How to Understand and Critique Paintings
By Marion Boddy-Evans, About.com Guide
- Learn How to Critique Paintings
- Understanding Art and Painting Terms
- Understanding Abstract Art
- Famous Paintings
Learn How to Critique Paintings
You don't need to be a professional art critic or have a degree in art history in order to critique a painting. We all have opinions, and that's the starting point for learning how to critique a painting. Looking critically at other artists' work also helps you assess your own paintings more objectively and thoroughly.
- How to Critique a Painting
- Painting Critique Checklist
- The "Right" Words to Talk About Art
- 10 Things Never to Say About a Painting
- When Someone Laughs at Your Paintings
- What are the Elements of a Painting?
- Vasari's Five Criteria for Judging Art
Understanding Art and Painting Terms
There's a lot of jargon and terminology used in art. Here are some resources to help you understand it.
- Art Styles Explained From Realism to Abstract
- What's the Difference Between Art Styles, Schools & Movements?
- A to Z of Painting Terms
- Test Your Knowledge with the Art Trivia Quizzes
Understanding Abstract Art
If a painting isn't of something real, just colors and shapes, how do we understand and interpret it? What might the artist be trying to say, if anything at all?
- Introduction to Abstract Art
- How to Interpret Abstract Art
- What is a Color-Field Abstract?
- Opinions on Abstract Art
Looking at famous paintings isn't so much about liking or disliking the painting, but learning about why it's considered great. Such paintings can teach you many things, including composition, color, and mark-making with paint.
- Matisse's Red Studio Painting
- Night Watch by Rembrandt
- Hare by Albrecht Dürer
- Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco by Michelangelo
- Monet's Water Lily Paintings
- Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
- Portrait of the Artist's Mother by Whistler
- Guernica by Picasso
- Red Studio by Henri Matisse
- Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans
- Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso
- Black Painting by Ad Reinhardt
- Lowry's Stick Figures
Photos of Paintings
Even if you can't get to an exhibition, it's worth looking at photos of the paintings selected for an exhibition both individually and as a group. Seeing multiple paintings by an artist helps you learn about their style, and development as an artist.
- Exhibition of Van Gogh's Letters
- Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings
- Rothko (Color-Field Abstracts)
- Van Dongen (Fauvist)
- Van Gogh and Expressionism
- Monet's Water Lilies
- The Unknown Monet
- Millais (Pre-Raphaelite)
- Radical Light (Italian Divisionist Painters)
- Art and Illusions
Using signs and symbols in a painting is a way to add extra and/or hidden meaning, which a viewer may or may not understand or even notice.
Try It Yourself: Paint In the Style Of...
Creating your own version of a famous painting teaches you a lot about an artist and their style because it makes you look long and hard at the painting.
- Painting Project: Like Lowry
- Painting Project: In the Style of Matisse
- Painting Project: Whistler's Way
- Painting Project: In the Style of Vincent van Gogh
Painting Reference Books
These books are all ones I consult regularly and can't imagine being without. I may not be able to find other things in my studio immediately, but I always know where these are.
- How to Read Paintings by Nadeije Laneyrie-Dagen
- Best 5 Art Reads for Painters
- Best Books on the Works of the Great Painters
- Art Styles, Schools, and Movements
- Favorite Artist Biographies
- Painting Today
- Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour by Philip Ball