How to Describe a Painting (in English)

Дорогой друг! Эта статья рассказывает о том, как описать картину на английском языке, а вот где можно научиться описывать картинку или фотографию!

How to describe a painting in English

Describe a painting according to the plan:

  1. the subject of a painting (what is depicted in it)
  2. the composition (how space is arranged) and the colours
  3. the details
  4. the impression made by the picture


1. To begin with, you should say that the painting belongs to a particular genre. It can be

  • the portrait
  • the landscape (seascape, townscape)
  • the still life
  • the genre scene
  • the historical/ mythological painting

To begin with, this painting is a portrait which belongs to the brush of (…. the name of the painter)

1.1. If you remember some information about the painter, say it then.

This artist lived in the ……century and worked in the style known as Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism, Abstract Art.

1.2. Give your opinion about the painting.  Use adjectives:

  • lifelike = true to life
  • dreamlike = work of imagination
  • confusing
  • colourful
  • romantic
  • lyrical
  • powerful
  • outstanding
  • heart-breaking
  • impressive

To my mind, it is apicture, which shows (….say what you see)

2. Mention the colours and the composition

2.1. Colours can be:

  • warm/ cold colours
  • bold colours
  • oppressive colours
  • bright colours
  • deep colours
  • light colours
  • soft and delicate colours

The picture is painted in …… colours. These colours contrast very well.
The dominating colours are ….
The colours contrast with each other.

2.2. Mention the composition/ the space:

The space of the picture is symmetrically/ asymmetrically divided.

2.3. Try to describe what you can see in general

  • In the centre/middle of the painting we can see a ….
  • In the foreground there is a….
  • In the background there are….
  • In the far distance we can make out the outline of a…
  • On the left/ right stands/ sits…
Use we can use the following structures in turn:
there is/there are/ there stands/ sits/ lies/
Use participle clauses:
a woman wearing a white dress
a man dressed as a monk

3. Give some details

  • At first glance, it looks strange/ confusing/ depressing/ …
  • But if you look closely, you can see…
  • It looks like ….
  • The artists managed to capture the sitter’s impression/ the atmosphere of a…../ the mood of the moment, etc.

3.1. Make guesses about the situation:

They might be talking about…
She may have just woken up…
It looks as if …

4. In the end, give your impression. Use the words and phrases:

  • Well, I feel that I am unable to put into words what I feel looking at the painting.
  • To my mind, it is a masterpiece that could stand the test of time.
  • Well, it seems to me that I couldn’t put into words the impression made on me by this painting.
  • I feel extremely impressed by this painting.
  • It is brilliant, amazing. It is a real masterpiece by (….. the painter).

The Task

Describe the painting by Josepf Turner and send it to

The best descriptions will be published on the website. Good luck!

Josepf Turner. Fishermen at sea (a description of the painting)

4 thoughts on “How to Describe a Painting (in English)
  1. Вероника says:

    Спасибо большое за прекрасный сайт и за возможность пользоваться интересным и увлекательным материалом!!!

  2. Анна says:

    Уважаемая Татьяна, уже читаю не первую Вашу статью, каждую копирую для себя как особо важную. Все необходимо! Каждый материал по-максимуму развернут при этом не имеет ничего лишнего, никакой воды. И сразу же сноски для уточнения, видео материал… Огромная благодарность от всей учительской души.

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