I was recently involved with yet another 'critique' discussion in a group for art makers on Facebook. It involved someone being upset and losing confidence because of the comments they had received regarding art they had posted. I have been involved with feedback/comments/critique and such for over 40 years now... on all sides; as a customer, instructor, maker, and professional. I am continually astounded at how often comment is mistaken for critique. And how often the subjective and objective are blurred. Or when critique is asked for simple validation is what is wanted.
NOTE: I am going to ignore the added level complexity and vitriol comments brought on by the anonymity of the web, and focus on the comments that would be more universally applied in any situation.
First, when one asks for feedback they should be clear as to what they are looking for! "Do you like this?" or "what do you think" leaves one wide open for anything, and everything, from opinion to fact. A friend asked me one time what my "favorite" painting in a museum was. I replied with the name of a fairly minor work. He could not understand my response, until I explained that he didn't ask me which I thought was the best painting... just which might be my favorite.
I would choose two very different paintings to answer each question:
Favorite? A subjective, gut reaction; Do I want to live with it on my wall?
Best? An objective ranking of technical skillfulness, academic proficiency, and appropriate use of subject manner.
There are many great artworks that I appreciate, but would not choose to live with, and there are many not so perfectly composed or produced artworks I would be pleased to have in my home because of the emotions they evoke, or they simply include subject matter I identify with. I love Folk and Naive art as well as Children's art. Rarely can those work be deemed the work of a virtuoso, but they may have great merit and emotion. If asked to critique them, I wouldn't bring up rules of design, or color theory; solving or applying those issues was not the intent of the creator. I would give an answer about why they subjectively appealed to me or not.
However if someone is asking peers for critique to improve their skill or marketability, they should be ready for both the objective evaluation of the technical merits of their work as well as how people respond subjectively to the image. Each person who responds will bring with them their own level of expertise, prejudices and preferences, and all can potentially be helpful, or if not, ignored!
It is up to the artist to use or ignore the feedback they asked for, and to decipher what of it is subjective and what is objective.
A comment or even an objective evaluation is there to use or not use. If you don't agree with it, you could/should ask for further explanation or reason for the conclusion, so you can understand where the critique is coming from. In doing so you may find that it is formed from a very personal experience, or from a fount of knowledge, or just from a gut reaction...
that will give you more information to weight the applicability and universality of the comments as they apply to the work. Or you can simply ignore it.
It is up to those critiquing to understand what comments or opinions may be important and useful to the artist. So make sure you understand if they are asking for a gut check, or whether they used a technique correctly; Were they asking if their color usage was effective or if you like the subject matter? If they have not made that clear - ask so you can be more helpful.
The beauty of art is that there is a myriad of reactions involved in each piece - and that sum is then squared by the two parties involved. There is the maker's intent and the viewer's reaction. Only the maker knows their intent and communication goal. Only the viewer knows their reaction. Sometimes those are in sync. Many times they are not. This could be from an incomplete presentation or failure by the artist, or a non-receptive or ill-educated viewer, or simply two people coming from very different places. Only dialog between the two can bring understanding and additional knowledge to both parties if that is the goal (for some artist the making is enough, and the viewers reaction unimportant, but that is a whole different discussion!!). A viewer saying that Lautrec should know that people are not blue, or that Miro should draw more realistically, would probably have been ignored or corrected by those artists, because they would have known they were not a meaningful comments in regards to their intent. But that doesn't mean the comments (heard in art museums quite regularly I would assume) are not valid reactions from that particular viewer. Only by understanding the cohesiveness of the intent and the reaction can an artist and a viewer understand if the critique is useful and relevant or not.
So to be a productive critique, the artist must be specific about what they are asking, and the respondent must honor that with appropriately directed responses or bow out . It is as appropriate for a viewer to appreciate only realistic renderings, or a specific subject matter, as it is for an artist to explore the avant-garde and conceptual ideas or technique, however they must understand the differences of thought before they hope to connect productively in a critique forum.
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !