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A Lesson in Formal Analysis


Francisco Goya's Third of May, 1808


Louis David's Oath of the Horatii.

Without thinking about the subject matter of each painting, compare Francisco Goya’s Third of May, 1808 to Jacques Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii. Consider each artist’s use of color, light, shadow, and gesture. Make a list of how each of these attributes conveys the painting’s expressive content—not just the story, but the meaning and message. “How is color used for emphasis and what messages does it carry? Where is the light coming from in each painting and why did the artist choose to depict it in this way? Think also about the shadowy darkness and how it too carries meaning. Finally, analyze the figurative gestures and what they express. “Trust yourselves,” says Patricia Reilly, associate professor of art. “You know what you see. You can learn the context later, so use your eyeballs.”

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