What is a Visual Analysis?
A visual analysis is a method of reading and interpreting images. It helps understand hidden ideologies and meanings by relating the artwork or visual material to relevant ideas, narratives, or experiences. Many different writing styles can be used to write visual analyses.
Why conduct a Visual Analysis?
Visual analyses promote the employment and development of critical thinking skills. The analysis of different elements of an artwork or visual material allows for a better understanding of its context and meaning. It also encourages the viewer to comprehend the artwork or visual material as a medium for wider social and cultural meaning, and enables the viewer to apply new understanding and knowledge to their own work.
Visual Analysis of Artworks and other Visual Materials
- Focus on visual elements such as color, line, scale, and space.
- Look closely and identify the visual attributes of the artwork.
- Use visual and descriptive language to describe the piece.
- For this step, there’s no need to consider any symbolic or interpretive elements of the piece.
- How does the viewer’s eye go through the work?
- Address the artist’s choices and what effect they have.
- Don’t worry about whether or not your analysis contradicts the artist’s actual intention– this step is more about understanding the visual logic and revealing the legitimacy of multiple viewpoints and perspectives on the piece.
- Think about how each observation made in the last step contributes to the work as a whole.
Context & Background
- Think about information that would help facilitate a better understanding of the work.
- What information are you curious about?
- Do research on elements of the visual material (such as the artist or the historical context surrounding it).
- What can the title, year, or what you know about the artist tell you?
Watch the two YouTube videos below to learn about analyzing images and performing a visual analysis.
Sources & further reading:
Visual Analysis 101.
Visual Analysis of a Photograph.
National Archives. Analyze a Photograph.