How do we start looking at a painting? Where do we stand when we are looking at a painting in a museum? How do we start looking at a painting online?
To start looking at a painting on the wall in a museum, 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.
From the overview, we start to 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. Seeing the painting up close lets us notice the details and helps complete our impression.
To start looking at a painting online 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 physical size of a painting can affect our impression of the painting.
How to appreciate paintings? To start looking at a painting, whether on the wall in a museum or online on the screen, you look from far to near. See the overview of the painting before moving closer to zoom in on the details.