I agree with the old saying that art is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, most of the power of the work lies with the viewer. The artist has a concept and uses the materials to express it, but the viewer brings his or her temperament, experience, mood, and expectations to the reading of the piece. Most people minimize their own importance in the communication process.
After teaching art appreciation for more than ten years I began to really understand that. If all the works you look at are acknowledged as “good,” your response may still be radically different than that of an equally knowledgeable person standing next to you. Experience and education are important, but so are personal psychological factors.
For instance, please look at these artworks and decide which one is your favorite. You may recognize some of these paintings or the artists, but please do not include that in your selection. Make your decision quickly – try not to think much about it.
Choose Your Favorite Artwork:
No hedging now—pick just one.
Ways to Look at the Artworks
This is a very limited selection of pieces and they are all done in oil paints. The goal was to help you think about subject matter, design and mood and less about the medium, technique, or context. Why did you select your favorite?
Mother and Child (and/or religious imagery)
Children (and/or implied story)
All of these pieces are relatively comfortable for most people—none of them are likely to challenge 21st Century viewers. My point is that we all start with our own sensibilities as we begin to look at artworks. In most cases, risk takers like more adventurous art and more conservative personalities like more traditional representations.
Visual art works just like music. Some of us like Country Western music, others prefer improvisational jazz and responses to painting are the same. If you understand your personal taste you can expand your appreciation for other kinds of work as well.