Art Analysis: Studying Works of Renowned Artists
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Analyzing Van Gogh's Starry Night
  2. Studying Picasso's Guernica
  3. Interpreting DaVinci's Mona Lisa
  4. Evaluating Michelangelo's David
  5. Decoding Dali's The Persistence of Memory
  6. Understanding Munch's The Scream

Art is a language that speaks to the soul, and to truly appreciate it, we need to understand its nuances. One of the best ways to deepen our understanding is to study works of renowned artists. So, let's take a journey together through the canvas of time and explore some of the world's most famous masterpieces. We can learn much from their techniques, the context of their works, and the messages they convey.

Analyzing Van Gogh's Starry Night

Our first stop is at the doorstep of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night.' When you study works of renowned artists like Van Gogh, you'll notice their unique way of seeing the world. Let's dive in!

The Story Behind Starry Night

Did you know that Van Gogh painted 'Starry Night' while he was in an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France? He was deeply inspired by the night sky and often found comfort in its vastness. He once wrote to his brother Theo, "I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day."

Van Gogh's Unique Technique

Van Gogh's style is unmistakable—his thick, bold strokes almost seem alive. In 'Starry Night', he conveys a sense of motion, as if the stars and the sky are swirling. This technique is known as impasto, where paint is laid on an area of the surface very thickly, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas.

Symbolism in Starry Night

  • The Cypress Tree: To the left of the painting, you'll see a cypress tree reaching up to the sky. In Van Gogh's time, these trees were often associated with death and the afterlife, but Van Gogh viewed them as a symbol of eternity.
  • The Stars: The stars are not just white dots on the painting; they are larger and brighter than anything else in the scene. They could represent Van Gogh's idea of infinity and the vastness of the universe.
  • The Village: The peaceful village depicted under the turbulent sky could be a symbol of the mundane world, contrasting with Van Gogh's vision of the universe.

As we study works of renowned artists like Van Gogh, it's clear that every brushstroke, every color choice, and every object in their paintings has a purpose. So next time you look at a masterpiece, take a moment to appreciate not just its beauty, but also its depth and complexity. Now, let's move on to our next artist!

Studying Picasso's Guernica

Next on our journey, we're stepping into the world of Picasso's Guernica. This painting is a powerful statement on the horrors of war and is one of his most famous works. So, let's see what we can learn from it.

Guernica's Historical Context

When you study works of renowned artists like Picasso, it's important to understand the historical context. Guernica was Picasso's response to the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. The event horrified Picasso, leading him to depict the tragedy in this large, stark monochrome painting.

Breaking Down Picasso's Style

Guernica is a fine display of Picasso's cubist style, where he breaks down objects into geometric forms and reassembles them in abstract ways. Notice how the broken bodies and distorted faces in the painting heighten the sense of agony and chaos. This is a stark departure from traditional depictions of war, making Guernica a significant work in the history of protest art.

Symbolism in Guernica

  • The Bull and The Horse: The bull and the horse are recurring figures in Picasso's works. In Guernica, some interpret the bull as a symbol of Spain or brutality, while the horse represents the people's suffering.
  • The Light Bulb: The light bulb blazing in the center of the painting can be seen as the 'bomb' or the technological advancement that led to such destruction.
  • The Mother and Dead Child: This agonizing image echoes the theme of loss and grief, a direct commentary on the casualties of war.

Through Guernica, Picasso shows us how art can be a powerful tool for political and social commentary. As we continue to study works of renowned artists, we'll see that art is not always about aesthetic appeal; sometimes, it's a mirror reflecting the times. Now, let's turn the page to our next masterpiece!

Interpreting DaVinci's Mona Lisa

Fasten your seatbelts, friends, as we're about to dive into the enigmatic world of DaVinci's Mona Lisa. This painting is famous for her elusive smile and mysterious aura. But what makes Mona Lisa so captivating? Let's find out.

Why Mona Lisa's Smile is Unique

When you study works of renowned artists like DaVinci, you'll notice how they play with perception. Take Mona Lisa's smile, for instance. From certain angles, her smile appears, but when you look directly, it seems to vanish. This visual trick, known as sfumato, brings a sense of realism and mystery to the painting.

Understanding the Use of Atmospheric Perspective

Beyond the smile, DaVinci employed a technique called atmospheric perspective to give depth to the landscape behind Mona Lisa. Notice how the colors and details fade as they recede into the background. This was one of the first uses of this technique, and it's still used by artists today!

Significance of Mona Lisa's Clothing and Posture

At a glance, Mona Lisa might seem simply dressed. But in the 16th century, her dark attire would have been considered highly fashionable. Her seated posture, with her torso turned towards the viewer, was also a departure from the rigid profiles of the time, adding to the painting's sense of intimacy and realism.

Studying the Mona Lisa truly offers a masterclass in subtle innovation and attention to detail. By breaking norms and playing with perception, DaVinci created a painting that continues to captivate audiences centuries later. Now, let's journey ahead to our next artist!

Evaluating Michelangelo's David

From the brush strokes of DaVinci's Mona Lisa, we turn our attention to the chiseled marble of Michelangelo's David. A symbol of Florentine liberty and a testament to Michelangelo's mastery of form, David is a true Renaissance masterpiece. Ready to take a closer look?

Appreciating the Anatomical Precision

One striking aspect of David is Michelangelo's attention to anatomical detail. From the veins on his hand to the muscles in his legs, every detail is meticulously carved, reflecting a deep understanding of human anatomy. This was revolutionary at a time when artists were just beginning to study anatomy seriously.

Understanding the Symbolism of David

The statue isn't just a study of the human form—it's also rich in symbolism. David was a shepherd who became a hero by defeating the giant Goliath. His relaxed pose before the battle suggests a calm confidence, embodying the spirit of "virtus"—the Roman virtue of bravery and moral strength.

Recognizing the Unique Perspective

Another fascinating thing to note when you study works of renowned artists like Michelangelo is their use of perspective. David is larger at the top than the bottom, making him look perfectly proportioned when viewed from below. This technique, called "forced perspective," was a clever way to account for the statue's placement on a high pedestal.

From precision to symbolism, David is a brilliant example of Michelangelo's genius and a landmark in the history of art. Just imagine what Michelangelo could achieve with a block of marble and a chisel! Next, let's journey into the surreal world of Salvador Dali.

Decoding Dali's The Persistence of Memory

After our exploration of Michelangelo's David, let's shift our focus to a different medium and period of art. The Persistence of Memory, a painting by Salvador Dali, transports us to the realm of surrealism. With its melting clocks and dreamlike landscapes, this artwork invites us to question our perception of time. Are you up for some time travel?

Identifying the Iconic Symbols

The melting pocket watches are the most recognizable element in this painting. They suggest that time is fluid, not fixed, and our understanding of it can change based on our perspective—a radical idea that makes this artwork stand out.

Exploring the Surrealist Imagery

The Persistence of Memory is a testament to Dali's vivid imagination. The barren landscape, the distorted face, and the swarming ants—each element adds to the sense of unease and mystery. When you study works of renowned artists like Dali, it's fascinating to see how they use imagery to provoke thought and emotion.

At its core, this painting explores the concept of time and memory. It challenges the notion of time as a solid, measurable entity, presenting it instead as something that can melt away, much like our memories. This theme of transience is a recurring motif in Dali's work, and it's one reason why his art continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

We've journeyed from the Renaissance to the world of surrealism, uncovering the mysteries of two iconic pieces of art. Next, let's dive into another masterpiece—Munch's The Scream.

Understanding Munch's The Scream

Now that we've delved into the world of surrealism with Dali, let's shift our gaze to a piece that's equally thought-provoking, yet starkly different—Edvard Munch's The Scream. Renowned for its raw emotion and dramatic style, this iconic artwork offers a fascinating case study for those who want to study works of renowned artists.

Recognizing the Central Figure

The figure at the center of this painting is hard to miss. With its wide eyes and open mouth, it appears to be in the throes of an intense emotional experience. This figure, caught between the vibrant sky and the swirling landscape, is often interpreted as a symbol of existential anguish.

Unpacking the Use of Color

Munch's use of color in The Scream is nothing short of exceptional. The vivid reds and oranges of the sky contrast sharply with the cool blues and greens of the landscape, creating a sense of tension and unease. When you study works of renowned artists like Munch, you quickly realize how color can be used to evoke emotion and set the tone for the entire piece.

Understanding the Impact of The Scream

The Scream has become one of the most famous images in the history of art. Its influence can be seen in everything from pop culture references to academic studies on expressionism. The painting's enduring popularity shows us how art can transcend time and continue to resonate with audiences, even over a century after it was created.

Our journey through The Scream has shown us how Munch's masterful use of color and form can convey deep emotional resonance. As we continue to study works of renowned artists, we'll see how each one brings their unique perspective and techniques to the canvas. So, ready to move on to our next masterpiece?

If you're intrigued by the art analysis and want to dive deeper into studying the works of renowned artists, don't miss 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' workshop by Eric Drummond. This workshop will help you understand the techniques and principles used by the masters, and how to incorporate them into your own modern art practice.