Types of Critical Judgement

M. Naz

Art can be interpreted in many ways. However, some people view art in specific manners, such as art critics. Their criticism can be categorized in many types, and are seen throughout history. Their purpose is to carry on the work description, analysis, and interpretation. It must also carry some form of artistic excellence. The three main types of critical judgement discussed are: formalism, expressivism, and instrumentalism.

Formalist criticism focuses on the relationships among the visual elements of the work, independent of associations, labels, or conventional meaning that the following elements may have in life. They believe that successful relationships are designed, and that artistic excellence does not require an abstract or geometric style. Also, they value the sensual appeal and the subject matter of the materials used in the artwork. Unity in the criteria of a formalist critic is achieved through the non-cognitive and non-symbolic properties in a piece of work. Opposingly, formalists express difficulty in achieving the idea of artistic excellence as they believe that an organization is best when it embodies the ideal structural possibilities of the visual components in the artwork. All in all, this critical judgement serves as a guide to the values it does not accept as aesthetically irrelevant in social, historical, and psychological description, as well as literary and emotional association, and representation or limitation of objects that are real.

Wassili Kandinski “Comp 8” 1923

Expressivist criticism is able to see the effectiveness of the ability of an artwork to relay its ideas and feelings with intensity and/or vividness. This form of criticism is the opposite of the ideas from a formalist point of view. They see great potential in the artwork created by children. This is because they believe that a child has the ability to reveal a world with ideal possibilities as they can see the world without the cultural distortion that affects the vision of an adult. Also, they express that children are more interested in ideas and emotions rather than technical and organizational qualities. This type of criticism gives the idea of intensity of experience when viewing an artwork.

Franz Marc “Blue Horses” 1911

An instrumentalist theorist believes that art is a way to express advancing morals, political, religious, or psychological purposes. They are concerned with the idea and feelings expressed in an artwork, and its consequences. Their interpretation makes it difficult for them to understand historic art as people of this era interpret art in individual ways. Instrumentalists emphasize the legitimacy of an artwork related to the concerns of life as it acts as a correction to the work’s tendency to become overly related to purely technical issues.

Eugene Delacroix “Women of Algiers” 1834

Feldman, Edmund Burke. “Varieties of Visual Experience.” New York: Harry N. Alormans Inc. 1967


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