The Garden of Earthly Delights

1. Tell us which Artwork you selected and UNDERLINE it. ARTWORK SELECTED IS The Garden of Earthly Delights

2. GET A SENSE OF THINGS. Do a little reading about the piece. 

3. DISCUSS particularly the area that is most relevant to our class. Find a painting, sculpture, photograph, or object that "speaks" to you. NOTE: the work of art you are selecting should come from the era pertaining to our course. 

4. CONSIDER YOUR RESPONSE TO THE WORK. What emotions does it raise? What ideas does it provoke? What about the work, in particular, do you find provocative? How does the artist manage to evoke these ideas and feelings? Take notes. Perhaps most importantly, pay attention to what questions you have. Your questions are the most powerful vehicle for forming your thesis. (Later how might answer one of those questions is likely going to be the thesis of your paper.)

5. CONSIDER HOW THE PIECE IS OR WOULD BE/SHOULD BE DISPLAYED. Is it a work that needs to be displayed in a wide open space? (Think of the size.) Does it need bright, high-contrast lighting? Does it welcome you to view it from up-close, or 2 are you asked to view it from a distance? Would you be seeing it in the context in which it was meant to be viewed? Or was it made for a home or church rather than a museum? 5.

CONSIDER THE FORMAL ELEMENTS OF THE WORK. Take note of all of your observations – big and small. Among the elements you will consider are:

• MEDIUM. Why is the artist using this particular medium? What are its advantages? Its limitations?

• LINES. Are the lines thick or thin? Largely vertical or horizontal? Straight or curved? What is achieved by this particular use of line?

• COLOR. Is the color realistic or expressive? Warm or cool? Bright or muted? And to what effect?

• LIGHT. How is light used? How is shadow used? Is there any play between the two? What is communicated to the viewer?

• SPACE. What is the sense of space in the work you’ve chosen? Is there great depth, or is the visual plane shallow? How are the elements of the work configured in that space? How does the sense of space affect the subject matter? Affect your response to the work?

• COMPOSITION. How do the various formal elements of the work interact? How does the composition convey the work’s theme or idea? How does the eye move across the piece? How does the composition control that movement?

• STYLE. What elements of the composition work to constitute the artist’s style? The style of the period in which the artist was/is working?

• DETAILS. What are some details that can only be seen when in front of the work of art in person (rather than looking at a digital reproduction)?

• CONDITION. What overall condition is the work in? What might account for this?

6. CONSIDER THE CONTEXT OF THE WORK. When was it painted? By whom? Where? With what other works is it in conversation? What cultural or historical matters have influenced the work of art or artist? What cultural or historical matters does it seem to be addressing? Here you may need to do some research. Take note of your sources to reference in your paper.

7. MAKE CONNECTIONS. Look at your notes on the formal elements of the work in question. Then return to your initial notes on your response to the work. Do you see connections between what the artist has done, formally, and your own responses? Turn then to your comments on the work’s context. Does analysis of the formal elements shed any light on contextual matters? Or vice versa? When you begin to see connections between the formal elements and the larger issues of context and personal response, you begin to see how you might make an interesting argument about the work of art.

8. FOCUS IN. Underline the most poignant observation or conclusion from this experience. This should be your thesis. 

9. EDIT YOUR PAPER. Not every aspect of this assignment will fit into a 2-page double-spaced paper. You will need to make editorial decisions to include the most compelling aspects of your reflections and those that most support your thesis, etc.

10. USE REFERENCES. Make sure you give credit where credit is due. (Parenthetical or footnotes is fine, along with the accompanying References or Bibliography page (after your two-page critique).– APA or Turabian/MLA.)


1. The terminology “work of art” is preferred over “piece of art.”

2. Use American (not European) metrics. In other words, use feet, not meters.

3. Note: many word processing programs will autocorrect the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s abbreviated “Met” to MET (all caps). This is not correct. In fact, you should not abbreviate it in academic writing. Write out the full name of the museum.

(Last) At the end of your writing – please include a image of the Artwork.

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