Formal Analysis of Art

Formal Analysis of Art
Erica Tyson
October 3, 2010
Course Art/101

Vincent Van Gogh??™s Starry Night is one of the most discussed and influential pieces of
artwork ever created. As far as oil paintings are concerned, Starry Night has become as
important in popular culture as any of the greatest songs and films of our generation. Van Gogh??™s
Starry Night is a unique painting for numerous reasons. Composed in slight contrast to the
impressionist style of the 19th century, Van Gogh??™s work is an exaggerated, surreal work that is
at equal measures relaxing and intriguing. The painting itself depicts a collection of lightly
swirled clouds and overwhelming, blazing stars in the sky. Everything is larger than life and the
sky appears more like a frothy ocean than the heavens at night .The curves and pinpoints location
of each star forces the observer??™s eyes to move about the painting as much as possible. Directly
below the sky is a small town, composed of darkened colors and brightly lit window spaces,
creating a sense of wonder emanating from each window. The steeple of the church acts as a
binding force, representing stability and centrality for the town. On the far left side of the
painting is the curvy, unknown structure that has intrigued scholars for decades. Painted in the
same manner as the sky with curving, flowing lines, the structure could be anything from a tree
to a mountain. Much has been made of the colors used in Van Gogh??™s Starry Night, especially
the heavy use of yellow that permeated much of his later work. Theories including lead
poisoning and certain brain diseases have been postulated as reasons for his odd color selections
late in life.
In Wall Drawing 681C the arrangement of ink color combinations appears to be random;
however, within each square all of the bands have the same first color of ink ??“ all of the bands in
the first square start with yellow, all in the second with gray, all in the third with red, and all in
the fourth with blue. This pattern almost adheres to LeWitt??™s code that applies colors to the four
basic types of line. The square with red base layers consists of diagonal left to right lines, and the
square with the blue base layers consists of diagonal right to left lines, as decreed by the code.
However, the yellow and gray codes have been switched ??“ gray is the standard color for vertical
lines, and yellow is the standard color for horizontal lines (in this wall drawing they have been
Diego Velazquez monumental “Las Meninas” (“Ladies in Waiting”), is not only the best
painting in the Western world but it is also one of the most puzzling. The reasons given, mostly
of a technical order, extoll Velazquez discreetly intellectual art which, as art historian Enriqueta
Harris states, is expressed in “superb color values and draftsmanship, showing unique skill in
merging color, light, space, rhythm and mass in such a way that all have equal value” (Atlee,
2003). “Las Meninas” message propounds authentic democratic principles, making it a very
modern work – way ahead of its time politically. It has an uniqueness which sets it above other
paintings in the Western world inasmuch as it is the only known painting in which an artist has
achieved, with aesthetic mastery, a fusion of form and content.
Edward hopper was a painter. He were very known for one of his paintings, ???Nighthawks???.
Hoppers art owed much to his command of design. His paintings were never merely naturalistic
renderings but consciously composed works of art. His design had certain marked characteristics.
It was built largely on straight lines; the overall structure was usually horizontal, but the
horizontals were countered by strong verticals, creating his typical angularity. His style showed
no softening with the years; indeed, his later oils were even more uncompromising in their
rectilinear construction and reveal interesting parallels with geometric abstraction. He liked the
relation between the forms of nature and of manmade things – the straight lines of railway tracks;
the sharp angles of farm buildings; the clean, functional shapes of lighthouses. Instead of
impressionist softness, he liked to picture the clear air, strong sunlight, and high cool skies of the
Northeast. His landscapes have a crystalline clarity and often a poignant sense of solitude and
stillness (Britannica, para.3).


Atlee, M. 2003. ???LAS MENINAS: The World??™s Best Painting??? Retrieved October 4, 2010