The Value of Art Appreciation
The artworks that we come to admire tend to find their way into our hearts not only by merit but also for more personal reasons.
For me, I doubt I will ever forget the first time I saw Michelangelo’s David: I was 18 years old and travelling around Europe on a three-month trip — my first extended time away from home.
When I visited Florence, I arrived by train with a group of new friends I’d made during my travels. I remember walking around the Galleria dell’Accademia alongside a particularly ebullient Californian who wasted no time in telling me that David was one of the most astonishing things he’d ever seen. He simply couldn’t get over the veins and muscles of the statue’s limbs, their life-likeness and clarity in the stone. He spoke about it for days after.
My own response was more circumspect. I saw a tall and prestigious object rising above me, utterly familiar from all the reproductions I’d seen on TV and in books.
And yet I found it strangely distant at the same time. The precision of the carved stone gave the work a poised coolness that I only later came to appreciate as being a vital part of the statue’s meaning. Over the years since then, as my relationship with David came to include facets of academic study and repeated trips back to Florence, several new layers of awareness and attachment came to shape my current thoughts about the sculpture. Still, nothing quite displayed that initial encounter alongside my Californian friend.
Art appreciation is made up of these peculiar vagaries, chance encounters and private associations, often laying the bedrock for how we think about individual works of art for years to come.
If the goal of the artist is to communicate with the viewer on a personal level and stir the imagination through the use of visual medium, then art appreciation — looking at art and taking pleasure in it — plays a vital role in opening up the transmission.
Close attention to the basic elements of art, including colour, line, composition, texture, space and light, encourage us to consider different — sometimes challenging — points of view. Through these, we can come to some kind of understanding of the artist’s purpose, not only…