What’s the most moving piece of art you’ve experienced?
Full episode script
Art moves. Art is moving. Art, nearly by definition, has an emotional component — no matter how you define it. And what exactly it is that moves one person could be totally different than another. In James Elkins’ book Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings, the author talks about how half of those who cry in front of paintings express that it is because something feels so incredibly full, indescribable, and completely understandable. The other half because a painting feels completely empty, desolate, and completely unable to be understood.
Crying isn’t the only way to express emotional connections to art, and painting is far from the only kind of art — you can listen to our deep dive episode special paired with the Jennifer from Art Curious for more discussion about that.
Trying to figure out what it is about a piece of art that makes it truly emotionally moving is practically impossible, but that doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried to do exactly that. In fact, in 2012, quoting from the New Scientist:
A team led by Nicu Sebe at the University of Trento in Italy used machine vision to analyse 500 abstract paintings at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto. The system measured how colour is distributed across each work, as well as the occurrence of different shapes or outlines. Using data on how 100 people responded to the paintings, the system then worked out what emotional impact these elements had. For example, black, spiky features tended to correspond to the bleaker end of the emotional spectrum, whereas bright, smooth features were more feel-good.
That’s WHAT maybe makes art moving, however. I’m more curious about what about art moves you, and what art has that impact for you?
This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.