The picture description is part of the German language course, but it is also used in the field of art and foreign languages. Furthermore, an image description may be a component of the text analysis in some subjects. The image description serves to capture an image in its entirety, whereby we should highlight the essential and most important features as detailed as possible. The description can be followed by an image analysis which goes even deeper into depth.
The image description is strongly linked to the person description. This is because, as a rule, a picture serves as a basis for this (photography, drawing, painting). In contrast to this, however, we should also consider the effect of the colors and artistic connotations in the context of the picture description and not only describe the depicted person himself.
This means that the picture description consists of three essential aspects. On the one hand, it is the description and explanation of the pictured motif and, on the other hand, the nature of the image itself (materials, colors, etc.) and the effect of the image on the viewer.
Note: In this article you can see what is important in a picture description, which characteristics should be observed and how you can write a picture description yourself. Finally, you will also find wording aids in different languages.
Prepare the picture description
Before we venture to write the picture, we should make some preparations and also do some preparatory work. So we do not forget to write important details later.
In a first step, we should look at the picture extensively without wasting any thought on the later writing. Here, we can take notes of the things we can see at the time of the examination, which aspects stand out, and perhaps contain information about the artist and the time of his birth.
Furthermore, we can briefly describe what the image shows, what colors characterize the whole, and what effect the image has on us. There is no “right” or “wrong”, but mainly for our first impression.
It is important that we also note the most inconspicuous features so as not to forget them. This can happen quickly when we later describe the picture as a whole.
Sort: We should now put the collected conspicuousness into an overview. We divide these into information about the image, colors and materials and content. So we can look up later, what things we noted down and do not forget important details.
Important: These steps can take a little longer. Even if we work under time pressure (tests, examinations), a solid preliminary work can be the most important point to capture the work of art and then to process all the information.
Tip: Sometimes it is helpful to rotate the image a bit at first sight, thereby changing the perspective. In some cases, images are hidden in the picture, which can not be seen at first sight. Let’s take a look at the work “Vegetables in a Bowl” by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It soon becomes clear why the picture is also known as “The Gardener”.
The above example shows quite well why a change in perspective can be helpful in viewing the image. If we had not shot the picture, we could only see the obvious: vegetables. The hidden gardener would have been hidden from us.
Structure of a picture description
Basically, the picture description follows the structure of the introduction, main part and conclusion. However, the three areas have certain sub-items that are mentioned in them.
Topic (What is the main picture?)
Art (painting, photography, drawing etc.)
Title of the picture if known
Artists (Who created the work?)
Image source (Where is the image, where is it printed, if known?)
Date (When was the picture painted, printed, published?)
Tip: A typical introduction would be: “The painting, title ‘of’ artist ‘was created in the year XXXX. It shows […] (subject in few sentences, one or two suffice for the introduction). ”
Main part (details of the picture in their relationship to each other, in a meaningful order)
There are different approaches. Either one describes the essentials first and then goes into the details or we begin with the trifles and work out the essentials. It is important to specify exactly where the corresponding one is located
Actual picture description
Image perspective (From what perspective is the picture shown?)
What do you see mainly?
What catches your eye?
For people: What is likely to happen in these?
What is between the background and the background?
Are front and background connected?
Which persons, buildings, landscapes are represented?
What is the landscape like?
Which moods convey colors and light (day, night)?
Picture object (subject)
What is the central motif of the image?
What is the main presentation level?
Are there any important secondary presentations?
Are there second or third image planes (picture in picture)?
Is there a specific character or symbol that appears in the image (iconography)?
Picture composition (composition)
What is the image section? Is he cut? Overall view?
Is the main motif placed in a spatial context? Does it float freely in space?
How is the view taken? Are there clear lines of sight (diagonal, vertical, etc.)?
How is the composition (symmetrical, asymmetrical, one-sided-asymmetric)?
Is a particular thing (detail) particularly highlighted?
How is the picture displayed?
Graphic or picturesque?
Plane or with light and shadow?
Is it a very typical epoch style or an individual style of the artist?
Image meaning (not applicable in the picture description – is part of the image analysis)
Tip to the main part: It is important, above all, that the structure is logical. We do not necessarily have to start with the foreground and then describe the background and the background. However, this approach has proven itself. It would also be possible in other ways, or from the unimportant to the important.
Available position: foreground, middle, background; left, right, up, down, front, rear; upper, left, right, or bottom image halves; front back
Finish the picture description
Summary of the described (scarce!)
How does the picture affect me (only if a teacher asks for it)?
Own opinion (also only if requested)
Note: In principle, there are two possibilities for setting up the image description. Either we begin by writing with the essential, that is, what is clearly on the picture, and then treat the details and details, or we begin with the trivialities, and then work on the most important thing. This decision is yours and has not been fixed.
