How to Critique a Work of Art-Part I

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How to Critique a Work of Art

Part I


It takes more than a few minutes of looking at a work of art to critique it. You may immediately like or dislike a painting, which is fine; you know what you like! But, taste is subjective. Critiquing is a way to objectively look at a piece of art to decide if it is successful or not.

There are a lot of different elements to consider when critiquing art, so I’m going to break them down into several blog posts so that it’s not overwhelming. Let’s take a look at a few things that you can use right away to make your own judgements!

For this section of our critique we’ll study the subject and a few elements of art- line, shape, form and space. Let’s use Seraut’s, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte as our example. This painting is famous for its use of pointillism which uses small, distinct dots of color, applied in patterns to form an image.


First we need to look at the subject. What is the painting depicting? At this point we are just describing the image without judgement. We see men and women, children, dogs, trees, grass, water, boats and sky. Now we can get into the elements of art.


What kind of lines appear in the image? Thick or thin? Jagged or smooth? Chaotic or clear? Curvy or angular? Or in this case, maybe the lines that we see are just the result of the pointillism technique!


Here we are looking for what kinds of shapes are found in the image. We can talk about the shapes of the figures, but also about the overall shapes of the background. For instance, if we only look at the grass, it forms kind of a triangle. The same with the water on the left.


Form is the main organization and visual order of information in the artwork. Here is where you can talk about what’s important in the piece, repetition, grouping relationships and how things are visually linked. In A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, we could say that form is shown through the many vertical lines formed with the figures and also repeated by the trees.


What kind of space are we looking at? Is it shallow, or can we see far into the horizon? Space can also include perspective.

Alright! Now you know a little bit about how to analyze a work of art. Next time you take an art stroll, you have some tools under your belt to analyze a piece. There’s a lot more to it than just these few items though. Stick around! Next time we’ll talk about color, texture and value. You’ll be a pro in no time 😉