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 50 Years/50 Artworks      


Visual art can be understood as a language, created from the universally recognized elements of color, shape, line, space, texture and value (light and dark). Artists organize these elements into compositions, using design principles like proportion, unity, balance, rhythm, and implied movement. Sometimes, these compositions are intentionally designed, but artists also create effective compositions spontaneously and intuitively.

All people can learn to “read” and “speak” the elements and design principles of art, regardless of differences in age, experience, or culture. For example, it is widely understood that red colors trigger responses of excitement and motion, while blue colors "feel" more relaxing and quiet. Likewise, we are able to read sharp, jagged lines as energetic, and soft, curved lines as slow and calm. Because of our common, intuitive understanding of art's elements, we can all read and obtain meaning from artworks, even those with no recognizable imagery. In fact, many people believe that abstract and non-objective artworks can convey more meaning than representational images, because they strive to communicate the essential qualities of physical and emotional experience.

These readings of art’s formal qualities may be especially useful when there appears to be no objectively identifiable subject or narrative in a work, but all effective artworks, even those with identifiable imagery, use the elements of art and the principles of design.



Museum Location

Tweed Museum of Art

University of Minnesota Duluth Campus

1201 Ordean Court

Duluth, MN 55812-2496

Info: 218-726-8222 or 218-726-6552

store: 218-726-6139



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Last modified on 05/15/18 12:02 PM
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