English for Art and Design: Basic Information (1996 / 2012)

R.J. Preece (EFL)
English for Art & Design | 25 June 2012
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English for Art and Design: Basic Information

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Sandro Botticelli birth of venus Edvard Munch the scream

Left: A. Sandro Botticelli. The Birth of Venus, (c. 1480). Tempera on canvas, 5’ 8 7/8" x 9’ 1 7/8" (1.8 x 2.8 m). Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. Right: B. Edvard Munch. The Scream, (1893). Oil and tempera on board, 35 3/4 x 29" (90.8 x 73.7 cm). The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway.

C. Artist name. Title of artwork, (year). Materials / technique, size. Location, other information.

Basic information: The caption under the image

A caption can sometimes be difficult to read because of the unfamiliar structure and the information can be written in different languages. However, captions often follow the same format. Look at the caption to the left.

Lecture: Public Picture or Private Picture?

In today’s lecture, we will discuss the size of pictures in Western art. Now, the size of pictures from slides or books is not real. For example, on the left, we see The Birth of Venus by the artist Sandro Botticelli. Here, Botticelli painted a large picture, 5 feet 8 (and) 7 / 8 inches by 9 feet 1 (and) 7 / 8 inches. He painted this picture circa, or around, 1480, and it is at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

With this large size, Botticelli wanted to make a picture for many people to see at one time, or a public picture.

Now compare Botticelli’s picture to the picture on the right, The Scream by Edvard Munch painted in 1893. This painting, located in the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway, is smaller than Botticelli’s painting. It is only almost 3 ft. x 2 ft. 5 in. Here, only a couple of people can look at the picture at one time. Munch created a small, or personal picture.

Exercise 1: Comprehension Check

Answer the following questions. Find the answers in the reading.

1. What are two similar ways to write "around"?
2. What are two ways to write "feet"? Inch(es)? What are "m" and "cm"?
3. For sizes, what is another way to write "by"?
4. Titles of paintings and sculptures are in italics in art books. What about architecture, or buildings? Look at the reading above. Make a rule.

Exercise 2: Pairwork / Speaking

Review caption C above. With your partner, look at caption A for the Botticelli artwork. Ask and answer the following questions. Afterwards, look at the caption for the Munch work above, one for a work by Mischa Kuball, and one for a design in an RMIT gallery show.

1. Is it a painting or sculpture? Is it architecture? Is it another medium?
2. What is the title?
3. Who made this? (Or when did the architect design this?)
4. When did the artist make it? (Or when did the architect design this?) Do we know the exact year?
5. What is the size of the picture?
6. Where is it?

Exercise 3: Individual / Writing

For the artworks and design in exercise 2, write all of the information in two sentences.


For the Munch painting:

Edvard Munch painted The scream in 1893. It is 2’ 11 3/4" x 2’ 5" and is at the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.

Exercise 4: Pairwork / Speaking to Writing

1. What artwork would you like to make?
2. What’s the title, size, material(s), and location?
3. Write the basic information for your work.
4. Write two sentences with all of the information.

1. I would like to make a tree for a sidewalk in the city.
2. The title is City tree. The size is 15 feet tall. It is made of grey and blue steel pipes, and it is located in front of Liberty Place, a tall building, in downtown Philadelphia.
3. Katherine Weneca. City tree, (1995). Steel pipes, 15’ tall. Liberty Place, Philadelphia.
4. Katherine Weneca made City Tree in 1995. It is 15’ tall, and is located in front of Liberty Place in downtown Philadelphia.

Exercise 5: Listening

Listen to the audio-recording and write down the correct answer. Some names, titles and locations may be difficult. For these, write down the sounds that you hear.

A. Artist’s name _____________________
B. Title _____________________
C. Medium _____________________
D. Date _____________________
E. Location _____________________
F. Size _____________________

A. Artist’s name _____________________
B. Title _____________________
C. Medium _____________________
D. Date _____________________
E. Location _____________________
F. Size _____________________

For 3 and 4, write down the sizes for each picture. Which is bigger?

On the left _____________________
On the right _____________________
Bigger? _____________________

On the left _____________________
On the right _____________________
Bigger? _____________________

Click to see the transcript for this listening exercise.

Exercise 6: Passive / Active Verb Practice

Example: Andy Warhol painted 100 Soup Cans. 100 Soup Cans was painted by Andy Warhol.

Look at the art and design captions in this section. Write out sentences using active and passive verbs.


medium person verbs
art artist to make
to create
painting painter to paint
sculpture sculptor to sculpt
architecture architect to design
drawing artist to draw
print printmaker to design
_____ design _____ designer to design
photograph photographer to photograph
Materials: paint, metal, stone, cloth, wood, paper, pen, pencil

Things to remember

> Type the titles of artworks in italics, but not for architecture.
> For years, c. means circa or around.
> For sizes, ’ and ft mean feet. " and in mean inches. (3’ x 2’ 5"), (3 ft x 2 ft 5 in), and (3 feet x 2 feet 5 inches) have the same meaning.
> x means by.
> 1 yd. (yard) = 0.914 meter
> 1 foot = 0.305 meter
> 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters

Section objectives

Language of Art and Design Functions Understanding basic information
ESL Functions