Work of art refers to an artistic creation, which can take a form of fine art like painting, photograph, fine work of architecture, design, or an interactive game.
In the foregoing description, formal analysis is used to analyze an artwork by El Greco which is a painting done in between 1575-76. It presents a story of a blind man from the Bible called Bartimaeus crying out to Christ to heal him of his blindness.
“The story is covered in the four gospels: Matthew 9:27-34, Mark 8:22-25, Luke 18:35-43 and John 9:1-22. Christ mixed his saliva with soil to make mud, which he used to heal the blind man.”1
Line and form
This story forms the theme of the painting. The collation and visualization of the texts are in the form of contemporary Venetian setting. The figures of Jesus and the man he heals occupy the foreground, off-center to the left, and form the central part of the composition.
A group of people witnessing the miracle stand in the right with two men sitting in the center. There is a city square seen in the background, which is receding towards the gateway.
Behind the blind man and Christ, there are stooping figures and a group of four people who are unaware of what is happening.
“The extensions of lines that the blind man is using for gesture together with the figure, which is on the right side with his back to the viewer, convene at the end of the point in the center of the gateway, placed slightly left of center in the picture.” 2
The line of the arch behind him reinforces the act of Christ moving his hand in the direction of the blind man. The foreground part between the sniffing dog and the two men conversing in the middle distance is demarcated by receding lines and left empty, while the groups in the foreground are crowded on either side.
The viewers’ attention is attracted to both the right and the left sides of the composition, while lines of perspective construction created by the paving draw their attention to the vanishing point.
Space and Shape
El Greco succeeded in the use of deep space in the utilization of the floor space, where he made maximum use of the foreground. The foreground figures, which are in a lower level, are meant to create space on the front edge while the groups make up the composition.
Their presence shows that space extends beyond the foreground and some figures in the center to the left towards the direction the youth is pointing.
The sense of space moves beyond the picture and creates a sense of spatial confines of stage. The sequential arrangement of colored shapes shows good use of space.
El Greco used luminous colors and created structured architectural settings for the figures. He used a rich variety of colors and tints.
Balance and emphasis
The composition has a calculated formal balance shown in the grouping and actions of the figures. Those to the right of Christ are more gracefully than those to the left. The frontal aspects of Christ emphasize the outline of his figure, simplification of the fold and texture of his robes.
The parallel lines of the bent elbow of the two main figures, protruding and receding, are pictorially balanced. The atmosphere surrounding this place is calm creating an impression of balance.
The emphasis laid on Christ’s figure advancing right knee is minimal, and his pose is more statuesque. El Greco applied perspective focused on straight and diagonal lines in the setting.
In contrast, there is a restless movement framed by the different forms in the background architecture. This contrast ensures that they are the main center of the composition.
The following is the picture-forming basis of our discussion:
Prnjatovic, Mladen. Elements of Formal Analysis in Architecture. London: University of New South Wales, 2008.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York: Pearson, 2010.
1 Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. (New York: Pearson, 2010), 14.
2 Prnjatovic, Mladen. Elements of Formal Analysis in Architecture. (London: University of New South Wales, 2008), 34.