Art and emotion



I find it illuminating to regard art as a process, the product of which is an artifact.

There are, of course, various ways we may be affected.  For example,

  • To the extent that we’re able, an artist’s acts enable us to experience more-or-less empathy with their real or perceived state of mind.
    • Eugene Delacroix, the great French Romanic artist (d.1798) said that “…painting, that is to say the material thing called painting [is] no more than the pretext, than the bridge between the mind of the painter and that of the spectator.” (1850)[i]  
      • This may be is important for the artist as for any audience: trying to communicate is often necessary for full understanding.  “You don’t always know what your song’s about until you are able to sing it to somebody else…”  (John Prine at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee with Peter Cooper on April 19, 2014) 
  • Alternatively, art can provide a redintegrative focus: a catalyst, often idiosyncratic, that pulls together previously unconnected thoughts in the observers mind in a powerful way reminiscent of an epiphany or an AHA! or a transformative learning moment.

  • Individuality:  One person’s response may be incomprehensible to others: Read about Cynthia’s Tears but overflowing emotion also evident at (e.g.) the Rothko Chapel and Chauvet Cave.
  • Spirituality :  What happens at the Rothko Chapel? Read NPR’s review.


MODELING responses to art?   “… artist Wassily Kandinsky feels that abstract art, what people would perhaps consider the most emotionally subjective form of art, is actually completely objective. He suggests that the emotional objectivity of abstract art lies in the characteristics of the colors and their interactions with one another. This would mean it can be taught to a computer. … artificial intelligence… has not yet been able to identify why certain things evoke certain emotions — in the case of a painting, for example, why a blue blob would evoke sadness, whereas some red squiggles would evoke anxiety. A team from the University of Trento, led by Nicu Sebe, set out to prove his theory, and took to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Roverto.” Read on about efforts to use modeling to understand.


EMOTIONS CATEGORIZED and their EXPRESSION: Visit  A&O Website on emotion-and-its-communication/   and then Wikipedia of attempts to contrast and categorize emotion



Epigraphics: “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” Friedrich 1819;   “The Scream”  Munch 1893


look in on “The power of cognitive context”


[i].  Eugene Delacroix (1798‑1863): dated 1850.  Journal (1893‑1895), Eugene Delacroix, Journal, Walter Pach, translator, New York, 1972. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/fa257/delacroix.html  Also cited by Gilson, 1957:132.