Research Paper on Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

This research is on this museum:

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens , Jacksonville, FL

Paper Overview

The Final Paper is worth 200 points. You will be required to write a 4-5 page investigation of a work of art you select and the artist who created it. You are required to visit a reputable art museum in your area and select a work of art to discuss and critique in a formal, iconographic, and historical context. Your grade will be based on the depth of your analysis of the subject.

About art criticism:

The process of art criticism involves description, formal analysis, interpretation, and value judgment. The first step is to put into words a description of what you see, then formally analyzing the visual elements and principles of design. Next, subjectively interpret (hopefully with new insight) what the content is, taking into account style. Finally, judging, and going beyond prejudging to discernment, the work of art being studied; what do you think the artist’s intentions were? Was this communicated? Does it have value? Can you recognize the aesthetic quality in the work? Additionally, biographical or historical information should be offered. Therefore, education and evaluation help to creatively critique a work of art.

Responses to artworks based on value judgment alone are not necessarily based on comprehension but simple subjectivity. As it states in the book Artforms (2013), “If we close our eyes and minds to new work that is hard to understand, we will miss the opportunity to learn from fresh insights.”


Select a museum:

First, select a major Museum in your area. A listing of some approved museums is on the next page. If you live in a more rural area, contact the instructor to discuss options, like an online museum visit. However, in-person museum experiences will be prioritized. You will need submit the museum you have selected for instructor approval.: The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL

Select a work of art:

This is a general suggestion and not a required outline.

1. Identification: At the museum or museum site, select a work of art. You may select a piece that you like or dislike. Copy down all the information provided; Artist, title, medium, year, etc. Write down your initial responses. How do you respond to the work? Does it invoke an emotional response? What do you think the artist was trying to communicate? It is helpful to bring a notebook to record your responses.

2. Describe the piece and review it carefully. What do you see? Note all the details about the work. How would you describe it to someone you were talking to on the phone who can’t see it?

3. Analyze the visual elements and design principles as you did in the short paper. Think about the relationship between form, content and subject matter in your analysis. This will be helpful in your ‘interpretation’ of the work. Use the terminology you have learned in class, particularly terms in Chapters 2 -5. Your analysis should be based your own observations while viewing the work.

4. Interpretation Follow your analysis with a subjective interpretation of the meaning of the work. How does the work make you feel? What do you think the content is? Go beyond “I like it” or “I don’t like it.”

5. Research the artist. Historical and biographical information on the artist often provides clues into a works intended meaning. Carefully consider the purpose and context of the piece. Did the piece you selected have any particular political or cultural message? Was the artist making a statement?

6. Value Judgement What do you think the artist’s intentions were? Was this communicated? Does it have value? Can you recognize the aesthetic quality in the work?

Write the Final Paper:

The following will help you write your paper. It should be used as a guideline, not an outline for approaching your paper. This is very similar to the process used by art critics. This website might also help you organize your paper.

A. Identification: Note the title of the work, the date, the artist (if known), medium, and size.

B. Description: What do you see? As fully as possible, describe what you see.

· What medium is used? What is it made of?

· How big is it?

· Go into detail about what you see. How would you describe it, in detail, to someone who had never seen it?

· What subjects are represented?

· It can be helpful to begin looking at a work of art from the middle and work your way out.

C. Analysis: Describe the form of the work Explain how visual elements and principles of design are used in the work. The terms in chapters 2, 3 & 4 will be very helpful. Go back and look at the chapter outlines or Short Paper assignment. Use them to:

· Describe the use of visual elements such as line, shape, color & space used in the pieces. For example: In what way is it balanced? Is it asymmetrical or symmetrical? What is emphasized? What seems to be the dominating visual element? Is it realistic or abstract?

D. Interpretation: What is the content of the work? What does it mean? What do you think the artist was trying to communicate? How does the artist accomplish this through the use of form? This is an important part of analyzing a work of art, how form and content work together.

E. Research: Include historical information about the artist. Knowing about the artist’s history can provide interesting insights into his/her work and how the work reflects the time and culture.

F. Value Judgment: Does the piece have any value or worth? What did you like about the work? Was it the form, content, or subject matter? Did it remind you of something that you have seen or experienced?

· How does it make you feel?

· How or why does it evoke these feelings?

· Rethink first description and go beyond “I like it” or “I don’t like it”

· What did the artist have in mind? Can you tell?

· Does the piece seem to have a certain level of insight into a subject matter?

· Does it seem inexhaustible? Is there enough interest to hold your attention? When something is inexhaustible it calls us back again and again. Can you tell? Did the artist succeed?


Four to five pages, double-spaced, 10 or 12 point type (Times or Times New Roman only), 1” margins. The required 4-5 page count does not include title page, images, or reference/bibliography pageMake sure you proofread your papers for incorrect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other errors.

The preferred format to complete the Final Paper is Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx). If these formats are not available, other acceptable formats are ASCII (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), and Open Office (.odt).

