Appreciating Art can be a Complex Business

Don’t worry we have a plan

Bristol Art gallery

Wandering around an Art Gallery brings us in to contact with many different forms of art. You can base your opinions on gut feeling, which is valid. But if you really want to appreciate art and want to make informed judgements about art, you need a framework in which to structure your thoughts.

We are going to call this framework, ‘The Three Elements of Art namely: Form, Content and Context. Below you will see the basic structure outlined. Each element and their sub-categories will have a Red Button Click the button for more information which you can peruse at your leisure.

Don’t worry you will soon get the hang of it.

Viewing an art work

1. We shall consider ‘What is Art?’

So what actually is Art? Why are the objects; paintings, sculpture, mixed media etc., that we see in art galleries called Art?

Some people simply use gut feeling when judging art. In this section we look at some of the statements they make and the counter arguments.

2. What we need to Understand to Appreciate Art?

Let’s consider the 3 Elements of Art

Note: Not all elements will apply to every art work

This section will consider the use of:











This section will consider the use of:

What you know

What you understand


Symbols of Attribution

Abstract Figures

Obscure Symbols

This section will consider the use of:

The Artist

The prevailing Political, Economic, Social Religious Climate

Reception – Then and Now

3. Let’s Appreciate Art

Woman - de Kooning

Now we have some understanding of the elements of art, this section will discuss how we might apply this knowledge to particular works of art. Clicking on an Element of Art below will explore how that particular element might help us appreciate art and how to make a  judgment about a particular art work.

Sunflowers - Van Gogh

Remember Form relates to all those elements that effect how the painting is physically constructed.

Remember Content is concerned with what we actually see in the painting, the objects, signs and gestures that may or may not tell a story.

Remember Context relates to the time in which the painting was produced, the prevailing social attitudes, political and religious views.

Having some understanding of the three elements of art will hopefully help you appreciate art in a more informed manner. Don’t entirely reject gut feeling, it can still has a role to play. Most important of all, just enjoy art.