If a painting makes sense in pure black and white, it will also be effective in the full range of values and colors.
Put a painting through the “Threshold” filter in Photoshop (Image >Adjustments >Threshold) and see what happens.
William Liebl’s painting Drei Frauen in der Kirche (Three Women in Church), 1882, benefits from a strong and simple value arrangement. The book and the hands of the young woman fuse into the light of the near girl’s apron. The dark elements (dresses, head scarves, ceramic jug and carved pew) are all shape-welded together and kept in a mass.
The result is that this painting would speak across a room of a gallery. Its meaning would be clear even from a great distance.
See this and other images from the 1889 Universal Exposition on Matthew Innis’s blog "Underpaintings."
Previously on GurneyJourney: Shape Welding