Lecture - Chapter 2

Developing Visual Literacy
Chapter 2 – Sayre 7th edition
Visual Literacy
• the ability to use “a descriptive vocabulary,
a set of terms, phrases, concepts, and
approaches that will allow you to think
[speak or write] critically about visual
Let’s start at the beginning…
• Subject matter – what the image literally
• Content – what the image means
Form and Content
• form – what we see…the total effect of the
combined visual qualities within a
work…including materials, color, shape,
“overall structure of a work of art”
We can go even deeper with
What are these?
Geographic Icons
The Alamo and The
Statue of Liberty
What are these?
Computer Icons
Microsoft Windows
and Word, AOL IM
• Iconography = the symbolic meaning of
signs and subjects…
• Iconography/Symbolism carries the
deepest levels of meaning.
• Each culture and period has its own
system of meaning for images.
We’ll use this one as
our prime example.
Fig 39/2-21
Gender Iconography
window vs. bed
green dress and pose
Cindy Sherman
Fig 719/21-32
Social Rank Iconography
canopy bed
oranges from Spain
Oba Benin Kingdom 19th century
Coral beaded necklace and crown
Mudfish feet – Olokun
Fig 378/13-17
Religious Iconography
shoes, dog, prayer beads, lit candle
13th century Japan
Fig 38/2-20
We’ve already seen quite a bit
of art in the course.
We were already looking at the
next concept and didn’t even
know it!
How a work of art relates to the
“real” world…
“describes how closely, or not, the image
resembles visual reality itself”
1 – representational art
(a.k.a. objective or figurative art)
2 – abstract art
3 – nonrepresentational art
(a.k.a. nonobjective or nonfigurative art)
representational art
• Depicts the appearance of things as they
appear in the natural world
• Re-presents things from the natural world
in a way that appears realistic
• “portrays natural objects in recognizable
Fig 5/1-6
Fig 30/2-8
abstract art
• abstract art – art that depicts things from
the natural world in simplified, distorted, or
exaggerated ways
• “does not try to duplicate the world exactly
but instead reduces the world to its
essential qualities”
Fig 113/5-29
nonrepresentational art
• Nonrepresentational art – presents visual
forms with no specific references (i.e.
things in the natural world) outside
• “does not refer to the natural or objective
world at all”
• “the content of nonobjective art is its form”
but “all forms…suggest meaning”
Fig 33/2-15
Fig 701/21-16
Categorization Exercise
• Determine whether the work of art is
1 – representational art
2 – abstract art
3 – nonrepresentational art
Image # 1
Image # 2
Image # 3
Image # 4

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