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Feldman Model for Art Criticism

 Edmund Feldman, Professor of Art at the University of Georgia, created a very useful simple four-step method for looking at a work of art.

It can be used with any art work as well as with music and dance.

  1. DESCRIPTION What can be seen in the artwork?
  2. ANALYSIS What relationships exist with what is seen?
  3. INTERPRETATION What is the content or meaning, based on steps 1 and 2?
  4. JUDGEMENT What is your evaluation of the work, based on steps1, 2, 3?

Feldman was concerned that the critic (even if a student) should be actively engaged with the artwork. In the first step the critic is objectively stating what they can see in the work. Lines, shapes, colors, shading …

Considering the relationship between various elements used such as sizes, shapes, colors, textures, space and volumes, etc., encourages a complete examination of the artwork.  It often reveals the decision making process of the artist, who wants the viewer to make certain connections within the artwork.

Interpretation is the meaning of the work based on the information in steps 1 and 2. Interpretation is about ideas (not description) or sensation or feelings.

Don’t be afraid of revising your interpretation when new facts are discovered (such as the date of the artwork, or the personal history of the artist, etc.)

Conversely, don’t be reluctant to make an interpretation from your analysis of only the visual information.

Judgment, the final step, is often the first statement that is expressed about an artwork before it has really been examined.

Judgment in that case is neither informed nor critical but simply an opinion. We are working towards informed critical judgments, not just opinions.

As artists and as art critics we want to be thoughtful in our approach to works of art.