Guide to Analyse Paintings Like A Professional

Art offers us an experience through storytelling, allowing us to feel an emotion and spark the imagination. Analysing paintings is an art in itself and requires a keen eye and a professional outlook. It isn’t as simple as looking at fantastic wall arts and understanding them; you have to have the knowledge of artistic techniques and the appreciation for context. Art is created by people for many reasons, and connecting this to the painting allows professionals to truly understand the story behind each piece. Whether you are an artist on a journey seeking inspiration, an art enthusiast visiting galleries in your spare time or a future art historian looking for some advice, here are a few key factors you need to consider if you want to analyse paintings like a professional.

Initial Observation

To begin, you will need to start observing the painting from afar. This will allow you to take in the colour scheme, balance and overall composition. During this process, you will notice the focal points and how your eyes glance across the artwork. As you observe, you should consider the emotions you feel, the story the painting conveys and the reasoning behind it.

The Details

Now we have taken it in from a distance, we can examine the details. Moving closer towards the artwork, you will be able to notice layers of paint, brushstrokes and textures. This is the time to pay attention to how the artist has incorporated shadows and used light. You may also discover their use of perspective at this stage. Taking in these details will allow us to understand the artist’s unique style and techniques.

Colour Palette

Analysing the colour palette within the artwork is important as this plays a significant role in relaying emotions and symbolism. As you look at the painting, consider if the colours in front of you are vibrant or muted. Are there specific colour combinations within this piece that stand out? Before this, you may wish to research the psychological meanings of colour to better understand the messaging that the artist wants you to perceive.


Exploring the composition of the painting in front of you will include looking at the symmetry, balance and placement of elements. At this stage, look for framing, focal points, and leading lines and consider how your eyes are naturally guided through the piece. Making yourself aware of the composition in the artwork allows you to appreciate an artist's storytelling techniques.

Culture & Context

Understanding the context of paintings will add a layer of meaning to your experience viewing the piece and improve the overall analysis process. When analysing for context, think about cultural and historical factors that may have resulted in this piece being made. You may even consider how cultural movements, politics and society could have influenced an artist's work.

The Artists

Before visiting galleries and viewing artworks, you may wish to familiarise yourself with the artists behind the individual pieces. Context to artwork is incredibly important, so researching the artist's background, career, and influences will help with this. As well as understanding the artists, you can also better understand the art movement in which the artist follows. Remember that all art movements have unique philosophies, techniques and styles which provide valuable information into the artwork you see.

Emotional Connection

Reflecting on the emotions you feel when viewing a piece of art is an important step in the analysis process, as art offers a powerful medium to make us feel specific ways. The emotional response you experience when looking at art is a valid part of the process that can often be overlooked. At this stage, you should be considering the ways in which the artist has achieved creating these emotions with their artistic choices and why the piece makes you feel the way you do.

Symbolism & Themes

Behind most paintings are symbols and themes that hold much deeper meaning than we may initially think. If you want to truly analyse a painting to the same degree as a professional, researching and becoming familiar with symbolism is a crucial step. We should be considering the themes the artists have explored, which could include death, love, mythology, nature, etc. The elements in paintings relate to various types of symbolism. Understanding the art’s overall message will be achieved by interpreting the symbolism and themes within it.

Expert Guidance

If this happens to be a topic you are exceptionally passionate about, you may wish to network with like-minded individuals and other professionals. This will also be a great opportunity to seek their opinions. Speaking to other art historians, artists, and experts can provide you with knowledge and a new perspective. Never be afraid to reach out and make connections, as this may lead to more insight into your interests.

Practice Makes Perfect

This isn’t a gift that you attain overnight. Analysing paintings and artwork to the level of a professional will take a lot of patience and practice. The more you visit artwork and analyse unique pieces, the better you will become at understanding all the aspects we have discussed. Keep observing, questioning and learning to truly hone your skills as an art enthusiast, and soon enough, you will be able to understand the difference in artistic styles, techniques and context.

Immersing yourself in the art world is a fantastic opportunity, and analysing paintings like a professional is a fantastic skill to have. Whether you visit galleries regularly and want to impress others with your knowledge, have a collection of wall decor that you want to make the most of or just have an interest in the meaning behind art, undertaking the process of better analysis will only improve your passion and understanding. Remember that art is subjective, and everyone can view and interpret pieces differently based on their own journey, knowledge and experience. The most important thing to do is enjoy the process.

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