Form and Content

Understanding how to identify and think about the form and content of art is a basic first step to getting the most out of the experience of visual art. Here, we will define form and content, and begin to understand why they are important.

Two basic considerations we need to be acquainted with are form: the physical and visible characteristics inherent in works of art, and content: the meaning we derive from them. Formal distinctions include a work's size, medium (painting, drawing, sculpture or other kind of work) and descriptions of compositional elements, such as the lines, shapes, and colors involved. Issues of content include any visual clues that provide an understanding of what the art tells us. Sometimes an artwork's content is vague or hidden and needs more information than is present in the work itself. Ultimately these two terms are roped together in the climb to understand what art has to offer us.

If you'd like to learn more about form and content, and the related concept of context, read the Elements of Art section on this page. It details the primary, secondary, and tertiary varieties of these concepts.

Source: Christopher Gildow, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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Last modified: Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 9:25 AM