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Art History: Step 2: Review and Evaluate the Piece

This guide demonstrates the Art History research process, gives examples of art theories, searching strategies, and links to citation help.

Step 3: Review the rhetorical means of persuasion in the piece

Ethos: argument based in morals or moral character

  • Consider the credibility of the artifact.
  • What makes it believable and trustworthy?
  • Does it follow ethical guidelines?
  • Is it well-designed or poorly constructed?
  • Who created it?
  • Who supports or uses it?

Pathos: argument based in emotions

  • Does the artifact employ devices (colors, images, words) that cause an emotional reaction to it?
  • Are those devices cultural, historical, political, or idiosyncratic?
  • What specific emotions are meant to be evoked and is the artifact successful in evoking them?

Logos: argument based in reason

  • What kind of logic or reason is used in the artifact to affect an audience's interpretation?
  • Is there an argument being made?
  • Are there facts, statistics, or historical references present?

Kairos: fullness of time; the propitious moment for the performance of an action of the coming into being of a new state. (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2022.)

  • Was the artifact created and displayed at the opportune moment?
  • If it had been presented at another time and place, would it have been as effective? More? Less?

Topos: a traditional motif or theme; a rhetorical commonplace, a literary convention or formula. (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2022.)

  • How does this artifact fit in with other artifacts of its kind?
  • Does it follow convention(s)?
  • Where does it break away from them?
  • Does it adhere to expectations?

Step 4: Evaluate the design principles used

There are almost infinite principles and concepts to choose from. Focus on the most relevant ones of your artifact.

Basic Design Principles

  • Contrast
  • Balance
  • Emphasis
  • Proportion
  • Hierarchy
  • Repetition
  • Rhythm
  • Pattern
  • White space
  • Movement
  • Variety
  • Unity

Ask Yourself:

  • Which of these design principles are being used?
  • Why?
  • What effect do they have on the viewer?

Aristotle's Three Modes of Persuasion

In Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric, he lays out the three modes of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds.

The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker;
the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind;
the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

— The Art of Rhetoric, Part 2

Image of triangle w/ Logos, Pathos, Ethos titled Elements of an argument










Source: Nanodudek on Wikimedia Commons

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