Subject Guides

Art & Architectural History

Guide to resources in art and architectural history.

Introductory Sources for Art History

Listed below are fundamental texts for beginners in art historical study. The following books give examples and recommendations on how to write using the Chicago Manual of Style along with basic introductions to the theories and methodologies used in the discipline of Art History. 

Formal Analysis

Sylvan Barnet describes the formal analysis as "the result of looking analysis of the form the artist produces; that is, an analysis of the work of art, which is made up of such things as line, shape, color, texture, mass, composition." 
       A Short Guide to Writing About Art, 10th ed. (New York: Pearson, 2011), 46.

Conducting a formal (visual) analysis is a useful exercise that can assist you in looking and understanding a work of art. By breaking down a work's formal elements, you might find insight into the artist's creative process. Often times a formal analysis will aid you in identifying a starting point for discussion by using descriptions of the work's line, shape, color, texture, or composition. Below are some helpful links that describe in further detail how to conduct a formal analysis.