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Sample visual analysis

This is one writer's visual analysis of Piet Mondrian's Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow. Although this example does not contain any references, your own text may require referencing to acknowledge the ideas and words of others taken from your research, or to provide support for your point of view.

Click on the highlighted text to view comments about the language and structure of this analysis. Certain words may be unfamiliar to you. Click on them to read their definitions in the glossary.

Mondrian image: Composition with red, yellow and blue, 1930

Somehow, the red does not look quite as red as it might. There is no shortage of red in this painting and you would expect that it would dominate. It occupies over half of the field and the only colours counterbalancing it are the relatively minor squares of blue and yellow, plus bands of white and thick black lines.

It is a consequence of the neutral elements of black and white balancing the positive element of the red that means these elements are not allowed to have a neutral function. They have a certain agency induced upon them by virtue of answering the primary colours. They are activated by the structure of the painting, which is curiously dynamic in its push and pull of presence. This could explain why the red is not as overpowering as it might otherwise be.

The challenge of this painting, as of all abstract painting, is what to say about it. To describe the colours as being activated suggests a kind of formalism or invokes the formalesque, which involves observing how the work is harmonious, but does not consider how it reveals meanings. The mood evoked by this painting and the careful placement of colour suggests, however, that it has a meaning deeper than mere formalism would allow.

There is no figure in this painting to act as a surrogate for the viewer, yet the work seems nevertheless to be about the sublime and the uncontactable. The large red zone, which is suspended by borders that are in turn suspended around the edges, invites unmediated contemplation of the essential. It is an absolute or elemental component of visuality, namely the colour red. You cannot get more basic than that, other than the fellow primary colours, yellow and blue. Add the two primary tones of black and white and you have an allegory of essence (or being) in minimal physical form.

This is a powerful opening statement. It immediately captures the reader's attention, yet it also effectively conveys the writer's personal response to the image.
Notice how in this paragraph the writer is describing the visual elements of the painting at the same time as analysing how they combine to achieve their impact. This continues in the next paragraph.
Look closely at the language here. Do you sense the tension and also the equilibrium in the painting? How is this feeling conveyed?
This sentence refers the reader back to the opening statement. The writer has developed the idea expressed in the first statement through these two paragraphs.
Again, this phrase reinforces the verb 'activated' from the previous paragraph.
The concept of 'the formalesque' is not commonly known and could probably be referenced in this context.
Here, the writer is moving from a contemplation of what is seen toward a reflection upon what it means. The use of the word 'mood' shows how the analysis has developed from being ostensibly objective to being somewhat more subjective.
This is an interesting observation which suggest that a person or animal in a painting offers a position from which the viewer can survey the scene. Its use here shows that the writer understands and is comfortable using sophisticated notions of art interpretation.
Note the conditional sense conveyed by this verb. The writer is clearly articulating an opinion, yet the word 'seems' acknowledges the possibility that others might read the same image or information differently.
How has the writer reached this conclusion? What evidence from this analysis of the painting supports this view? Do you agree with this contention?
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