Works of Art

Mona Lisa (1503-6)
By Leonardo. One of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.


For advice on how to
interpret fine art, see:
Art Evaluation
How to Appreciate Paintings
Famous Paintings: Analysis and Interpretation
Meaning of Pictures by Great Artists (c.1250-1800)
• How to Analyze a Painting
• List of Famous Paintings Analyzed
• Further Resources
Anonymous Artists (c.800)
Angelico, Fra (1400-55)
Antonello da Messina (1430-79)
Bellini, Giovanni (1430-1516)
Bosch, Hieronymus (1450-1516)
Botticelli (1445-1510)
Broederlam, Melchior (1350-1411)
Bronzino (1503-72)
Bruegel, Pieter (1525-1569)
Campin, Robert (1378-1444)
Caravaggio (1571-1610)
Carracci, Annibale (1560-1609)
Christus, Petrus (1410-75)
Correggio (1494-1534)
Cortona, Pietro da (1596-1669)
David, Jacques-Louis (1748-1825)
Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)
Durer, Albrecht (1471-1528)
El Greco (1541-1614)
Eyck, Jan van (1390-1441)
Fouquet, Jean (1420-81)
Fragonard (1732-1806)
Fuseli, Henry (1741-1825)
Gentileschi, Artemisia (1597-1651)
Ghirlandaio, Domenico (1449-94)
Giorgione (1477-1510)
Giotto (1267-1337)
Goes, Hugo van der (1440-1482)
Grunewald, Matthias (1475-1528)
Hals, Frans (1582-1666)
Holbein, Hans (1497-1543)
Leonardo (1452-1519)
Limbourg Brothers (fl.1390-1416)
Lorenzetti, Ambrogio (1285-1348)
Mantegna, Andrea (1431-1506)
Martini, Simone (1284-1344)
Masaccio (1401-1428)
Memling, Hans (1433-94)
Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Parmigianino (1503-40)
Perugino (1450-1523)
Piero Della Francesca (1415-92)
Poussin, Nicolas (1594-1665)
Pozzo, Andrea (1642-1709)
Pucelle, Jean (1290-1334)
Quarton, Enguerrand (1410-66)
Raphael (1483-1520)
Rembrandt (1606-1669)
Rubens (1577-1640)
Rublev, Andrei (1360-1430)
Tiepolo (1696-1770)
Tintoretto (1518-94)
Titian (1488-1576)
Uccello (1397-1475)
Velazquez (1599-1660)
Vermeer, Jan (1632-1675)
Veronese, Paolo (1528-88)
Watteau (1684-1721)
Weyden, van der (1400-1464)
Wright, Joseph (1734-97)
Note: This is an ongoing series of educational articles devoted to the analysis and interpretation of important frescoes, oils and watercolours, with new essays being added on a regular basis. Bookmark this page for more details of beautiful portraits, history paintings, landscapes and genre paintings, by leading masters of the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical periods. For analysis of pictures produced during the nineteenth or twentieth centuries, please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

How to Analyze a Painting

In order to learn how to analyze and interpret a painting, it helps to read through evaluations written by others. This is why we have compiled a list featuring interpretations of famous paintings. We have no desire to impose our subjective views on you – in fact, we expect you to form your own opinion of all the paintings listed below – but our analyses may provide you with some food for thought, and may help you to get started. Art appreciation is not like solving mathematical equations because, there is rarely a ‘correct’ view about (1) what a particular painter was trying to achieve; (2) whether he/she succeeded; or (3) how beautiful his/her painting is. Furthermore, it is not your conclusion about a painting that matters – it is your reasoning: in other words, WHY you like it, or hate it, or feel indifferent towards it.

How to Interpret a Painting – A Few Simple Tips

When analyzing a painting, don’t forget – it is merely paint arranged in a certain way. No more, no less. So open your eyes and take a careful look at things like: (1) how the artist has used lines to draw shapes; (2) the different colours (reds, yellows and so on) used; (3) the different shades or tones of particular colours used (light blue, mid-blue, dark blue and so on); (4) what sort of surface texture the painter has created – is it very smooth, for instance, with few visible brush strokes, or is it pitted with clumps of thick paint and obvious signs of brushwork? (5) how the artist catches your eye – for instance, are there features that catch your eye and lead it around the composition? is the picture organized horizontally from left to right, or diagonally, or vertically? (6) is the artist trying to represent something real, like a person, or scene? If so, is he simply trying to replicate reality, or is he trying to say something about it? (7) are some items included in the picture for symbolic reasons? In the old days, for instance, if an artist included a dog in his portrait of a married woman, it implied that the woman was faithful to her husband. Many paintings contain symbols like this; (8) if the painting is completely abstract, look closely at the types of shapes it contains, and ask yourself if they remind you of anything.
What is the Intention of the Painter?
Now, using the information you have generated by analyzing the painting according to these 8 points, ask yourself what the painter’s intention was, in each case. For example, if you noticed

Last Updated on February 10, 2019

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