The simplest way to learn how to appreciate paintings is to see more paintings.  
 
The more paintings you see, the more you know about art. You become aware of the differences in the mediums; watercolour paintings look and feel distinct from oil on canvas paintings. You recognize the differences in style: abstract and realistic are no longer words that mean nothing.  You are able to distinguish the genres in western art: landscape paintings are not just paintings in landscape mode. 
 
The more paintings you see, the more you can understand your own preferences in art.  You realize that colours are what attract you to a painting at first sight, or you discover that you favour paintings that are packed with details. You learn that you identify more with paintings of the past, or that the message of the painting is what draws you closer. 
 
The best way to see paintings is face to face with the actual work, but we are limited by resources, hence the most efficient way is to see paintings through books or online.  

How to appreciate paintings?  The more paintings you see, the more you appreciate of paintings.

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