Art appreciation is a tricky thing. Part of it is knowing what you’re seeing. Part of it is being able to talk about what you’ve observed. And then there’s just straight-up, basic appreciation. Once you’re able to answer all those questions, there will come the point where you stop seeing the work for what it is and allow yourself just to be moved by it.
Art is all around us, and it’s in every medium. Even cars have art (well, most of them are art). (And those fascinated with cars will definitely want to check out our post on cool car art.) But if you’re like most people, you don’t deeply appreciate art. You appreciate the artistic side, but you never really take the time to think about what you actually see.
Art is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, in a real sense, but it’s not quite that simple. Art appreciation requires a certain skill set. At the very least, it requires you to know how to read—reading (and interpret) the historical context, composition, and meaning of complex works of art that are part of history’s greatest artists’ legacy truly separate art enthusiasts from art snobs.
Most of us have at some point been to an art gallery or museum and been overwhelmed by the gallery’s collection of art. What can we do, though? How can we take a different look at this work? How can we appreciate it? Understanding what makes art ‘art’ can help us appreciate art, which, in turn, can help us love and appreciate our own lives even more.
Learn more about its history
Art appreciation is a skill you can learn, and like any skill, you’ll get better as you practice more. This lesson aims to get you started with art appreciation and introduces you to some of the terms associated with appreciating art.
Imagine supposing your grandmother handed you a painting by Pablo Picasso—you’d almost certainly be a little reticent to hold that painting, let alone look at it. After all, Picasso is loved by millions, and his works are regarded highly, but his painting style is very different from that of other artists, and that alone might intimidate you. But why not visit an art museum to see other examples of Picasso’s work? Visit an art museum to see other examples of other art. Many art museums host tours that discuss the history of the art they display, providing context to the art, its style, time period, and more. These tours are a great way to learn about art, history, and each other.
Know what you like
Every artist has their own artistic style. Some prefer realism, others prefer impressionism, and others still prefer abstract art. But do artists use the same artistic style in all of their art? Not necessarily. Some artists may paint realistic landscapes one moment, and then the next moment paint abstract art. Some artists may paint realistic portraits one moment and then the next moment paint abstract art.
Search out any museum or gallery, and you’ll come across the art of all different styles, scales, and genres—and there’s probably a point in your life in which you’ve felt strongly connected to one in particular. A painting or sculpture that speaks to you, for example, may feel like an old friend or band you listen to every day. How, then, can artists achieve such a connection with their artwork? Is it something that’s innate? Or is it something learned, perhaps through practice or exposure to different forms of art? While artists may differ in how they achieve such deep connections, the takeaway for the rest of us is that if you’re passionate about art, you have the power to find something that speaks to you.
Discover its effect on society
The impact of art is immeasurable. Often art can bring us together, help us express ourselves, and even help us heal. A piece of art that truly touches you has the potential to impact your life in more ways than you could imagine.
Although art has been around for thousands of years, it’s only recently become part of our everyday culture. The impact of art is felt globally and by nearly everyone. It can be seen in art made by people of all backgrounds, by vast numbers of people. Those who live in developing countries without access to art are missing out. In prehistoric caves, paintings of animals help tell the story of the people who lived and created them. In our modern culture, art can be found in many forms. It can be seen in movies, advertisements, social media, clothing, and paintings. Art is both an expression of humanity and a way to connect with others—a way to allow us to look beyond ourselves and understand one another.