The best place to start is to look at the best. The masters of painting, such as John William Waterhouse, are the guys that really knew what they were doing as they had spent years studying and learning exactly what was needed for great composition.
The emphasis of the piece is drawn towards the main character, the man in the image. We can tell he’s the center of interest by the not only by the way he it’s painted on the surface but by the way that the image has been composed. The artist has put him a bit off center and balanced it with some minor themes, the females, to maintain our interest. This is a technique used by many artists to create a flow around the whole image but one that always brings your focus back towards the main interest. The use of the girls frame the image and the way there eyes are all looking at the man means that wherever you look you’ll always be pulled back towards the emphasis of the painting.
The piece also has a harmony about it. As in music, complementary layers and effects have been joined to produce a more attractive whole. The composition is complex, but everything appears to fit with everything else. The whole is better than the sum of its parts. And it’s the unity of these parts that brings everything together.
The ability to unify a piece of artwork while keeping it diverse enough to hold your interest is something that is extremely difficult to achieve, but is key to capturing the audience. The audience though doesn’t always have to be people in a gallery marveling on wonders such as this. It applies to all aspects with in the arts; drama, dance as well as interactive entertainment all have to hold an audience and keep them visually stimulated.