understanding-art-paintingsWhat’s with art paintings that have mesmerized and fascinated people for ages? For most people, appreciation of art could be in as far as going to world renowned museums and having their photos taken. Take the Louvre Museum in Paris, for instance. The vast majority of people who go there spend a considerable time having photos taken rather than standing still to look at works of art.

But there are also people who would like to learn a little bit more about art paintings, and while they may not understand the technicalities, they try to appreciate the small details they see. And appreciating what they see is the first step in understanding a painting, according to Erwin Panofsky, a revered art historian.

It seems pretty obvious that appreciation of art begins with the eyes. He said that for people to understand, begin by looking and seeing. Since the time people were born, as soon as the eyes started to gain vision, people had been doing just that – look and see. But people have are selective in what they want to look at and to see. And so, understanding art paintings for the casual museum visitor means that they have to have the intention of doing so.

The third process, according to the art historian is to think. The beauty of art is that it is subject to anyone’s interpretation. The greatest artists are able to convey emotions with their paintings, but what one truly sees and feels may not necessarily reflect that of the artist, or be the same as the next person standing beside.

By thinking and trying to interpret the message of the artist, the perception is often subject to people’s own experiences. And regardless how they interpret and understand, appreciation is when one can have a sense of resonance with the art itself.