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How to Write a Critical Essay about Art

How to Write a Critical Essay about Art

More and more young people decide to choose arts as their college major. Although this sphere of work comes with a lot of excitement, art students also need to adapt to fulfilling assignments that are uncommon for other students. These include writing art criticism essays. If you've never done it before, we offer you some helpful tips on how to manage this kind of tasks.

What Is Art Criticism about?

To evaluate art pieces means to study them thoroughly, seek differences and similarities, give feedback and interpret their meanings in the modern concept. Art criticism is a tool with the help of which people can grasp the meaning of art, its role in the world that surrounds them and the subtext behind different art forms. Through art evaluation, students can discover the differences between various art forms and how they fulfill the given roles.

Two Types of Analysis

Despite the fact that critical essays about art are different from other types of writing, they still need to follow a few general rules. First, you need to create a clear structure - introduction, body part, conclusion. Secondly, your body part should be built based on strong arguments for which you have enough supporting evidence. As far as the art analysis goes, there are two types you might need to deal with.

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Formal Analysis

The key feature of formal analysis lays in the description of the art object qualities. The name formal analysis means that you need to focus only on the form and describe each individual detail as a part of the whole. Formal analysis doesn't require you to analyze the art object from your own point of view or through the meaning it might carry - it's purely an analysis of what you can physically see.

Analysis of the Elements

This type of analysis goes beyond physical features of the art object. Here a mere description is not enough, and you need to answer many questions. What did the artist want to say and why did he or she create this piece of art? Where did the inspiration come from? What tools were used to validate the idea? What differentiates the author from others working in that style?


Every kind of analysis comes down to a judgment. In the context of art, student's judgment is expressed through rating the value and importance of the work. Is it a groundbreaking piece or does it follow the general path of its genre? You can judge a work based on any criterion you can come up with but you always need to mention what exactly it is in your essay. Any type of analysis is based on your own observations so before you start writing anything, you need to make sure your understanding of the subject is profound enough. Start with the general picture and slowly move deeper immersing yourself into the artwork to discover its meaning that might be hidden from ordinary observers. That's what makes a difference between art students and other people.

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