What I’ve Learned From Looking At Hundreds of Paintings

Some questions are better when they can’t be answered

Christopher P Jones
4 min readAug 23, 2023


Photo by Amady Azdaev on Unsplash

This scene will probably sound familiar. You’re walking around a gallery with room after room full of artworks. You glance between the paintings in front of you, deciding which one you might linger over for a little longer.

As you manoeuvre, you try to avoid stepping on the toes of someone else peering at the wall. Paintings come in and out of view as heads bob in front of you. An added complication is the rise of selfie-takers who skilfully arrange themselves so that they can be snapped next to their favourite works, smiles at the ready, like two best friends together.

Most people tour a gallery with what might be called a “pondering stride”: a series of slow, considered footsteps, verging on mournful, before stopping at the next piece to gaze — finger and thumb pinching the chin — inquisitively.

Lessons Learned

In this setting, a different type of feeling can also kick in: the taxing suspicion that you don’t possess enough knowledge to make the best of the experience.

Questions bubble up.

Who are the people in the painting? What do the objects symbolise? What statement is the picture trying to make…