How Should I Hang a Piece of Art?

Greetings All,

Congratulations!  You have a piece of art you love.  Now, where, and how to hang it?   Is there a “right” and “wrong” way to do it?  After all, you want maximum enjoyment for yourself, and may even want to show it off at a home get together. 

I am Julie Callahan, daughter of artist and illustrator, Marion Wilcox Fleming.  I curate her life’s works and after moving multiple times with dozens of paintings, hanging, removing, and rehanging, I have a few pieces of advice to share.  Nonetheless, it is your home, and you can hang your artwork wherever and however you want.  But, read on for some suggestions you may not have considered.

First, think about the light in your home.  Are there places where direct sunlight shines on the walls?  Artwork doesn’t like direct sunlight—even if you are lucky enough to have conservation or museum glass covering your art.  Paper tends to yellow and become brittle when exposed to sunlight.  The heat from the sun’s rays on canvas can cause expansion leading to eventual cracking.  (By the same token, I would never place a piece of art above my fireplace.)  A wall that receives indirect sunlight is a much better location to hang that piece you want to preserve for many years. 

Next, consider room placement.  It’s important to have enough space to be able to step back and see the entire piece.  There’s nothing wrong with close-up viewing to admire some of the artist’s detailed work, but one should be able to step away to get an impression of the whole painting and see what detail and colors “carry” out to the observer.

If you have a large wall area and wish to hang multiple pieces, consider the medium of each and the feel of the art for your space.  Some people select art based on their décor.  I’m not a big fan of this method unless perhaps you have a large abstract piece that will be the focal point of a room.  I think more about the compositions and if the pieces play nicely together—meaning, one of Marion’s oil paintings hung beside one of her watercolors probably wouldn’t hit it off well.  Her watercolors are lighter and softer and would likely be dominated by the oil painting with its stronger and more opaque colors.  In the same vein, I chose to hang Marion’s painting entitled Summer Woods in our family room which has a ceiling-high stone facing above the fireplace, rather than her still life of aster blossoms.  To me, the vibe of Summer Woods fits nicely with relaxation whereas it would feel more natural to view the asters still life in my office or a dining room.

Let’s get this piece on the wall already!  But, how high should you hang your art?  A natural tendency is to hang artwork too high.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe because we reach our arms out to the wall when we try to find the perfect spot?  In any case, hanging art too high causes people to tilt their heads back to view the art.  Not only can this give you a stiff neck, but it doesn’t allow you to see the work in the proper perspective.  The common “rule of thumb” is to hang a piece so that the vertical mid-point of the art hangs at sixty inches from the floor.  Some websites recommend a slightly higher number—the eye level of the average person is just under sixty-two inches.  Again, there is a bit of leeway for your preference.

If you plan for sixty inches and, Drat! the piece isn’t placed where you planned, (I have done this several times ☹), it’s not the end of the world.  Remind yourself that a small nail hole is easily repaired with a putty knife and a little spackle.  And, chances are after adjusting the hook placement, the first attempt won’t even be visible anyway. 

Finally, NEVER hang an original piece of art or fine print in a bathroom with a shower.  I don’t get crazy about humidity in our house; the level remains sufficiently constant for the artwork.  The moisture produced during a shower, however, is far higher than a piece should be routinely subjected to.  One day you may look at the piece and see wrinkled paper or worse yet, mold on canvas.

So, those are my suggestions for now.  If you have any questions or suggestions about this blog post, contact me at  I, too, am still learning.  As I write this, my basement is being framed out as an art gallery for Marion’s art.  One wall will be shiplap for a Delaware “beach” feel.  There is No Way I’m putting nails in that wall!  Instead, I have begun to research adjustable wall hanging systems.  Later, I’ll let you know what I learn.

Until Next Time,

Julie <3