How to analyze an abstract painting?

Abstract paintings, unlike figurative paintings, have designs, shapes and colours that do not resemble specific physical objects. They are more difficult to analyze than rendering paintings because you may have no idea what you are seeing. Twentieth century artists began to paint in this way in order to evoke deep, unconscious emotions. By experimenting and reflecting on your emotions, you can analyze an abstract painting.


Look at the abstract painting for a few minutes without being distracted. Pay attention to how the painting makes you feel and how your emotions change since you first looked at the painting after spending time in it. Abstract painters use art as a tool for indirect access to the minds of their viewers. Relax and let art make an impact on you. Focus on the specific content and technique of the painting. Note how the painter uses colour, lines, textures and balance. Observe how the different elements are distributed in the canvas. Decide how you would describe the painting to someone who cannot see it. Review the artist's biography, either by using Internet resources or by going to a library and asking a librarian to provide a book on the art in the References section. Discover the differences between an artist's first and last paintings. Find out what was going on in the artist's life at the time the painting was done. Investigate how painting fits into art history. Discover the paintings the artist was confronted with. See other types of paintings that were produced at that time. Investigate the critics of this painting and see if it was copied by anyone. Go back to the painting and look at it again. Consider what you now know about the painting. Ask yourself how it makes you feel. Think about how your emotions are influenced by your research about the artist.
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