When we discuss the topic of art we are entering a vast and complicated arena of interpretation. Art like no other disciple offers us great pleasure in acting as an agent for harmony, order, serenity, and peace. However, each person (and rightfully) has his or her personal sentiment as to what harmony, order, serenity, and peace is.
The point of departure for understanding art has its matrix in two distinct areas: 1, the individual, 2, Society at large. I will briefly address both points.
In dealing with art the primary agent is the individual. This is true both in the creation of art and the appreciation of it. People participate in art because it gives meaning to their life and thoughts. Often a person will want to write a story or paint a picture to express their feelings about a certain subject. The point is that each of us are in the process of trying to communicate to society at large and we choose to use art as the agent for this.
From a societal point of view we have to leave the personal realm of sentiment and expression and enter the realm of effect of the “science” of art with society. The point here is that no one that creates art is able to know what the impact of that art will be on others. Just as an architect does not know how the music will sound when the concert hall is completed. The proof comes on the opening night of the concert where the audience can test the sound. In the same fashion when we read a poem of Poe and view an image by Leonardo what we see is far different that what either artist had in mind, especially with the passage of time. For this reason to get the highest value in appreciation of art you have to study it to see it in context and then put yourself in that contact. With this you will have a deeper and richer understanding of art and yourself.