ObeliskArt History Projects

Our imperfect memory

— what do we remember, and why?

Our imperfect memory, , Art History Projects

Objectives

NA-VA.9-12.5: Reflect on and assess the characteristics and merits of the work of others

1. Visually study an artwork of your choosing

Works of art are often experienced in the moment. A painting might surprise us with it’s texture or a sculpture may mesmerize with its illusion of motion. But how we remember artwork is also important. Some details stick in our brains, and some barely register. Choose an artwork to study for ten minutes. Look carefully at all the aspects of the image: line, color, composition, subject matter, and the emotions it conveys. Ten minutes is a long time. While you're looking, think about questions like these:

  • What did the artist think was the most important part of this artwork?
  • What’s in the foreground, the background, and how do they relate to each other?
  • How does the composition draw the eye around the artwork?
  • What emotions was the artwork intended to convey?

Once you've studied the artwork for ten minutes, stop looking at it, and don't look at it again until part two of the assignment. Take at least two hours away from the image. Once this time has passed, choose one of the following methods to share your memory of the artwork:

2. Choose one project below

WRITE

Write a 1 page description of the formal characteristics of the artwork you studied. What themes or figures are illustrated and how did the artist compose them? What emotions did you experience while studying the image? Do you think the artist intended to communicate these feelings?

Once your description is complete, look at the original artwork, and write a note about what elements of the artwork you forgot, and why you think you forgot them.

DRAW

Draw a recreation of the artwork. Don't aim for perfection; represent the artwork as you remember it. Add 5 annotations highlighting the elements you feel were the most important to experiencing the artwork. Write a sentence about what made each highlight memorable.

Once your drawing is complete, look at the original artwork, and write a note about what elements of the artwork you forgot, and why you think you forgot them.

Reed Enger, "Our imperfect memory, what do we remember, and why?," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 01, 2020; last modified February 01, 2020, http://arthistoryproject.com/projects/our-imperfect-memory/.

Obelisk uses cookies to measure site usage, helping us understand our readers' interests and improve the site. By continuing to browse this site you agree to the use of cookies. Learn more