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Examples of Short Descriptions

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664

Johannes Vermeer
Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664
In this vertical painting, a woman stands near the corner of a dimly lit room, facing our left in profile looking down at a balance she holds suspended in her right hand over a wooden table. She wears a peacock-blue velvet jacket with a white hood and fur lining, and a voluminous mustard-yellow skirt. A window near the upper left corner is partially covered by a canary-yellow curtain. Light coming in through that window falls on the cream-white skin of the woman's face and hands, and highlights the white trim of her garment. Her left hand, closer to us, rests on the edge of the table near two open boxes, and a blue cloth is bunched at the back of the table to our left. Gold chains and pearl strands drape over the edge of one box. The woman stands in front of a framed painting. Much of the detail is lost in shadow but at the top center of the painting, a person surrounded by a golden halo floats in the sky with both arms raised, and is flanked by people encased within a bank of clouds. Nude people on the ground below, seen to either side of the woman, writhe, twist, and point upwards.

Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875

Claude Monet
Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875
From low on a hillside, we look up at a light-skinned woman and boy standing in tall grass against a sunny blue sky in this vertical painting. The woman stands at the center of the composition, and the moss-green parasol she holds over her head almost brushes the top edge of the canvas. Her body faces our left but she turns her head to look at us. Her long dress is painted largely with strokes of pale blue and gray with a few touches of yellow. Her voluminous skirts swirl around her legs to our left. She holds the parasol with both hands and her brown hair is covered with a hat. Long strokes of white paint across her face suggest a veil fluttering in the breeze. The tall grass she stands in is dotted with buttercup yellow and deep mauve, and she casts a long diagonal shadow along the grass towards us. The young boy seems to stand on the other side of the hill, since the grass and flowers comes up to his waist. He wears a white jacket and pale yellow straw hat. His arms are by his sides and he seems to look off into the distance to our left. A sunny blue sky behind the figures is dotted with bright blue clouds. The painting is created with loose brushstrokes throughout, but especially choppy brushstrokes in the sky and clouds suggest wind and movement. The artist signed and dated the painting in royal blue letters at the lower right: “Claude Monet 75.”

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (Le Penseur), model 1880, cast 1901

Auguste Rodin
The Thinker (Le Penseur), model 1880, cast 1901
This free-standing bronze sculpture shows a nude, muscular man sitting on a rock and resting his chin on the back of his right hand, with that elbow propped on his left knee. In this photograph, the man’s body is angled slightly to our left. He hunches a bit as his body twists so his right elbow, on our left, reaches the opposite knee. His left arm, on our right, rests along his leg so the hand dangles beyond the knee. The man has short-cropped hair, a furrowed brow, an angular nose, and lines around his mouth and eyes. His left foot, on our right, rests higher on the rock so that knee juts up a little higher than the other. The bronze has a greenish patina, especially noticeable along the top of the man’s head and shoulders and the front of his lower legs.  

James Van Der Zee, Portrait of a Couple, 1924

James Van Der Zee
Portrait of a Couple, 1924
An elegantly dressed Black man and woman stand facing and looking at us, slightly smiling, in a room in this vertical photograph. The image is monochromatic like a black and white photograph but is printed in warm tones of golden and dark browns. To our left, the man has short-cropped hair and is cleanshaven. He wears a three-piece tuxedo and holds a bowler hat and cane in his right hand, on our left. He pulls his suit jacket back to hook his opposite thumb in his vest pocket. He wears rings on each of his pinky fingers and a chain crosses his vest, tucked into the same pocket as his thumb. The woman stands with her left hand, on our right, on her hip and her opposite hand resting on the man’s shoulder. She has a cheek-length bob haircut and wears dangling earrings and a necklace with a pendant. Her ankle-length, sleeveless dress is beaded with geometric and scrolling patterns. Some of the beads and the ring she wears on the fourth finger of the hand on her hip catch and reflect the light. An upholstered chair sits to our left and a wood side table with an urn filled with flowers and a telephone stands to our right. The telephone has a conical earpiece hanging from a stand with the flaring mouthpiece. The background behind the people has a painted or wallpapered section to our left and an arch leading to a curtained window to our right. Parts of the photograph are noticeably out of focus, particularly the background and flowers. The artist signed the work with white letters against the dark shadows under the seat of the chair, near the lower left corner: “VAN DER ZEE NYC 1924.”

Sam Gilliam, Relative, 1968

Sam Gilliam
Relative, 1968
This painted canvas hangs on the wall loosely from four gathered peaks—one peak on each end to the left and right, and two peaks evenly spaced in between. The fabric is tightly wrapped with a leather cord into a fist-like form to create each peak, except for the right-most peak, where the fabric is knotted. The canvas is stained with large areas of soft color that largely meld together, with mostly pink, peach, and yellow to the left that transitions to violet, turquoise, and sky blue to the right. Hard-edged, vivid orange streaks break through the blues and greens to the right.

Joan Mitchell, Salut Tom, 1979

Joan Mitchell
Salut Tom, 1979
The top quarter of this horizontal abstract painting is dominated by bright, sunshine yellow over areas of sky blue, moss and forest greens, and white below. The painting is made up of four vertical panels joined to make one long composition. Yellow dominates the leftmost panel over a field of pale blue marked with forest and spring greens, teal, and yellow, mostly along the bottom edge of the canvas. The field of pale blue and white take up most of the space in the two center panels, with a band of yellow above and deep green marks below. In the rightmost panel, the blue field is more variegated with darker blues, shades of green, white, and yellow. Throughout, some of the colors are layered and sometimes they are applied next to each other. Thick and thin areas of paint and drips create a variety of textures on the surface of each panel. The artist signed this work in pencil in the lower right corner: “Joan Mitchell.”