If we follow this model, the success of a work of art depends on the level of interest it arouses in the viewer. Obviously, this also depends on the construct of the audience: male, female, young, old, single, married, ethnic background and religious affiliation.


Another illustration of interest is William Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr, 1874. The title refers to mythological figures, nymphs – female nature spirits, and a satyr- half man-half goat, who suggest the basest and most sensual of human impulses. The nymphs seem to be pulling the satyr into the water below to the right. The spirit of the work is fun, frivolous, and geared toward an audience that delights in sexy fun. Who is the intended audience for the painting? Clearly, a heterosexual male would enjoy ogling the fleshy bodies and cellulite-soft butts of the women. A heterosexual woman might fantasize about dunking a man into a stream or might compare the satyr’s body to that of a boyfriend or husband. Clearly, Bouguereau is playing his audience, and the audience seems entranced by the display of flesh.






Perhaps more universal in its ability to arouse interest in the audience would be Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, 1889. Let’s analyze this painting from the perspectives already discussed.


Artist’s Motivations: Document of Life: Yes, this is the view of a town where the artist lived during 1889. The town is nestled in a valley. The stars are out at night. The large tree is swaying in the wind.


Religious Vision: Maybe, if you read the sky as reflecting some divine force or celestial spirit. Feelings and Emotions: Yes, if as viewer, you get a feeling of peace and tranquility, if the view of the night sky is restful and soothing.

Virtual Reality/Dream: The stars are too large, the moon is not as seen in nature, the tree looks as if it is coming to life, and everything seems to be swaying/dancing in the wind. Scale is not as in nature; some objects are too small and some are too large.  

Disegno Esterno and Disegno Interno: What elements within the composition demonstrate that Van Gogh’s image was based on what he saw “outside?” The village was truly nestled in the valley. Lights are on in the houses at night. The moon shines and stars twinkle in the dark blue night sky. The tree, which is closer to us, seems large and is the characteristic shape of a cedar. Are these elements true enough to the reality of these objects on planet Earth to conclude that the artist actually painted this scene on this spot and resolved to paint what he saw? Or, did Van Gogh create the image in his imagination with disegno interno? The objects are distorted from their natural shapes and colors. The sickle moon is not true to shape; the stars are too large. The wind currents whipping across the sky swirl like cream slowly stirred into coffee. If you believe that Van Gogh deliberately morphed the true objects for the purpose of exaggerating their expressive potential, then he used his creative imagination more than his eye in creating the painting.

Interest: This painting has a very wide audience. Everyone on the planet has observed the moon and stars. Everyone has felt a night breeze. Everyone has experienced a restful state of being at night. Regardless of the viewer’s age, gender, or nationality, everyone can successfully “read” the painting. It successfully communicates to the audience - the widest audience.