1. Talk about the Perspective
Walking around a gallery, if you see an especially 3D piece of artwork, mention that you: “like its use of perspective to create a space that envelops you”
(This is ‘Brera Madonna’ by Piero della Francesca)
2. Mention Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro means a strong contrast between light and dark within a painting. Usually making it just a tiny bit dramatic. A perfect word to fit in between your umm’s and ah’s. A staple word for any essay I ever did.
(This is ‘David with the head of Goliath’ by Caravaggio.)
3. Talk about the Picturesque
On the other hand, if you see a painfully undramatic painting, its probably a landscape. In this case, you can say something like: “I like how the trees frame this picturesque scene”
(This is “Diogenes” By John Martin)
4. Mention the Impressionists
I don’t know what it is, but everyone who seems to know nothing about art, knows something about the Impressionists. Maybe it’s because of that beer ad a while back where Monet holds the beer in front of what he is painting and then paints that instead. If you’re at a party just bring the Impressionists up and in a few moments, even if you still don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ll be surrounded mostly with people who don’t either. Then you’ll be free to talk even more shit.
(This is one of Cezanne’s many apple portraits.)
5. Talk about how you read the Painting
Like a book, we scan images in a certain manner. Usually you scan over an artwork a few times until you see everything. So just casually mention, what catches your eye first and where your attention in the painting is directed. This can always be an interesting conversation starter as people will focus on different things and you can literally point anywhere and say “that’s interesting”
(This is ‘Jupiter and Semele’ by Gustave Moreau, who regularly used opium - Really? I just can’t believe it.)
6. Mention the Feminist Perspective
Lost? Just look at the girl in the painting (find a painting with a girl in it) and ask yourself if she appears to be active in the painting, or more passive. Then just talk about that for a bit.