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How to Spot a Good Painting (Even If You’re not an Expert)

Part of enjoying life is learning how to appreciate the finer things. This can include liquor, cars, cigars, and of course, art. While there are many forms of art, we’ll focus on paintings. Some people might think that to appreciate art, you’d have to take a course on art appreciation or have many years of experience studying and finding out the meanings from a lot of paintings. In reality, you can still spot and appreciate a good painting without any formal education or fancy degrees. In this article, we offer tips on how to do exactly that.

Apparent Beauty

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as the old saying goes. While people have different standards of beauty and differing ideas of what constitutes a beautiful painting, a good painting is considered beautiful by most if not all who view it. Take the beauty that is the Mona Lisa, for example. It’s probably the only painting that has received fan mail, has her mailbox, and received lots of love letters and flowers from admirers all over the world. At least one person even committed suicide due to his obsession with her. But note that experts will tell you that the instinctive reaction to the Mona Lisa’s beauty alone is not the only proof that it is a good painting.


Symmetry is the fancy word for balance. Balance is also a natural aspect of beauty. Think of the celebrities you find beautiful. Did you notice how perfectly their faces and bodies are “balanced”? The same goes for paintings. There may be a focal point, an element that dominates the painting, but the other elements balance it out. In a good painting, balance is occasionally combined with repetition to create a pattern.


Another quality that makes a painting beautiful is how unique it is, how it stands out from the crowd of other paintings. A painting can be unique in many ways, such as composition, its elements, colors used, and the hidden meaning that it contains. For example, many famous artists have made beautiful portraits, but none so unique as one from Vincent Van Gogh. One of his most famous paintings, “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” is a work that combines the uniqueness of his post-impressionist style, and the supposed intentional self-mutilation of his ear for the portrait. The truth behind Van Gogh’s self-harm was actually due to a spat with his fellow artist and flatmate, Paul Gauguin. Thanks to their uniqueness in style, Van Gogh’s portraits still dazzle crowds and fetch tens of millions of dollars at auction.

Embedded Meaning

Good paintings sometimes aren’t merely visually appealing; they can also contain deeper meanings. The painting can be purely visually appealing with no meaning, can be an homage to other masterpieces, can evoke an emotion, have more than one meaning, or even convey a powerful political statement. Trust your instincts and try to discover hidden meanings in the art market. When you find a painting that “moves” you or stirs an emotion within you, buy it and go to a picture framing service like this one in Utah. You won’t regret your decision.

Appreciating a good painting is not the exclusive domain of artists or art scholars. Anyone can develop a good eye for art, and most good art appeals to the instincts. You may have seen many good paintings before, but were unable to put into words how they made you feel. Remember that beauty and its appreciation are subjective, especially in art. When you see a painting that fulfills the criteria listed above and makes you feel that a painting is good or beautiful, then it probably is.

Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash

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