Art History Formal Analysis Thesis

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His book, , became very popular throughout Europe and appeared in many languages.

An 18th-century English edition translates de Piles’s terms of analysis as: composition (made up of invention and disposition or design), drawing, color, and expression.

These strokes are strictly parallel, almost entirely rectilinear, and slant from right to left as they descend.

And this direction of the brush strokes is carried through without regard to the contours of the objects.

Inspired by modern art, Fry set out to escape the interpretative writing of Victorians like Ruskin.

He wanted to describe what the viewer saw, independent of the subject of the work or its emotional impact.Fry made his argument through careful study of individual paintings, many in private collections and almost all of them unfamiliar to his readers.Although the book included reproductions of the works, they were small black-and-white illustrations, murky in tone and detail, which conveyed only the most approximate idea of the pictures.As is often the case in Fry’s writing, the words he chose go beyond what the viewer sees to suggest the process of painting, an explanation of the surface in terms of the movement of the painter’s hand.After a digression about how other artists handled paint, Fry returned to [Cézanne] has abandoned altogether the sweep of a broad brush, and builds up his masses by a succession of hatched strokes with a small brush.Furthermore, Fry warned his readers, “it must always be kept in mind that such [written] analysis halts before the ultimate concrete reality of the work of art, and perhaps in proportion to the greatness of the work it must leave untouched a greater part of the objective.” (Private collection, Paris), painted about 1880.The lengthy analysis of the picture begins with a description of the application of paint.This was, Fry felt, the necessary place of beginning because all that we see and feel ultimately comes from paint applied to a surface.He wrote: “Instead of those brave swashing strokes of the brush or palette knife [that Cézanne had used earlier], we find him here proceeding by the accumulation of small touches of a full brush.” This single sentence vividly outlines two ways Cézanne applied paint to his canvas (“brave, swashing strokes” versus “small touches”) and the specific tools he used (brush and palette knife).The purest formal analysis is limited to what the viewer sees.Because it explains how the eye is led through a work, this kind of description provides a solid foundation for other types of analysis.

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