Falling in Love With Art: A Guide On How to Look at Artwork

Art, as we have discovered, has the power to provide the viewer with the same kind of pleasure as falling in love. Since all art is created with the sole purpose of being viewed it seems there’s a kind of intimate and romantic reciprocity going on between artists and their audiences. At least, there is when the piece of art in question produces a positive reaction.


That won’t always be the case, of course. In fact, the same piece can delight and thrill one person but leave another indifferent, irritated or even disturbed. When you think about it, that’s a bit like falling in love as well. Who can say why we find one person attractive while another leaves us cold? Still, most of us put some effort into finding someone with whom we can fall, and stay, in love. And there are a few good reasons to put a bit of effort into doing the same with art.


The best reason is that the right painting, or sculpture or other visual art allows us to feel really alive thanks to the dopamine release that accompanies our encounter with it. And that, in turn, makes it much easier to engage with the art in a way that does all those other wonderful things for the human brain and the human psyche which we talked about previously. And then, falling in love with art does have one advantage over the art of falling in love with another person.


Most of us want to fall in love and stay in love with just one person, (eventually). The love of art, however, is increased and very definitely improved by sheer, wanton promiscuity; the more art we fall head over heels about the better! Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t require just that little bit of effort.

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Where to start

That’s easy. Stop by your nearest gallery or art museum. (Obviously, the St Mawes Gallery would be an ideal location!)

How to Start

Wander, slowly, round the gallery giving each piece at least two or three minutes just to take it in. It actually requires an effort to really look in a way that is completely focused and intent. (Did you know that most people going around an art museum spend about two seconds in front of each piece?!) As you do, don’t think about what the critics say or what you are ‘supposed’ to notice if you ‘know about art’. Just look. Become aware of how it makes you feel. If you feel a ‘flutter’ of something like excitement, stay a little longer, noticing your reaction without thinking about it. Let it grow.

Sometimes it can be a good idea to move on and look at other pieces, keeping your awareness of how that one made you feel. Are you drawn back to it? Is it still speaking to you? Then, when you feel the tug becoming irresistible, go back to it.


Sit down in front of the piece and do what we all do when we feel that draw to another. Find out what you have in common! What is it about this painting, this sculpture or installation or design that speaks to you? What does it remind you of? What about it creates that sense of excitement for you?


This is the point at which it can be helpful to find out more about the artist and about what he or she intended to communicate. This might help explain what you are responding to. Or it might not. Sometimes, even the artist is unaware of what is unconsciously expressed through a piece of art. Discovering the layers of meaning and message in art is one of the things that makes it so exciting.

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No art is ever created to be seen as just one item in a list of exhibits. Each piece is a kind of world in itself, intended to be hung where it will speak to its owner, intimately and every day for years and years. So when you find a piece that speaks to you, that’s when you stop and let the ‘conversation’ happen naturally. It might well lead to the romance you have been seeking!


And if it does, take it with you! If you cannot afford an original, (and let’s face it, Picasso’s are a little pricey for most wallets), then try to find a really good print or photograph! It might be your first experience of falling in love with art and you will almost certainly want to remember it. But, even more certainly, it won’t be your last!