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ARTH301: Art Historical Methodologies

Unit 2: Visual Description and Stylistic and Biographical Analysis   First, this unit explains how to write a visual description and stylistic analysis of an artwork.  It then examines the methodology of Formalism by first focusing on Heinrich Wölfflin’s (1864-1945) work and then on later mid-twentieth century Formalists.  Although Wölfflin was interested in the cultural context in which stylistic changes occurred, later twentieth-century Formalist art historians and critics combined his approach with certain elements of connoisseurship to create a methodology that focused solely on the artworks’ formal properties. The result was analysis containing highly nuanced formal descriptions of art and artistic movements detached from larger claims about the culture in which they were created.  The unit concludes by looking at Giorgio Vasari’s (1511-1574)“Lives of Artists” and biographical analysis.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 20 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 7 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 11 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 2 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Write a visual description and stylistic analysis of an artwork.
  • Identify and explain the major characteristics of Formalism and how it can be used to interpret a work of art.
  • Identify and explain the main arguments presented by Heinrich Wölfflin in “Principles of Art History” and their importance to later art history.
  • Explain how biographical analysis can be used to interpret art.

2.1 Visual Description   - Reading: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: Visual Description,” “Writing about Art: Ekphrasis,” and “Writing about Art: Formal Analysis” Links: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: Visual Description,” (PDF) “Writing about Art: Ekphrasis,” (PDF) and “Writing about Art: Formal Analysis” (PDF)

 Also Available in
[Paperback](http://www.amazon.com/Writing-About-Art-Marjorie-Munsterberg/dp/1441486240/):
$10  

 Instructions: Please read these pages in their entirety as an
introduction to writing visual descriptions of artworks.  
    
 Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the
kind permission of Marjorie Munsterberg, and can be viewed in its
original form [here](http://www.writingaboutart.org/).  Please note
that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in
any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Activity: Writing a Visual Description: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collection Database Link: Writing a Visual Description: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collection Database (HTML)

    Instructions:First, find the following artwork in the Metropolitan Museum’s database, and write a concise two-page visual descriptionof Yves Tanguy’s From Green to White. Be sure to include the name of the artist, the title, the date, the medium, the approximate dimensions, the name of the collection, and the museum accession number (this is a number given to the object by the museum when it enters the museum’s collection).  You do not need to do any further research.  When writing your visual description, remember that it should be detailed enough so that your reader can visualize all the major elements of the artwork.  Organize your description around several paragraphs that have topic sentences and correct grammar and spelling.  After you are finished, please visit Marjorie Munsterberg’s Writing About Art: “APPENDIX III:  Sample Student Papers (Visual Descriptions)” (PDF) to look at examples of student’s visual descriptions of these artworks.   Note that these students wrote several drafts and the teacher’s comments on these drafts are also included on this page.
     
    Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Marjorie Munsterberg, and can be viewed in its original from here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

2.2 Stylistic Analysis   - Reading: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: Stylistic Analysis,” “Writing about Art: Personal Style,” “Writing about Art: Period Style,” and “Writing about Art: Realistic” Links: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: Stylistic Analysis,” (PDF) “Writing about Art: Personal Style," (PDF) “Writing about Art: Period Style,” (PDF) and “Writing about Art: Realistic” (PDF)

 Also available in
[Paperback](http://www.amazon.com/Writing-About-Art-Marjorie-Munsterberg/dp/1441486240/):
$10  

 Instructions: Please read these pages as an introduction to the
technique of stylistic analysis.  For more on the writing of
Heinrich Wölfflin see subunit 2.3 below.  For more on
Connoisseurship see subunit 3.1 below.  
    
 Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the
kind permission of Marjorie Munsterberg, and can be viewed in its
original form [here](http://www.writingaboutart.org/).  Please note
that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in
any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Activity: Writing a Stylistic Description: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collection Database Link: Writing a Stylistic Description: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collection Database (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Choose one of the two groups of artworks below and write a two to three page double-spaced stylistic analysis of the paintings or sculptures.  (Note that the numbers in parentheses are the accession numbers and can also be used to find artworks in the museum’s collection database.)
     
