Formal Analysis Paper

Formal Analysis Paper

  • Part 1: Outline (see details below) Week 13:Day 1 – Tue, April 17
  • Part 2: Final Paper (see details below) – Week 16:Day 2 – Thur, May 10


  • FORMAL ESSAY OUTLINE (online link)
  • Tutoring Center – rm. F 315 / Phone: x 6539 (by appt.)
    Get help with course material, including how to write papers
  • Writing Center – rm. F 303 / Phone: x 2719 (drop in)
    Get help with papers while you’re writing them. Bring a draft in and get help working on improving your writing. Get help with issues regarding citing sources.

What to turn in: Final Paper
2-3 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font

First, I want you to go to:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing –
    • Free Thursday Evenings
      General admission is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. throughout the year.
  • or the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) –
    • Suggested admission is $12 for adults and $7 for students and seniors, and free for IL residents on Tuesdays.


  • Find a work of Art (1900s to present) that intrigues you.
  • Before you read its didactic, write down 10 things about the work:
    • Formal elements: size, material, design principles, colors, form, shape
    • Medium: photo, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.
    • Style: is it part of a larger show (context)
  • Once you have done that, I want you to copy the didactic of the work of art you have chosen, and if there is a didactic for the larger context of the show your work is part of.
  • When you have finished visiting the museum, I want you to begin your outline

Note: Find an artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago or Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) that intrigues you. Don’t question this too heavily, just remember to surrender to the work. See if this a deeper look at the work inspires you to want to know more. Find a work of art you would like to write about. Begin by following the outline structure I’ve provided. Based on the information you collected in your outline, you will be writing a formal analysis paper. What you are comparing and contrasting is your initial observations and responses to the work, and the information you acquired/learned/discovered from the museum’s stated meaning for the work. Do not use outside resources for your paper, such as online or the library. Draw from what you have learned in class.

Do not make this more difficult than it is. You are simply paying attention to your general interpretation of the work and how it relates to the intention of the artist, what the museum thinks it means, and how a larger world might receive the work.


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