When we look at a painting and then look at the title, we experience the painting twice: the first time we look at the painting, we form our own story of the painting; the second time we look at the painting after looking at the title, we reconcile our story with the artist’s story from the title.

Both are very fulfilling experiences.

When we look at the painting for the first time without knowing the title, we take our time to slowly discover the painting by ourselves. It is exciting to examine the painting to make out what the painting is, absorbing to figure out our feelings to the painting, stimulating to shape our own opinions to the painting. It is an engaging and mindful experience that requires us to focus on the moment, on the painting in front of us.

When we look at the painting after knowing the title, we re look the painting with fresh eyes, promoting another study of the painting. We could be satisfied with the agreement of our understanding of the painting and look at the painting again to find the areas of alignment, strengthening our feelings and thoughts to the painting.

We could be surprised at such a divergence with our understanding of the painting and look at the painting again to analyse the reasons for the differences. We may emerge from this round of thoughtful searching armed with new insights to accept or disagree with the artist’s point of view. It is an intellectual and emotional experience that requires us to reflect upon ourselves and open our minds and hearts to possibilities that had not occurred to us.

How to appreciate paintings? Looking at the painting first before looking at the title of the painting allows us to engage with the painting twice, enhancing our experience and appreciation of the painting.

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