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Art history: Compare and Contrast essay
← Formal Analysis of ArtArt in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction →

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There are a few suggested words when it comes to art analysis that is used. These depend on themes such as texture, color, mood and message, space, style as well as composition. Most untrained analysts focus on the aspects of individual objects in paintings rather than the relationships between the pictorial elements that abide in paintings and this suggests that they hold representational accuracy to be far more important than the design used in judging the aesthetics of a visual composition (Nodine & Locher 226). The art work on display for analysis in the assignment will be judged according to the relationships between the pictorial themes that were stated previously.


Each pictorial theme or element has several aspects which are used to describe the painting. For example, in the painting shown below:

This piece is called "Nude Descending a Staircase created by Marcel Duchamp. The monochromic work was mostly in yellow and the shades displayed a quiet ‘Cubist’ style that the painter Marcel had come to adopt.  As for the rest of the composition, the painting does little background expect the illusion of the dark staircase. Rather than use the embodiment of sensuality common with expressionism, the artist uses 20 or so pictorials of a mechanical structure that are placed in array over the stair-case. Going along with the ‘cubist style, it is also hard to distinguish whether the figure silhouetted against the dark background is physically a man or a woman. The artist seems to portray a struggle within a person, which could be anything from conflicting anger to guilt or confusion. The painting ultimately lets one attain their perspective of the conflict source.

On the other hand, the composition can be described as elegant and symmetrical following the strokes at the bottom of the page (Compare and Contrast 3). They give an edge of chaos but upon careful examination seem quite calculated. As it pertains directly to an emotional or philosophical subject, the painting would thus be categorized as abstract, allowing different perspectives on the same subject.

The painting is referred to as the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon done by Pablo Picasso and is said to have been the piece that got him the ultimate title of Picasso in the first place.  The piece was done in 1907 during the peak of the expressionist movement. What is immediately recognizable is the unabashed presence of five females. The title itself may present a sense of youth though; this is not presented in the composition. For example, the faces are angular and sharp and two of the women are wearing masks. This gives them an intense, if not severely wild aura. Many people believe the inspiration from the piece came from a visit to Africa, where the artist got in-touch with the nature. Liberal, though it may be, the painting does not necessarily exude crassness by depicting nude beings as the artist’s sways from detailing their private organs. Some paintings like Michelangelo in the middle ages were not as shy.

The liberal nature of the art piece represents a playful nature as concerns the mood. The expression is found through the nudity of the characters exuding a mood of openness because they literally have nothing to hide, without the sexual focus to their genitals involved. As concerns distortion though, the art definition of the term ascribes to a change made by the artist to size proportion or the general manner of a form based on the visual perception when the forms are assembled to make an image. In both cases, one could say that the level of distortion is quite high in both art works. For example, the forms in the first painting are clashed against each other with a lot of rough edges and sharp corners involved. This creates the mood of chaos, but organized chaos nonetheless.

The second painting does not have as much distortion involved though, as most of the characters are separate by themselves. However, if one looks closely, the figures of the characters have been altered. The body parts are dismembered in some cases. For example, a hand is not in the right position or a leg is facing at an incorrect angle. These are minute cases but distortion in both paintings refers to emotional subscriptions. This is also known as expressionism which is a term used to describe the use of distortion and exaggeration for the purposes of emotional effect.

When one applies this in a stylistic sense it refers to the use of intense color or agitated brush strokes; case in point here would be the first painting. Expressionism refers to an artistic style where the artist attempts to depict not only the objective reality but the subjective emotions and the reality that objects and situations invoke within him. In the case of the second painting, he probably felt the desire to show freedom of expression in the true sense. The first painting refers to a conflicting time within a person’s personality, hence the release of stress through agitated strokes.


Thus, the artist accomplishes what he wants through distortion as well as exaggeration and primitivism and fantasy that were depicted in the latter painting. In the broader sense of terms, expressionism is one of the main currents of the art movement during the later nineteenth and early twentieth century (Rouault 2). The qualities of the style are highly subjective and self expressive as detailed through the two art works. The two paintings substitute visual mage reality as the accurate representation of the real meaning to emotions brought forth.

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Related essays

  1. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
  2. Vincent Van Gogh’s Art
  3. Formal Analysis of Art
  4. Art History of India

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