The Joy of Viewing – Martyn Lowe

Seeing Old Friends

Going to visit an art gallery in order to see a favourite work of art, is very much like popping over to see an old and much loved friend. The same can be said about experiencing architecture, or viewing ones favourite statues.

I still get the same thrill while walking through the doors of the British Museum, or the Sir John Soane’s Museum, as I first do so many many years ago. While the sight of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations from Pentonville Road has always been one of my 7 architectural wonders of the world.

The more you see of these works of art and architecture, the more you appreciate them.

Visual Understanding

Much of this appreciation comes from reading about history, artists, architecture, and the history of art. Yet it also comes from taking the time to observe what one is looking at, and a working knowledge as to just how these works of art are constructed.

This may be just their visual construction, as each brush stoke, or line drawn, will inform the viewer about the both the artist and work of art. To appreciate the painting of many artists, it is just as import view their drawings. Only then will you start to fully understand just what they have achieved in their painting.

For example: -

The works of both Gustav Klimt and Rembrant van Rijn are built upon their drawing. On the other hand, you do really need to look at the water colour sketches of J.M.W. Turner in order to fully appreciate just how his paintings work.

The later oil paintings of Vincent Van Gogh are the most glorious examples of drawings in colour. While with architecture you need to look at the all of the details, and the building as a whole.

Historical Context

Of course one does need to view many paintings and other works of art from within the period they were created. The most obvious example of this comes from the effect that photographic images first had upon artists during the 19th century.

To fully understand the paintings of the Dutch Golden age, medieval sculptures, or renaissance paintings, you do really need to know exactly what was going on within the society in which these works were created.

While contemporaneous advertising images, graphic novels, or the ‘comic book’ has influenced many other artists. One just has to look at the works of Andy Warhol, Alfons Mucha, Norman Rockwell, and Roy Lichtenstein in order to appreciate these symbiotic influences.

Joy To Be Found

Without all of this knowledge there can be no complete understanding of what you are seeing. Though the joy of viewing a beautiful work of art can never be diminished by not knowing. So view and enjoy I say to you all, and if you can learn more - just do so !
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