W2: Reading Masterpieces in Art: Goya and Manet

W2: Reading Masterpieces in Art: Goya and Manet

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Course Objective(s): 

  • CO2: Identify major artists and their time periods in Western and Non-Western art.
  • CO3: Interpret art terminology in relationship to works of art.
  • CO4: Describe major works of art.

Description: Reading and Looking

Reading Masterpieces in Art: Goya and Manet: This assignment is designed to help you master the careful reading of sources about art images and to help you apply the basic mechanics of analyzing and interpreting images appropriately.

In order to participate fully in this week’s discussion, do the following steps.

Choose one of the following to write about:

Topic 1



Please see these helpful art aids:

In order to participate fully in this week’s discussion, do the following:

  1. Slow down and really look at the paintings after you complete the course readings and view the lesson.
  2. Develop your post as a letter to a friend who has never seen the paintings and does not have a copy of it before them; and in your letter describe for them in very specific detail what the painting looks like and what it says to you personally.
  3. Find a web site that has reliable information about the painting and refer to that source in your post. Attribute the source in any comments you make, and provide a link to the source. Remember that you must use italics or 

This How-To covers the basic elements of art critique.

What is a critique?

A critique is an oral or written discussion strategy used to analyze, describe, and interpret works of art. Critiques help students hone their persuasive oral and writing, information-gathering, and justification skills.

Below is a sample set of focus questions for an art critique related to four major areas of art criticism: description, analysis, interpretation, judgment. (The number of questions and aspects of specificity will vary according to the art form and number of works in the critique).


Describe the work without using value words such as “beautiful” or “ugly”:

  • What is the written description on the label or in the program about the work?
  • What is the title and who is (are) the artist(s)?
  • When and where was the work created?
  • Describe the elements of the work (i.e., line, movement, light, space).
  • Describe the technical qualities of the work (i.e. what is it made of?, media).
  • Describe the subject matter. What is it all about? Are there recognizable images?

Describe how the work is organized as a complete composition:

  • How is the work constructed or planned (i.e., line, color shape, depth and texture)?
  • Identify some of the similarities throughout the work (i.e., repetition of lines, shapes, etc.).
  • Identify some of the points of emphasis in the work (i.e., figure, movement, architectural devices, amorphic shapes).
  • If the work has figures, what are the relationships between or among them?

Describe how the work makes you think or feel:

  • Describe the expressive qualities you find in the work. What expressive language would you use to describe the qualities (i.e., raw, rough, refined, colorful, sad, funny)?
  • Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced (i.e., analogy or metaphor)?
  • How does the work relate to other ideas or events in the world and/or in your other studies?
Judgment or Evaluation

Present your opinion of the work’s success or failure:

  • What qualities of the work make you feel it is a success or failure?
  • Compare it with similar works that you think are good or bad.
  • What criteria can you list to help others judge this work?
  • How original is the work? Why do you feel this work is original or not original?
  1. underlining for your titles of works of art. See Mechanics for Writing about Art and Writing a Critique-Attached to the discussion. As you discuss, be sure to read paintings from the background to the foreground, using the terms background, middle ground, and foreground.
  2. Post your imaginary letter to the discussion as this week’s initial post.
  3. Reply to peers: Participate in the developing discussion, responding to your colleagues’ observations, using appropriate terminology and drawing on what you’re learning from your text to help the discussion grow broader and deeper. 


This document teaches you how to punctuate and identify art works. You will use this for each art object you discuss.

We all understand that every discipline has its own set of terminology.  Physics and IT terms elude me and leave me scratching my head, thinking I have NO CLUE what they are talking about!  Well, art has its own terminology, too.  So, we have to begin with that terminology, so we can all speak the same language; and in order to do, we must also follow the rules for writing the language. So, here are some guidelines for answering questions in this class: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY!

  • Always use artists’ last name, such as, Picasso, not Pablo (his first name).
  • Be sure to ALWAYS include each artist’s name and the date of an object when discussing an artwork.
  • Always italicize or underline titles of paintings. After the first 2 weeks, I will deduct points if not done correctly.

I would like you to provide: Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907

  • Always include the date of a work of art (painting, sculpture, photography, etc.)
  • Always give the medium of the work in question, such as, oil on canvas, carved marble, mosaics, fresco, etc—you find these in the captions under the pictures in your text.  The materials (medium/media) are important choices an artist makes.
  • PLEASE do NOT write like you talk. Watch for run on sentences. Draw a breath and place a period, then, start another sentence. IN A CLASSROOM SETTING, WE STRIVE TO BE MORE ERUDITE—MORE CORRECT.
  • Be very specific regarding facts and terms.
  • Include page numbers for each image from the book, so that we can all follow.
  • In order to get comfortable with reading a painting: LOOK at the painting, see what interests you. THEN: READ a painting from the background first. Note what you see, then move to the middle ground, then, look at the foreground.  All of the parts are important. This is called exploring the pictorial space.
  • Artists do not leave in accidents or things they do not want to be there—so each thing means something.
  • So, think like this: artist/architect, title (italicized OR UNDERLINED), date, medium, and then write.
  • You may use the internet at any point in this class for research and embellishment; however, YOU MAY NOT USE WIKIPEDIA AS A REFERENCE SOURCE FOR YOUR TERM PAPER.
  • You must cite any sources you use in your work, whether Forums or Papers. 
  • You may not directly copy from any source. I do not want quotations, I want you to read, think, and write in your own words.  It is a very serious problem if you cut and paste from websites or your book.  This is called plagiarizing and AMU has a strong policy against this behavior.  Check your student handbook regarding plagiarizing.
  • DO NOT EVER use the same example twice in your assignments. Always find another example.
  • In art appreciation and art history, writing MORE is always better. This is not a class to be a person of a few words.
  • Give your questions thought and enjoy really looking carefully at the art.

TOPIC 1.) Examine and discuss in detail Francisco de Goya’s painting, The Third of May, 1808 created in 1815-16. The original painting, which currently hangs in the Prado museum, is very large (about 10 x 14 feet), and it was painted in 1816. It depicts the invasion by the French army into Spain in the early 1800s. Examine your book for other images by Goya, in order to understand his work better. Imagine you are looking at this painting while visiting the Prado Museum in Spain. Consider what the size of the painting means or does for/to the viewer. 

TOPIC 2.) Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, 1881-82. It is 37 1/4″ X 51 1/4″ and is considered his last masterpiece. Manet was the first true modern artist, painting scenes from contemporary life, not history, Biblical or mythological scenes. This is a painting that represents modern nightlife in Paris. Examine this painting and discuss the unusual components of the work. You should search for the Folies-Bergere before you start, so that you know what the scene is about. Consider what the size of the painting means or does for/to the viewer.


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