This is an excellent painting. The lighting, the composition, the execution—they’re all excellent. I look at it and don’t know what is going on exactly, but I love it. I want to know more about it. I want to know what compelled the painter to make this image.
So I look at the title.
The title is “The Old Shepherd’s Cheif Mourner,” painted by Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873). I enjoyed the technical excellence of the painting, but it wasn’t until I read the name that I truly appreciated the painting’s narrative excellence as well. I look at the painting again, and now the dog’s face takes on a heartbreaking sense of loss. Layers of story now begin to unfold around the image for me. Most of the time I dismiss titles as unnecessary nonsense by which lazy artists prop up technically inferior work because it lacks the ability to stand on its visual merits alone.