It is known that naïve viewers have “reality constraints” in art appreciation, namely
strong tendency to insist on identifying depicted object and its realistic expression in
the artwork. Relaxing the reality constraints might help the naïve viewer to appreciate
artworks in more creative way. In this paper we investigated whether reading com-
mentary on artwork helps appreciation and what kind of commentary is more effective.
Fifty college students without particular art education participated in an experiment.
The participants were assigned to one of four conditions. The experiment consisted of
two phases: preliminary appreciation phase and main appreciation phase. In the pre-
liminary appreciation phase, three groups of participants were presented paintings by
Renoir, Matisse and Klee, and made free descriptions on their thoughts on each paint-
ing. Along with each of painting, a commentary on objects depicted in the painting was
provided to participants in object commentary condition, a commentary on formal and
technical aspects of the painting was provided to formal commentary condition, and
no commentary was provided no commentary condition. No preliminary appreciation
condition skipped the preliminary appreciation phase. After the preliminary apprecia-
tion phase, all the participants were presented two paintings by Gogh and Kandinsky
without any commentary and made free description. Analysis of free description in
main appreciation phase showed that (1) reading commentary activated verbalization
during the appreciation, (2) the participants generally focused on what was depicted
in the painting, (3) reading commentary on technical aspects was more effective for
relaxing reality constraints and deepening the experience of paintings.