Write picture description
If we have looked at the picture, we have also decided on a procedure for the construction, as well as made sufficient notes on the pictorial object, composition and the essential contents of the picture, it can go to writing. Important: The description is written in the present tense.
First part of the description: Introduction and formalities
The beginning of the picture description make the general data of the picture. Certainly we can orient ourselves to the well-known W questions from the journalism. Who (artist)? What? (Title, picture category, subject) How? (Painting, drawing, picture format) Where? (Exhibition venue) When? (Creation period, publication, epoch). We call these aspects only briefly. Sometimes it is also possible to find information about the origin of the image (the reason for the production) or important data about the artist.
Second part of the description: The actual description
If we have done the introduction and checked the formalities, it can go to the actual description of the picture. It is important here that the introduction should not preempt any elements of the picture description and also that in the description we only mention what is also to be seen in the picture.
If we interpret what the image shows, we write an analysis. The picture description, however, is descriptive. It is therefore not interpreted or actually analyzed, but only described what one sees. In this section, therefore, there are only things that can be recognized (see Operators in the Department of German).
In order to make it easier for us, the image description can take place from one direction to the other, or from the posterior to the middle. Although the whole thing quickly has a listing, but this can be avoided by clever transfers.
The most important aspect is that we recognize and describe the image object (subject). What is the central motif of the image? All other aspects we can safely neglect a little. By the way, it makes sense to begin with the most striking thing: if we were in a test in time, we have in any case captured the essentials and ticked off.
Finally, we should now look at the nature of the representation. What style of painting has become clear in what has been described, and what is the epoch of the work? Is this picture typical of the artist and for this epoch?
Third part of the description: Final
In conclusion, we summarize what has been written again, and here we mention just the most important points. Now our opinion could follow the picture. This point should, however, be discussed in any case with a teacher, since this part does not belong to the actual picture description because it has an interpretive character. In some cases, however, he is required.
Note: The picture description does not have to be written according to the presented structure. It is important, at most, that we stick to the structure of the introduction, the main part, and the conclusion. The above outline is therefore only a recommendation.
Tips for the image description
Before writing, collect notes and write down all the abnormalities, sort them, and then begin. This ensures that no important details are forgotten and the most important is recognized. Nevertheless, the whole can be individually arranged.
The essay should be divided into introduction, body and conclusion. It is important that the introduction does not contain any details of the description and the description no longer calls formalities. The conclusion is variable and should be discussed.
The introduction can best be answered using the W questions. When we process these, all important information is contained in the essay.
Follow the description of an imaginary line. Either from back to front, from left to right, from top to bottom, or from the important to the unimportant.
The own opinion and evaluation may only be at the end of the picture description. In addition, a teacher should be asked if this is desired.
Example of an image description
In order to clarify what has been written with an example, we would like to give you a picture description. The important thing is that you can read the structure above all. The various levels required by the school or university must be discussed.
Das vorliegende Bild ist ein Holzschnitt des deutschen Grafikers Gerhard Marcks aus dem Jahr 1956. Der schwarz-weiß Schnitt zeigt vier Gestalten, die des nachts und im Schein eines sichelförmigen Mond mit dem Segelboot über das ruhige Meer gleiten. Das Bild trägt den Titel „Nächtliche Fahrt“.
Der Horizont teilt das Bild in zwei Abschnitte. Den oberen Teil des Schnitts bestimmen Himmel und Mond, wohingegen die untere Bildhälfte das vornehmlich vom Meer bestimmt wurd. Verbunden werden die beiden Ebenen durch den Schein des Mondes, der mit einem breiten, senkrechten Lichtstrahl leuchtet.
Scheinbar vom Licht weg und demnach aus diesem hinaus, fährt ein langes, dunkles Segelboot. Zwei der Besatzungsmitglieder sind schon in die Nacht entschwunden, wobei sich die zwei hinteren Gestalten noch im Licht des Mondes befinden. Das Segel des Bootes ist sichelförmig gebogen und treibt das Boot in Richtung des rechten Bildrandes. Der Wind scheint das Boot demnach zu bewegen.
Auffällig ist die Linienführung des Werkes. So gibt es sehr ruhige, klare und gerade Linien, die die obere Bildhälfte und somit Himmel, Mond und Segel bestimmen, wobei auch die Besatzung des Bootes durch klare Kontraste gekennzeichnet ist. Weiterhin gibt es unruhige, wellenförmige Linien, die das Meer bilden.
Die ruhigen und unruhigen Elemente des Bildes werden durch den Strahl des Mondes verbunden. Die unruhigen Linien, die durch den Mondschein erhellt werden, sind sanfter als der Rest des Meeres.