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Evaluating Works of Art A Phenomenological Model

Making solid, contextual and informed aesthetic judgments concerning art helps us to understand the sometimes complex relationship between an artist and society.

Problems Emerging in Evaluation

Haste can yield weak and unsupported aesthetic judgments. Systematic methods are not always employed. Important aspects can be overlooked.

Judgment may not be based on the work itself but rather external factors.
Judgments can be subjective, reducing the opportunity to learn from the artwork, and eliminating possibilities of growth from study or interaction about the work. I know what I like.

Avoiding the Problems

A phenomenological can help avoid the problems. The Mittler-Feldman Model

The Mittler-Feldman Model Gene Mittler and Edmund Feldman

Employing a thoughtful and systematic fourstep process to making good aesthetic judgments. 1) Description 2) Analysis 3) Interpretation 4) Judgment

1) Description: A detailed catalog listing of all items observed in the artwork. This can include the employment of elements of art, visual content, and other items which have the potential to be significant for the work

2) Analysis: Deciding how principles of art are employed in the artwork, lending organization to the items discovered in the descriptive stage. During this stage, leading and receding aspects of the work may be noted.

3) Interpretation: Identifying the message and possible purpose of communication in the artwork. This stage may be informed by historic or cultural information. The context of the artwork maky be discussed.

4) Judgment: Making a decision as how effectively the work is in fulfilling the criteria in one of three major theories of art: Imitationalism, Formalism, Emotionalism. It is possible for a work to share characteristics with more than one category, however, a work will ultimately be grounded in one category.

Theories of Art
Imitationalism: the most important thing is how accurate the work is in describing the subject matter. A work is successful if it reminds us of what we see in the real world Formalism: the most important thing is the level of organization of the elements and principles observed in an artwork. Emotionalism: the most important thing is the vivid communication of moods, feelings, and ideas to the viewer.

Lets now consider three artworks. We will apply the four-step approach to each of these images, making an aesthetic judgment based on how well each work fulfills the criteria for one of three theories of art.

Wassily Kandinsky Composition-X, 1939

Pere Borell del Caso - Escaping Criticism, 1874

Kathe Kollwitz Woman with Dead Child, 1903