How does physical context play into the history and culture?

Essay Prompt:  Follow this prompt when preparing for your essay.


Prompt: Compare and contrast the three methods of interpreting and evaluating art: art as form, art as context, and art as expression.  Write your comparison by evaluating/interpreting any one of the asterisked works of art on the image list using these methods. For a more thorough review of these methods consult the supplementary page.  Be sure to address the following: How do these theories evaluate art? What types of claims do these theories make? What are some of the strengths and limitations of the methods you chose?

Image List:

  1. 3.180, Henri Matisse, Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life), 1905-1906.
  2. (*)3.184, Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907.
  3. 3.185, Georges Braque, Houses at l’Estaque, 1908.
  4. Not in Book, Pablo Picasso, Ma Jolie, 1911-1912.
  5. Not in Book, Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1919.
  6. Not in Book, Albrecht Dürer, Self-Portrait, 1500.
  7. (*)4.161, Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889.
  8. 2.34, Artemisia Gentileschi, Self Portrait Artist as the Allegory of Painting, 1635.
  9. Not in Book, Do-Ho Suh, High School Uni-Face: Boy, 1997.
  10. (*) 3.151, Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784-1785.
  11. 4.152, Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #35, 1978.
  12. (See 4.153), Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, 1974.
  13. 4.155, Guerilla Girls, Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? 1989.
  14. Not in Book, Herrad von Landsberg, Septem artes liberales, Hortus Deliciarum, 1180.
  15. Not in Book, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Chair, 1925.
  16. 2.138, Faith Ringgold, The Tar Beach, 1988.
  17. Not in Book, Cat Chow, Measure for Measure Dress, 2003.
  18. 3.138, Michelangelo, David, 1501-1504.
  19. 0.8, Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, c. 1503-1506.
  20. Not in Book, Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, 1950.
  21. Not in Book, Piero Manzoni with Artist’s Shit, 1961.
  22. 3.160, Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers, 1849.
  23. 3.162, Edouard Manet, Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), 1863.
  24. (*)2.175, Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917.
  25. 4.71, Martin Ramirez, Untitled (La Inmaculada), 1950s.
  26. (*)4.119, Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937.


  1. 4.116, Theodore Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1819.


Modes of Analysis:

Formal Analysis: Use the Elements of Art (space, shape, line, light, color, texture or mass) or the Principles of Art (balance, unity/variety, scale/proportion, repetition/rhythm or emphasis/subordination).

Contextual Analysis: You may consider any relevant type of context (physical, cultural, or historical).

!Physical Context [The immediate physical surroundings of an artwork]: Where is the art? Where is the work located? (a museum, gallery, home, town square, palace, church, etc.); What access do you have to the work as a viewer?  How is your viewing controlled by the space?; How is the work arranged in the space?  What is near the work?  Is it categorized, framed, etc.?; What is the function of that place?  How does the work function in that space?; How might culture and history play into the physical context?  How does physical context play into the history and culture?

!Historical Context [The time and place in which the artwork is created/viewed]: When was the work created?  Where was the work created?; What was the social/political climate of this time and place?; How did people live in this context?  How did this impact their worldview?; How were artists regarded in this time?  What materials were available to them?; How did art function in society?  How did this work function in society?; Who is the audience, viewer, and/or patron of this work?; How does this work inform us about this context?  How does the context inform us about this work?

!Cultural Context: [the conceptual place an artwork has in a society]: Where was this work created?; What is the social, political, religious, economic, etc. climate of this location?; How does this work function in this culture?  How does art function in this culture?; What is the status of artists in this culture?; Who is the patron, viewer, or audience of this work?; How is the work viewed by people now?; What does this work say about this culture?  What does this culture say about this work? Expressive Analysis: What is your instinctual reaction to the work of art?  What emotions or ideas are present in the work? How are they present?  Who was the artist?  What were the emotions or ideas of the  artist was trying to express?  What message was the artist trying to convey?  What is the artist’s background? (biography, experiences, family, training, etc.) What are artist’s the attitudes? (religious beliefs, poli1cal leanings, worldview, etc.) What are the artist’s influences? (artists, authors, philosophers, etc.)  How is the artist’s background/attitudes/influences present in the work? What is the artist’s context? How does the ar1st fit in that context? What role does the artist play in society? Does he/she have agency?

"Get 15% discount on your first 3 orders with us"
Use the following coupon

Order Now