    1) Claude Monet: “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench (2002.62.1),” “Camille Monet in the Garden at Argenteuil (2000.93.1)”, and “La Grenouillè (29.100.112)”
     
    2) Medieval Sculptures: “Head of a David (38.180)”, “Head of Joseph (2007.143)”, and “Head of a King (47.100.55)”
     
    Remember you do not need to do any research and your analysis should be based on a comparison of what the artworks look like.  When writing your stylistic analysis, be sure to consider the following: size, format, what materials were used, how they were used, what is represented, and how it is represented.  Organize your analysis around an introduction that includes a strong thesis statement, a body with complete paragraphs that have topic sentences, and a conclusion.  Remember to carefully proofread your essay to check for any grammar and spelling errors.  After you are finished, please visit Marjorie Munsterberg’s Writing About Art: “APPENDIX III:  Sample Student Papers (Visual Descriptions)” (PDF) to look at examples of student’s visual descriptions of these artworks.   Note that these students wrote several drafts and the teacher’s comments on these drafts are also included on this page.
     
    Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Marjorie Munsterberg, and can be viewed in its original from here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

2.3 Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) and Formalism   - Lecture: Yale University: Paul Fry’s ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature “Lecture 5 - The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork”  Link: Yale University: Paul Fry’s ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature “Lecture 5 - The Idea of the Autonomous Artwork” (HTML)
 
Instructions: View this lecture that explores the origins of formalist literary criticism. Pay attention especially to the popularity of the New Critics and their preferred site of literary exploration, the poem. You may also read a transcript of this lecture here.
 
Terms of Use: These resources are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. They are attributed to Yale University and the original versions can be found here.

  • Reading: Books and Writers: Petri Liukkonen’s “Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945)” Link: Books and Writers: Petri Liukkonen’s “Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this page as an introduction to the work of Heinrich Wölfflin.  Wölfflin was a famous art historian who developed a set of classifying principles that were influential in the development of twentieth century art historical analysis.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: arthistoryunstuffed.com: Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette’s “Podcast 8: Formalism and Romanticism” Link: arthistoryunstuffed.com: Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette’s “Podcast 8: Formalism and Romanticism” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Click on the red play button and listen to the entire podcast (19:18 minutes).  It discusses the development and methodology of Formalism and its relationship to Hegelianism and Modernism.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: iTunes U: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: David Ward’s “Clement Greenberg: Face to Face” Link: iTunes U: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: David Ward’s “Clement Greenberg: Face to Face” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Please listen to the entire podcast (33:22 minutes).  It discusses the life and work of the Formalist art critic, Clement Greenberg (1909-1994), and places his work within the general social context of post-War World II United States.  Clement Greenberg was also a Marxist, so this also serves as a preview of Marxist art historical analysis.  You will read Greenberg’s first major work, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” which is mentioned in this podcast, in subunit 6.2.1 below.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Deniz Tekiner’s “Formalist Art Criticism and the Politics of Meaning” Link: Deniz Tekiner's "Formalist Art Criticism and the Politics of Meaning" (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article for an in-depth look at mid-twentieth century Formalism. 
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.4 The Biography   - Reading: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: The Biography” Link: Marjorie Munsterberg’s “Writing about Art: The Biography” (PDF)

 Also available in
[Paperback](http://www.amazon.com/Writing-About-Art-Marjorie-Munsterberg/dp/1441486240/):
$10  
    
 Instructions: Please read this page as an introduction to the use
of biography in art historical analysis.  
    
 Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the
kind permission of Marjorie Munsterberg, and can be viewed in its
original form [here](http://www.writingaboutart.org/).  Please note
that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in
any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Reading: Adrienne DeAngelis’s version of Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Artists: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Painter and Sculptor of Florence” Link: Adrienne DeAngelis's version of Giorgio Vasari's, "Lives of the Artists: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Painter and Sculptor of Florence" (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read the biography of Leonardo da Vinci from Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times” in its entirety.  In writing “Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times,” Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) is often created with founding the discipline of art history by analyzing the development of different artistic styles through the biographies of artists.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.