Communication is a
two-way street. Artists may communicate narratives through their work, but if
no one can decipher the image and “read” the narrative, then all is lost. The
audience (sometimes referred to as the “viewer”) must firstly be interested
enough in the work of art to actually look at it and then spend enough time
in front of it to figure out the story. The viewer’s perception of the
painting and its content will ultimately determine its success.
During the 18th century,
a Scottish philosopher by the name of David Hume proposed the concept of
“interest.” As he wrote, we naturally gravitate toward objects which interest
us, or which satisfy our basic needs. A prime illustration of interest is
Zoffany’s painting titled The Tribuna, 1772. The Tribuna is a gallery
in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Rather than painting the gallery
with the few prime examples displayed
there, he included all of the acclaimed masterpieces throughout the city.
Roaming around are two dozen English tourists. They look around the room
surveying the paintings, sculptures, and other curiosities. However, based on
their placement, they have gravitated towards certain objects. They have more
interest in some works than others. Which works? They ignore the religious
paintings on the back walls, portraits of past rulers, Egyptian sculptures on
the floor, and other luxury objects.