Recently we were in a gallery admiring some large abstract paintings by the American artist McArthur Binion. A young couple was also in the gallery, and after a few minutes we overheard them commenting that they would love to purchase some large abstract art for their home, but they had no idea how it would fit in with the rest of their wall decor. They also voiced concern whether these paintings were so tall that they might not even fit on their wall. For us, the choice of whether to buy a particular work of art usually has nothing to do with the size of the piece or whether it will match other possessions. The choice is usually guided by something much more visceral—like we simply know that this object belongs to us. But the practical concerns of this couple got us thinking. What are the benefits of bringing a large abstract painting into a home? And what should people keep in mind so they do it in a way that makes sense for their space? After some thought, we came up with some ideas that, if we could, we would go back and share with that couple in the gallery.
The biggest concern for the couple was whether or not one of the large paintings they were viewing would clash with their other belongings. What we would say to them now is that in reality, it is exceedingly rare for people to hold to the same furniture for more than about a decade. It is quite common today for people to completely get rid of furniture and start over. Design trends come and go. Paint preferences change on a whim. But your art will likely be with you for the rest of your life.
If you see a large abstract painting that you would like to own, you should not worry so much about whether it will fit in with the rest of your furniture or wall decor. Most of that stuff has a limited life span. Start with the art. Buy what you love. Then when the inevitable time comes to replace your furnishings and change the color of your walls, you can make choices that work in conversation with the art.
Large Paintings Create an Aesthetic Language
One of the most difficult things to do with a room is to define it with an overall aesthetic that ties the space and its furnishings together. Large abstract paintings are perfect for this goal since they can be interacted with purely according to their aesthetic values. Formal artistic elements within a painting such as a line, color, texture, shape, and pattern, can set the tone, so to speak, for an overall design by creating a visual language for the room.
For example, a large, red abstract painting with horizontal lines can create a visual theme that can be carried on through the room on furniture coverings, throw pillows, floor coverings, and accent pieces like vases or sculptures. The texture of the surface of the painting can be echoed in fabrics or personal objects occupying the room. Whatever aesthetic language is established by the art, allowing it to guide the other choices you make about the wall decor will establish a cohesive and welcoming tone for space, and draw even more attention to the art.
Large Abstract Painting Bridge Objects with Space
Small artworks can add intimacy to a room by inviting guests inward toward the work in order to consider it more closely. But often a space is so large or dramatic that a small painting can get lost or dominated by the architecture. Large abstract paintings are particularly valuable in such spaces. For example, if a room has two-story-high cathedral ceilings, a large abstract painting placed in the right spot, high off the floor, can help bridge the gap between the grandeur of the room and the human scale of the wall decor.
If a room is particularly dominant in its style, such as being overly ornate, overly minimal or overly geometric, the shapes and forms in the artwork can help negotiate that impact. For example, biomorphic shapes in a large painting can assuage the aggression of a precise, Modernist, geometric room, or vice versa. And since a large abstract painting is easy to read from afar, viewers need not be right up close to it in order to enjoy it.
Mood, Attitude and Light
We all know how important it is to create the right atmosphere in our home. A large abstract painting can establish an immediate mood for a room through the elements of color, pattern, and composition. In a room where socializing will occur, an energetic pattern or a composition that implies movement can set a lively mood. In a room designed for relaxing, an abstract painting defined by subdued colors or a harmonious composition can create an atmosphere of calm introspection.
Lighting is the other major factor that determines the mood of a room. A large abstract painting can maximize the value of ambient light. The surface of the painting will reflect any indirect light in the room. And if you paint the wall a slightly darker color or tone, the painting will attract more light and become a subtle source of illumination. One consideration to keep in mind if framing a large painting is to use Conservation Reflection Control glass, so the painting will reflect light but the glass will not.
The last main concern that the couple in the gallery had was where in their home a large abstract painting could possibly go. They were specifically worried that it might not fit on their wall. We can never know how big their home was or how many empty walls they had. But we do know that most building codes require ceilings to be at least seven feet (2134 mm) high in order for a room to be considered habitable. We look at art almost every day, either for work or fun. We have only seen a few paintings larger than seven feet tall outside of a museum or a public space. Even Franz Kline, who was known for large canvasses, rarely painted anything more than 96 inches tall.
In fact, if you have ever tried to find a painting to hang in a space with cathedral ceilings you know how difficult it can be to find a single work of art that large. So if you are in a gallery or shopping for art online, rest assured that in almost all cases the work you are looking at has been curated with at least some thought given to residential buyers. There are many large abstract paintings for sale, but none are so large that you will have to raise your ceiling in order to fit them in your home. So if you are considering buying a large abstract painting, we say go for it! Follow our tips, and chances are it will make a dramatic and welcoming statement that will follow you, happily, for the rest of your life.