References: A minimum of four sources is required. Research can come from the Internet (reputable sources only) scholarly articles (jstor, for example), books on art history, politics, etc.. Sources should be varied and academic and/or professional in nature. Your text cannot be one of the four minimum sources, but can be included.

Please cite and reference all material according to the MLA, APA, or Chicago Manual of Style. The use of any secondary reference without providing citation is plagiarism and will receive a score of 0. Repeated incidents of plagiarism are reported to the Academic Affairs Office and the student receives an “F “grade in the course.

What should be cited? Anything that is not considered common knowledge (information that can be found in at least 4 sources). This includes opinions, judgements, little-known facts, and direct quotes. Footnotes and endnotes are used to give credit to sources of any material borrowed, summarized or paraphrased. They are intended to refer readers to the exact pages of the works listed in the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography section.



Formal Analysis – The Oxbow

The Oxbow

Figure 1 Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow, 1836


Back in 1836, a renowned artist Thomas Cole came up with an outstanding artwork known as The Oxbow, view from Mountain Holyoke, Massachusetts after Thunderstorm. During the development of this painting there was a movement in the United States known as the manifest destiny and it is believed to be caused of people migrating from east towards west. The Oxbow effectively captured the symbolism via composition, lighting, color and line techniques, and it indicated that the artist was against the movement (Tharaud, 2014).

The artwork painting is one of the special landscapes pointing a river known as Connecticut and it portrays a natural style. The artist utilized oil on canvas to come up with masterpiece of 4’3.5 by 6’4’’which hangs in the metropolitan museum. Cole did this with motive of proving his involvement in nature’s spiritual competence as well as harmony with it (Faison, 2015).


In the painting, one can clearly see the actual lines used to show the viewer’s attention to the central idea of the painting. Good use of the diagonal line as a divider of the painting between the forest and the river. Furthermore, in the same composition, there are lines which indicate the intentional divide of both habited and inhabited region.

The shape loop of the river on the other hand geometrically resembles the storm progressiveness. When there is transformation of clouds from white fluffy and the storms are threatening. The background of the scenario is revealed through diagonal cut in the center of the painting which becomes paramount as well as symbolic to the theme.

A combination of implied and actual mass result is diversity. The background, the river, and the sky seem very static compared to the mobile trees in the front of the painting.

The space is also very contrasting, to begin with, there is a falling tree and the thunderstorm on the left-hand side that limit the space, and one can see the open river plain and clear sky that opens the whole painting and impose the feeling that the storm is going away.

Time and motion are also evident and implied in the in the Cole’s art. The dark part of the cloud indicates evening hours and it is likely to rain. At this hour human activities are minimal.

There is implied Sun light coming from the right-hand side. This source of light only creates shades on the left side which results in a very dynamic arrangement.

When it comes to color, the artist colors the river valley with light green and light brown to indicate the cultivation and vibrancy of the fields. He also uses dark green to color the forest and removes colors in the shattered tree trunks. Additionally, he uses mostly variations of green and blue. Not very diverse color is use to paint the overall impression of the natural harmony.

A variety of textures could be noticed. Cole was using implied texture through the use of line, color, and other visual elements to construct the impression of several textures in what is an ordinary horizontal painting.

In terms of unity and variety, the author uses different colors to indicate the presence of diverse elements. The use of different shades of green shows the vegetation while dark is used to show the clouds.

Balance –The painting doesn’t portray symmetrical. It changes from a gloomy wilderness with crushed trees on the left to a plain, nurtured landscape on the right, which limits the river.

Moreover, Cole is very talented in artwork and he puts emphasis through the river while the subordination is the land. The river plays a vital role in the place, since it looks a dry land which during dry season depend on water from the river.

Directional Forces – Thomas’ art is very interesting and his use of hilly green region directs one to the river. The flow of the river also indicates moving from one point to the other.

The contrast is seen in every single aspect of the painting. The light and dark landscapes, the wild clouds and clear sky, the wilderness, the cultivated landscape on the right. Everything seems contrasting, the colors, the lines, the texture, and all other visual elements.

The art also indicates repetition and rhythm. The land uses its unique color to differentiate it from the sky which has dark clouds, while on the left size there is a green part that tries to indicate presence of a forest or bush in the region.

When it comes to scale and proportion, the objects are life-sized and indicate natural. The tree and small bush have the expected sizes.


Cole manages to transform the landscape nearer to everyone who look at the painting. He evokes emotions through his skills in visual elements. I am amazed of the vivid impression of tranquil and wild nature, and how Cole illustrates his believes in this magnificent painting.


Faison, E. K. (2015). Seeing the Landscape in Landscape Art. Arnoldia73(2), 2-18.

Tharaud, J. (2014). Evangelical Space: The Oxbow, Religious Print, and the Moral Landscape in America. American Art28(3), 52-75.

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