AP®︎/College Art History
Shape and form
Shape builds on line and color, as it has to be made of one or both of these. Shape is the property of a two-dimensional form, usually defined by a line around it or by a change in color.
There are two main types of shapes, geometric and organic. While most works of art contain both geometric and organic shapes, looking at those that are more completely divided can serve to clarify these qualities.
Piet Mondrian is an excellent example of an artist who used geometric shapes almost exclusively. In his Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red (1937-42), Mondrian, uses straight vertical and horizontal black lines to divide his canvas into rectangles of primary colors.
Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red, 1937–42, oil on canvas, 72.7 x 69.2 cm (Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Nothing here gives the impression of the natural world. On the other hand, Maori facial tattooing, known as moko, uses primarily organic shapes. They are still, like Mondrian’s shapes, generally abstract — they do not depict any clear images — but the shapes are like those found in nature, curving, twisting, and spiraling across their wearers’ faces. The edges of the lines and shapes are crisp, but the forms are curving and sensuous.
Moko (photo: James Heremaia, license information)
Form is actual, three-dimensional shape, though it is often used to describe the illusion of three-dimensionality, as well. Like shape, form can be geometric or organic.
A small korwar — a representation of an ancestor — from Irian Jaya, New Guinea, mixes these form types well. While the figure is predominantly geometric, with the head shaped like a cube and the nose an arrow pointing downward, the curving organic lines around the eyes soften this effect a bit.
Ancestor Figure (Korwar), late 19th–early 20th century, Indonesia, Papua Province (Irian Jaya), Cenderawasih Bay region, in northwest New Guinea, wood and glass beads, 26 cm high (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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- What am I suppose to be doing?(5 votes)
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9) Do this, and you will learn much.(72 votes)
- Is there more to a form than just 3d?(14 votes)
- Maybe time could be an element in it if the form moves, like water, a robot or something that is melting(14 votes)
- But the head is decidedly NOT shaped like a cube! A cube has straight equal sides and square corners. The head of the Korwar is tapered in form and exhibits obtuse angles and rounded corners. How can you see a cube here with your eyes open?(17 votes)
- Do we need to learn all this in order to analyze a painting efficiently?(5 votes)
- I believe that learning all this will be helpful, but it is not a must. Above all, you must have interest and curiosity over what you are seeing. The rest will come quite naturally.(9 votes)
- If there is 4D, (4D is 3D + light) is there a 5D, maybe including motion? if so, how many dimensions are there? and maybe our eyes are only strong enough to see a few of them.(6 votes)
- I personally always think of 4d as 3d + time, but either way there are other aspects to art rather than the static physical form, if that is the root of your question.examples I can think of are the passage of time and how the piece has aged, where the piece of art has travelled to (e.g it's biography), the piece in context (e.g it's original purpose vs. Later uses or how it is viewed in a museum), I'm sure there are others.(7 votes)
- what if the head isnt a cube(2 votes)
- If the head isn't a cube, then it's some other shape. Is that what you were asking?(4 votes)
- Are all the element important?(3 votes)
- I wonder how long it takes to art like that(3 votes)
- probably takes a while to do art like this(1 vote)
- How to change 3D form into 2D shape and what is significances to do like that?(1 vote)