Is “Fine Art” all it’s cracked up to be

I spent an enjoyable afternoon in London with my cousin. We visited the Wallace Collection where there are many fine paintings and a splendid collection of armoury. But looking closely at some of the paintings didn’t inspire. Some of it looks quite cartoonish to my eyes. Canelleto, for instance, his people look like cartoon afterthoughts. Or am I missing something?


You mean like this - Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!:


Rather like music, it’s down to personal taste. I love Canaletto, to the extent that I have (in reproduction, obviously!) the Greenwich Hospital as our main over-the-fireplace picture.

By contrast, a lot of the later Dutch masters, especially the still lifes, I’m not a fan of at all. I can appreciate the phenomenal technique, but the overall experience doesn’t move me.

Similarly, in music, pretty much all Brahms and most Elgar leaves me absolutely cold, despite years of trying. Whilst I’m expressing heretical views, I probably might as well double down by saying I’ve never been able to see or hear the point of the Beatles.



I think you are. But it doesn’t matter. Each to his own.


With Canelettos, I find that you need to step back, have a bit of distance from the painting, and it clicks into focus.

No, I’ve not been drinking :grinning: It’s what I find !


I can be moved by art - I recall a visit to London where I was wowed by Rembrandt and Turner, but it happens less frequently than it does with music or literature (including drama).

Fair enough

I think that’s a good description of what I experienced.

Made me think of the last 15/20 seconds of this clip from Ferris Bueller’s day off:


I agree that looking a a painting from a distance say 2 metres or more will give the best visual effect. Try selecting one or two paintings for a prolonged study rather than trying to look at everything? But as others have said, there’s a lot of subjectivity. You might prefer Turner or Lucian Freud. But as long as you spent an enjoyable afternoon, that’s the main thing.


Canaletto is definitely not one my favourites. :joy:

A great landscape painter that captured the architecture and light. Sense of scale and perspective.
But an absolute dog with people, characters and any sense of identity with narrative filling the spaces.

Saying that there are painters that were great with people and narratives but rubbish with trees and cows lying in a field.
Very rare you get the whole package and then some more.


Sometimes viewing the viewers of ‘Fine Art’ can be as entertaining as viewing the art itself…

I do not believe I have ever been disappointed with a visit to a Museum.


I also agree that looking at fine art in an institutional environment is like going out shopping, after a while you hit a wall and enough is enough.
I’ve found the best places have a great vast inspiring space with relatively little contents. Helping to draw on time to focus.


From the BIG Canrlettos, 8 metres :grin:


I agree.

The Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight is just the right size. No pressure to rush around in an effort to see every exhibit.



This dagger handle was quite exquisite. Over 2000 gemstones apparently.


I love going to art exhibitions of all sorts. I find Canaletto really dull, that uber detail is far too detailed and almost like a photo. Give me a good Impressionist any day.


The person who made it was obviously very skilled.

But visually, it isn’t very appealing. imo.

Whilst there is something to be said for standing a specific distance away that’s of little use to anyone with a VI. Using both 4 lense TV glasses and a monocular has worked wonders for me. I get to see what others see but also get to see a level of fine detail not ordinarily available without parking your nose on the painting and being removed.

I found the biggest single thing which increased my appreciation was The Story of Art by Gombrich ably assisted by the equally interesting The Story Of Art Without Men.

Looking at a picture your appreciation is limited if you don’t know the context. Why that picture and why that style at that time? Of course, being able to fully appreciate something does not equate to liking it.


A long long time ago when I attended a camera club judging course we were told that natural perspective meant viewing a picture at a distance equivalent to the diagonal. I always found that I tended to be at double that. About five years later at a refresher we were told that two to four times was more natural.
I remember a visit to Kingston Lacey and the room guide saying that the most acclaimed picture in the room was the smallest. From any distance it looked like a black background with blobs of colour. I guess about 8 x 6 inches, it wasn’t until I was about 12 inches away that I could see the detail.
Going to a Kyffin Williams exhibition, viewing from across the room was quite comfortable.
If it came to having one at home, I don’t think a picture you have to peer at would last long.

1 Like