Catching up with weekend papers, I came across this extraordinary challenge in Oliver Burkeman's column in the Guardian magazine of 22 August 2015:
"When you take a class with the Harvard University art historian Jennifer Roberts, your first task is always to choose a work of art then go and look at it, wherever it's displayed, for three full hours. Three hours! If that notion doesn't horrify you at least a little, I suspect you're atypical: in our impatient, accelerated age, the mere thought of it is sufficient to trigger an irritable jumpiness. (Stick me in front of a painting for three hours and I'd soon be swiping my thumb on it downwards, to see if there had been any updates.) Roberts knows this: the whole point, she writes, is that it's 'a painfully long time'. She doesn't expect her students to spend it all in rapt attention; rather, the goal is to experience that jumpiness, tolerate it, and get through it - whereupon they see things in the artwork they'd never have imagined were there."
Leaving aside the slight doubt that last sentence raises - do you simply start hallucinating, or do you actually see things you might not otherwise have seen - I find the idea intriguing. I think I would need to help the time pass by trying to draw the painting. In my experience, there is no better way of seeing than trying to capture an image of what is before you, regardless of whether what you produce is any good. The image you are producing is not the point - it can be really terrible (always is, when I try). The point is that you pay a special kind of attention to what you see when you try to draw it.
Three hours just standing there looking, doing nothing, though - I think that is completely beyond me. And then there's the fascinating question of which painting would be the one to choose.