ART 101 NVCC Hippopotamus Sculpture of Metropolitan Museum of Art Research Paper

ART 101 NVCC Hippopotamus Sculpture of Metropolitan Museum of Art Research Paper.

Question Description

Visual Analysis Paper

  • 2-3 pages overall (12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1” margins)
  • 100 points total
  • Submit online by 4:00 pm on Mar. 31

Visual Analysis: How does it work?

In two to three pages you will explain how the visual components of the work you selected come together to create a particular effect. The purpose of this paper is to recognize and identify the sources of the work’s visual appeal. This essay is built around a thesis statement that clearly encapsulates your conclusions about the object.

  1. Pick one of the works of art below.
  2. Think hard about the overall effect of the work- does it produce a sense of danger, comfort, anxiety, pleasure. Considering all of the choices the artist made, try to figure out how the object manages to elicit that response. This will be your thesis statement.
  3. The visual analysis should also include a detailed description of the object. After spending a long time observing the work of art from every possible angle, describe the work’s appearance. State what the object is (a painting, sculpture, vase, etc.), what it’s made of, and what it represents (subject matter). The finished paper should not be a random list of observations.
  4. Do not incorporate historical or contextual information into your analysis. The second essay assignment will cover this. Just use your eyes and your brain.
  5. Conclude by reflecting on this analysis exercise as a whole. Has your understanding of the work you chose changed over the course of the assignment? If so, how? What do you think might have caused the change? Are you left with any unanswered questions?

Works of Art:

  • Hippopotamus (“William”), ca. 1961-1878 BCE, faience, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    •… (Links to an external site.)
  • Portland Vase, ca. 25 CE, blown glass, British Museum, London

    •… (Links to an external site.)
  • Wall Painting, ca. 50-40 BCE, fresco, from the villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    •… (Links to an external site.)

Topics to cover in the visual analysis:



Key questions



How the image is put together. Where things are placed in relationship to one another. The main parts of the composition are the foreground, middle ground, and background.

What is the main figure or object? How are the other figures or objects placed in relation to the main ones? What is left out? Is the overall scene symmetrical or asymmetrical?

The way different parts of an image are put together draws the viewer’s attention to some parts more than others. It also creates tone, mood, and meaning.

Elements of Design

The different aspects the artist can use to put together the image.

Which elements of design are the most important in the piece (color, line, texture, shape, form, value, size, text, movement, etc.)?

Meaning comes from what the artist uses and also what the artist doesn’t use.

Focal Point

Where your attention is drawn to first in a work of art.

What is the focal point? What elements of design does the artist use to create the focal point?

Understanding the focal point helps you understand the meaning of the picture.


All of the colors as well as black, white, and neutrals. Primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, Secondary colors are green, purple, and orange.

What colors are used? How do these colors affect the tone and mood of the image? Are colors used in predictable or unpredictable ways?

Color can create moods, highlight particular parts of the image, connect different aspects of the image, and be symbolic.


Actual lines in the picture plane created by the placement of figures and/or objects.

How do lines draw your attention toward or away from certain objects in the image?

Lines are used to guide the viewer to the most important parts of the image.


It is how rough or smooth something is. It can also be a pattern. It can be real in three-dimensional art or referential in two-dimensional art.

Where is texture in the image and how does this texture enhance the work of art?

Texture links images to real objects and forces the viewer to use other senses than simply sight in engaging with a work of art.


The way in which the artist uses circles, squares, rectangles, and other shapes in art.

How are shapes used in the work of art? Are they geometric or abstract? Where do shapes or relationships between shapes help your eye to focus?

Our eyes tend to focus on familiar shapes first.


How light and shading techniques make a two-dimensional object seem three-dimensional.

Where has the artist used shading or light to highlight some aspect of the image? Do aspects of the work of art seem three-dimensional?

Form can make an image seem more realistic


Degree of light and dark in different parts of the work of art.

How are light and dark used in the work of art? Is there symbolic use of light and shadow in the work?

It can be used along with color. Extreme changes in values create contrast which


The overall size of the work of art and the size of the subject depicted.

Why did the artist choose this size for the work of art? Is it life-size? Are there differences in the sizes of the elements in the work of art?

Variations in size and shape can indicate significance

Symbolic Elements

Specific parts of the work of art that have symbolic or historical meaning.

Are there any aspects of the work of art that may be symbolic?

Symbols draw on cultural meanings and add a deeper layer of understanding for a viewer.

Good verbs for writing about art:

Suggests Intimates illuminate depict

Conveys Portrays implement display

Seems Appears exhibit demonstrate

Might indicate emphasize contend

Other tips:

  • A paragraph must have three sentences.
  • Avoid superlatives: fantastic, amazing, awesome, beautiful, wonderful, the best, the worst, etc.
  • Avoid making unsubstantiated judgment calls: always ask yourself can you prove what you are saying.
  • Don’t assume to know an artist’s intent and be aware that a work of art can have more than one meaning or function.

ART 101 NVCC Hippopotamus Sculpture of Metropolitan Museum of Art Research Paper


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