How to Look at an Artwork

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people usually spend less than a minute

looking at a single artwork most spend

no more than five seconds

that was five seconds do you remember

much of that painting how would you

describe it

do you remember the details it's

absolutely fine to browse and wander

through an art museum but when you stop

to spend five to ten minutes with one

artwork to discuss it with someone it

can change how you see how you think and

how you appreciate that object let

something catch your eye it might be

something you like it might even be

something you dislike stop to figure out

what caught your eye start seeing seeing

requires you to use your brain to direct

your eye

to ask questions and to process

information take in a full view you

don't need to look at the label first

you don't really need that information

right now just enjoy moving your eye

around the artwork then pick a starting

point here maybe it's the center group

why does your eye move there try to

figure it out that read of her scarf

it's the only read in the midst of green

blue white and gray the group is almost

though not quite in the center of the

image the sloping lines of the trees on

either side and the diagonal line of the

wall and the street lead me right to

that group I feel like I'm on the same

street it's probably not a picture of

today if I look at what they're wearing

and there are no cars on the road I

think they're standing in the shadow but

of what trees may be

or a building it makes me think of the

tower of a cathedral it's a strong

shadow so the light must be bright I

want a closer look if I step about 12

inches away and just look at the paint

the brushstrokes I can almost see the

artist adding one dab of color on top of

another that gray isn't just gray it's

blue over the gray and green mixed with

the blue I even see a few dots of orange

around their feet and then maybe more

orange up in the trees and then again up

in the hillside the white of the road is

painted differently with longer


the faces aren't detailed they're just

blobs of color how does the artist know

where to put those blobs of color so

that it looks like a face let's put it

all back together again if I back up

this painting looks really different

from a distance than it does up close

the edges and shapes look so solid from

here but I now know that they're made up

of small dots of many colors it's

similar to the painting to the left with

all those dabs of color but it seems a

little more controlled maybe and it's

similar to the painting to the right

with the same colors and a road but

different brushstrokes now let's look at

the label so it's by Leon Porto a French

artist and it was painted in the 1891 he

was young when he died only 30 and on

the painting in the lower right LP 91 so

that's the artist name and the year it

was painted I guess I never thought

about how the landscape can be broken

into these big shapes or how many

different colors can appear in the

landscape a green tree isn't just one

shade of green it's many shades of green

and the blue between the leaves of the

sky maybe this makes me more observant

of everything around me even when I'm

outside the museum so as you wander the

museum take time to stop and focus your

attention on a single artwork because it

deserves more than five seconds