Art Form: Describe and analyze an artwork that makes a social critique

| April 21, 2014

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In modern times, artists have increasingly used their work to question authority and challenge the status quo.
Sometimes modern artists indirectly criticize authority by celebrating the rebels, underdogs, or outcasts of society. In The Death of Marat, for example, Jacques-Louis David celebrates the slain Marat as a hero in order to discredit the French monarchy. Courbet’s painting, The Stonebreakers, criticizes France’s unequal class system by focusing attention on the plight of two anonymous laborers. And Manet confronts the French public with its sexual hypocrisy in his notorious painting of a prostitute, Olympia.
At other times modern artists directly criticize those in power. In The Third of May, 1808, for example, Goya depicts the French government and its army as heartless killers.
For your second essay, I would like you to describe and analyze an artwork that makes a social critique. Which people, values or behaviors is the artist praising? Which people, values, or behaviors is he criticizing? How does he try to persuade the viewer that change is needed? Explain how he expresses his point of view through the subject matter, symbolism, and formal properties of the artwork (elements and principles of design including light, color, focal point, etc).
Your introductory paragraph is a good place to provide a little background information about the subject of the artwork, as well as a brief description of its most important visual features. Be sure to include a clear thesis statement that identifies the main purpose or message of the artwork, as you see it.
Use your thesis statement to guide your analysis. Each paragraph of your analysis should develop one important idea, or piece of evidence, in support of your thesis. This is where you should go into more detail describing and analyzing specific features of the artwork to support your thesis.
Your conclusion should re-state your thesis in a new way, sum up the evidence you have brought forward to support it, and offer a final personal reflection. For example, you might say something about why the artwork initially caught your attention, and/or how its message is still relevant today.
2 Typewritten Pages (12-point type, double spaced, one-inch margins)
Please submit your essay to Safe-Assign on Blackboard and bring a printed-out copy to class.
David, The Death of Marat, 1793
Goya, Back to His Forebear, 1790s
Goya, He Broke the Pitcher!, 1790s
Goya, The Third of May, 1808, 1814
Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1819
Courbet, The Stone Breakers, 1849-50
Manet, Olympia, 1863
Degas, The Glass of Absinthe, 1876
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