Martin Rollins uses Pieter Claesz’s oil painting Breakfast Still Life (1653) to demonstrate a four-step process for responding to a work of art. Step one is to describe the artwork. In the second step, you analyze the work, he says, breaking the piece into its parts and trying to get into the artist’s mind and understand his decisions. The third step, interpret, is the “why of art,” which can be both your understanding of the work as well as what you think the artist is trying to convey. With the final step, evaluation, you are trying to answer what value the work has for yourself and for others.
After he demonstrates this process with a two-dimensional work of art, Rollins applies this same process to a three-dimensional work of art—Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure: Angles (1979). He advises students to move around the sculpture in order to really see it. He shows how it is important to use additional information about the work—information you might find next to the piece in a museum or online—in trying to interpret the piece.