How to Appreciate Paintings #3: From far to near
When we first see a painting on the wall, we stand at a reasonable distance from the painting to have an overview of the painting. Taking an overview helps us to settle into the painting and gives us our first impression.
Reasonable distance depends on the size of the painting: if the painting is small, we may need to stand nearer than an arms length to see it properly; if the painting is large, we may need to take multiple steps backwards in order to grasp the full picture.
We then move closer and closer to the painting, until we are almost a breath away. As we move nearer to the painting, we may see changes to the painting; items that were clear from afar now appear as a few strokes, objects that were unidentifiable from far appear sharper now. Looking at the painting close up lets us notice the details and helps complete our impression.
When we look at a painting on the screen, we do the same. We first see the full painting before zooming in to see the details. While looking at a painting from the screen enables us to zoom in to see more details, we miss the opportunity to feel the actual size of the painting if we view it on the wall. The size of the painting affects our impression; a huge painting can overwhelm us with its grandeur and a tiny painting can dazzle us like a jewel.
How to appreciate paintings? When looking at paintings, look from far to near.