Analytical frameworks are a tool for unpacking and examining an art work using different viewpoints. The VCE Art Study Design describes four frameworks – Formal, Personal, Cultural and Contemporary. When we use the Formal framework, we analyse how the artist has used the elements and principles of art to convey meanings or messages. We examine the use of style, materials and techniques. Using the Personal framework, we explore the artist’s personal situation – how their history, beliefs and influences may be evident in the art work. We can also think about the ways that our own experiences affect how we view the art work. The Cultural framework is the one we use when we are examining the social, cultural and historical factors that surround the artist and that are evident in the art work. When we discuss how current ideas or ways of thinking influence our view of an art work (whether it is a more recent work or one from long in the past) we are using the Contemporary framework. Using the Contemporary framework we also explore how contemporary materials, media and ideas affect our understanding of a work.
Following are examples of how the different frameworks can shape what is written about a particular art work.
In his painting The family of André-François, Count Miot de Melito (1762-1841), Consul of France to Florence
1796, Louis Gauffier shows the Miot family – three adults and two children – grouped in the interior of their Florentine palazzo. The painting blends portrait and genre painting: it is realistic in style with great attention to the features and clothing of the sitters, but shows the family captured in an everyday scene.
The group is shown mid-movement, all of the figures linked through touch. The children’s uncle entertains the baby; the envoy André-François Miot tousles the older child’s hair with the back of his hand; and the envoy’s wife stares from the painting towards the viewer.
The figures fit within a compositional triangle whose apex is formed by the dome in the painting of the Florentine skyline behind them. One side of the triangle is emphasised by the back of the uncle who leans in to the child, the other by the arm of André-François Miot. A smaller triangle is formed by the trio of Madame Miot and her children.
The dark statue of Minerva and bust of Brutus lend gravitas to the image as if the diplomat and his young family have the might of the Republic behind them. Miot’s red mantle draws the viewer’s eye to him, but he in turn looks to the distance, contemplating the weight of his diplomatic responsibility.
Painter Louis Gauffier took up study at the French Academy in Rome after winning the Prix de Rome in 1784. He worked in the circle of Jacques-Louis David and remained in Italy for four years. His return to France was marred by the outbreak of the Revolution. With royalist sympathies, he had difficulty in gaining work and was forced to return to Italy where he obtained commissions for landscapes and portraits of aristocrats and diplomats. Gauffier married and had two children who were orphaned when Gauffier died in 1801, three months after his wife, Pauline.
With young children of his own, and with his own fate shaken by the Revolution, Gauffier may have felt empathy for the young Miot family. Certainly, his reputation grew with the production of portraits such as this. He was summoned to Paris by Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, but died before he was able to return.