linguistic

Visual communication: facilitated by such features as : theme, subject-matter, elements of design, principles of design/composition, iconography (signs, symbols).

Task: give some examples of how the artist may communicate a specific thing threough one or more of the above features of the plastic discourse.

Linguistic/verbal communication: 

The artistic discourse community employs its own discourse, characterized by certain features:

  • specific vocabulary (the specific lexis)

-everyday words placed in a new, art-specific context (e.g. brush, installation, ground, glazing, etc)
- words from science and technology (e.g. de-gas; alkydic resin)
-word-formation (e.g. water-colour, aqua-tint, body colour, aquamarine, etc)
- borrowings (from French: e.g.frottage, sanguine, gouache, and Italian: e.g. sfumato, chiaroscuro, sgraffitto, etc )
- specific phrases (e.g. still life, life size, colour field, nonobjective art, found object, ready made, etc)
- trademarks/tradenames (e.g. a Picasso, a Chanel, an Impressionist, etc)

  •  specific morphology, syntax, semnatics, rhetoric (not extremely different from the general use)
  •  specific GENRES

NOMENCLATURES = hierarchical arrangement of the terminology of an area of study ; they are probably the most important characteristic of any specific vocabulary.

subject-matter identifiable objects, stories, events; "what is depicted?"
  • representational/abstract/non-representational=nonobjective art
  • meaning=content
  • title
  • iconography + iconology
formal elements:
  • line (e.g. dominant/subordinate, smooth/jerky/brusque/jagged)
  • shape (e.g. geometric/biomorphic)
  • light/dark (value,key)
  • mass
  • volume
  • colour, hue, value, intensity/saturation/purity; primary/secondary/intermediate/analogous/monochromes/warm/cool
  • space (overlapped shapes, foreshortening, size, linear=geometric perspective + vanishing point/atmospheric=aerial perspective/realistic space/analogical,abstract space; three/bi-dimensional space
  • texture
  • time and motion
  • sound and smell
principles of design:
  • balance (symmetrical/approximately simmetrical/asymmetrical balance)
  • focal point
  • dominance
  • economy
  • rhythm
  • scale, proportion ("the golden section")
  • unity/variety
  • open/closed composition

purposes of art (functions that artworks may fulfill - in religious rituals, commemorating, assertion of power, honouring a person, recording an event, etc)

processes and materials/media
  • drawing (e.g. in silverpoint, in pastels, etc)
  • painting (e.g. in acrylics, oil paint, etc)
  • printmaking (relief/intaglio processes/engraving/drypoint/aquatint, etc)
  • sculpture (additive/subtractive; modelling, casting, assemblages, etc)


  • conceptual, representational, illusionistic, naturalistic, realistic, idealistic, abstract, non-representational;
  • Classsical/Romantic/Baroque/Impressionistic/Expressionistic, etc
GENRES     = classes of communicative events (spoken, or written) which share communicative  purposes

The genres that we will be studying are:
  • the critical essay (the formal analysis, the expository essay, the compare and contrast essay, the argumentative essay);
  • the essay examination;
  • the research paper
  • the art review
  • the artnews
  • the artist's statement
  • the artist's blog
  • the artist's home page/web site
  • the exhibition catalogue

NOTE: for more detailed information and a deeper insight, please consult Anda-Elena Cretiu: An ESP Perspective on Art-Related Discourse, EZway Books, LLC, Las Vegas,NV, 2004, which you can find in the UAD library; chapter3- An overview on the peculiarities of the discourse about art, pp.71-100; the 1000 terms dictionary at the end may also be of some help. You may as well consider the new book by the same author: Discourse and Communication in Visual Arts, CCS, 2014 (pp. 9-68) and 249-259

DEADLINE: October 23, 24 hrs.

Please bring comments under each section you may have something to add to. You may come up with some new examples for each section.