a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Techniques of analysis and interpretation


people, terms, and concepts:  interpretation, analysis, form, subject matter, meaning, context


This topic introduces a basic method for analyzing and interpreting works of art using the formula:




•   What is the difference between ‘interpretation’ and ‘analysis’? Know that the exams and papers will ask you to analyze, not just interpret, works of art.

•   What is ‘subject matter’? What is ‘form’? Be able to list the subject-matter and describe the form of any given image.

•   What is ‘context’? Know that we are attempting to understand what works of art meant in their original contexts, for their intended viewers.

Marlboro ads from the 1940s (left) and 1980s (above)

How is the subject-matter and form in each of these ads different? How did the ad-makers carefully choose subject-matter and form to convey different meanings in each?