Analyze a Piece of Art Based on Visual Elements and Principles of Design

Museum Visit And Formal Analysis Essay

The museum I visited was Museum of Modern Art in New York City. At the museum, the art that got my attention was ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent van Gogh. This art was one of the nine canvases that was painted in June 1889 and it was design to depict a very different view of the southern French countryside. This paper attempted to analyze this piece of art based on visual elements and principles of design as presented by the Artist.

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Visual elements

The first aspect of visual element is the use of line in the painting. Looking at the painting, I noticed that the artist used various types of lines in the painting. The combination of cross-contour and hatch lines thus forming cross-hatch lines (Cohen & Scott). In order to enhance the line quality in the painting, it was evident that the artist used jagged lines and hard-edged lines to create staccato visual movements; flowing and organic line to create a more comfortable feeling. In addition, meandering lines was expressive and geometric in this painting.

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The second aspect of visual element analyzed was shape in the painting. The artist used lines to create shape such as landscape, moon, stars, clouds and vegetation. Analysis showed that the painting has both positive and the negative shape (Genocchio). The positive shapes are the objects that the artist intended to bright forward for the audience to feel or perceive. The negative shape are the spaces that surround these objectives. Both positive and negative shapes are crucial in this painting since it create emotions and feelings to the audience.

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The other aspects of visual elements presented by the artist in this painting was the use of light. As suggested by the name of the painting, it was evident that van Gogh was passionate on depicting nighttime (Grillo). Van Gogh used light to express powerful sky sitting above the quiet town. He managed to contrast death and life by the use of luminous stars and a gloomy, peaceful village. The main sources of light in the painting are the crescent moon and bright stars.

Another important aspect that was evident in van Gogh’s painting was the use of color to delineate objects. The dominant color was yellow and one could wonder why van Gogh chose yellow color as a dominant in Starry Night. The likely reasoning is that yellow and white color that he used to create spiral effect was perfect for drawing attention of the audience to the sky. Van Gogh also used vertical lines to depict cypress tree and church tower, thus softly breaking up the composition without disappearing into the powerful night (Genocchio). Similarly, van Gogh used green and dark blue colors complemented with mint green to depict the reflection of the moon. To the left of the church are the building at the center depicted by small blocks painted in greens, oranges and yellow colors accompanied by small dotted red colors. In order to create balance night sky elements, van Gogh use blue color as dominance and accompanied by orange. The main purpose of using colors in Starry Night was to suggest emotions.

Looking at the texture of the painting, it reflects the heavy brushstrokes that makes the entire painting appear rough. As a result, van Gogh was able to paint the lines on the tree in the foreground and in the sky of the painting to appear three-dimensional (Grillo). The artist used texture to depict contrast and create the starts and hills in the painting to appear emphasized and on a different plane from the rest of the elements. In terms of space, van Gogh used the space to separate objects from the figures in the drawing. It was evident that space in Starry Night was ordered and stable.

Principle of design

Van Gogh maintained unity and variety in the painting. This was evident through the use of swirling sky to capture the attention of the audience around the painting. For example, the spaces between curving contours and the stars create a dot-to-dot effect. This approach was also important for creating fluidity in the painting. Generally, the composition of the Starry Night depicted the use of a city, cypress tree, the moon, the stars and nighttime scene to instigate familiarity and comfort from the audience (Cohen & Scott). The rhythm and movement in the painting was created through swirling and night sky to create emotions that was somewhat soothing. In addition, the van Gogh create harmony and rhythm and balance throughout the canvas. For example, in the painting, the village was depicted using dark colors. However, the brightly lit windows create a sense of comfort. Typically, the principle design of the painting Starry Night was to depict the village as peaceful in contrast to the silence of the night as well as the night sky. The steeple dominates of the village depict the balance and serves as a symbol of unity in the town.

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