March 20 marks the anniversary of Henri Matisse’s exhibition at the Salon des Independants in 1903. Post Impressionism is one of my favorite artistic movements and I am fascinated with the Salon des Independants and its role in art history.
Today I thought I would write about one of my favorite approaches to art viewing: the Feldman Approach, based on the work by Edmund Burke Feldman. The Feldman Approach is a four step process to help viewers capture their thinking, moving from description to analysis and judgment.
Step 1: Describe the work of art. Color, line, shape, texture, angles, artist, title. Focus only on what you see.
Step 2: Analyze the work of art by focusing on the elements of art and principles of design. Some questions to ask yourself during this step include:
- What is in the foreground, middle ground and background?
- Where is the emphasis? How does the artist draw your attention to this? Color, light, line, shape?
- Are there any patterns? Contrast?
- Is there movement in the painting? How does the artist achieve this sense of movement?
- Is their repetition? If so, where? What is repeated?
- Is the image balanced or unbalanced?
Step 3: Interpretation. What statement is the artist trying to make? Why? Is there a message? What is the mood of the painting? How is this mood conveyed? Is there a story in the work of art?
Step 4: Judgment. This is pretty much as simple as do you like it or not and why. I always ask students whether they would like to have this work of art hanging in their home and why? Judgment can also be how successful the artist was. The key in this last step is citing evidence from the first few steps, much like we do in reading text and citing textual evidence.
For more information on the Feldman Approach and reading works of art with students check out these resources:
Looking at Art in the Classroom: Art Investigations from the Guggenheim Museum by Rebecca Shulman Herz