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Module 2

  /    /  Module 2

Visual Analysis:

How to compare and contextualise artworks


Curriculum support CAPS/FET
Visual Art: Visual Culture Studies
Grades 10–12

  • Students (working alone or supervised)
  • Teachers (notes)

This module comprises 4 steps and additional resources.


In the last module we started to develop our visual literacy skills. We analysed an unseen artwork based only on what we were able to observe. We then discussed and interpreted our observations to create ‘meaning’.

In this module we focus on contextualising artworks. Context refers to the way that the artist’s work is influenced by their world. The full meaning of an artwork cannot be appreciated by only looking at the formal qualities of an artwork. We need to discover what inspired the artist, what their concerns were and how they navigated their artistic journeys.

We will look at the beginning of a Western Art tradition in South Africa and draw attention to the influences of European art on South African artists who emerged in the first half of the 20th Century.

We follow Irma Stern’s journey and influences from Europe to South Africa and compare it to the path of Gerard Sekoto from Africa to Europe.

This course will help you to:

  • Gain practice in comparative analysis
  • Compare elements of art history in Africa and Europe
  • Discuss artworks with reference to social contexts and influences


Let’s get started! Watch this short video in preparation for this module.

1: Videos

Watch these short videos which will contextualise the artists and artworks.

2: Artworks

Click on the artworks below and observe them as carefully as you can.

3: Contextualising the artworks

Read the notes in preparation for the activities that follow.

Start your analysis of each artwork by making your own notes or use the worksheets below to organise your thinking.

Refresh your memory by referring to the guides in the previous module.

4: Comparative Analysis

Read the notes in preparation for the activities that follow.

Start your analysis by making your own notes or use the worksheet below to organise your thinking.

Additional Exercises

Find here additional resources to practice comparative analysis of artworks.

For this exercise, you can use one of the following works of art.
Hover over the image to see the artist, title and year. Click on the image to enlarge.

Wed – Fri: 10 am ‒ 5 pm
Sat: 10 am ‒ 2 pm

Adults: R65
U18s, students, pensioners, UCT staff: free

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