The history of Western visual art is traditionally divided into a succession of stylistic movements on the basis of the art-historical provenance and visual qualities of artworks. Little is known about how the visual statistics of Western artworks have changed over time, though this data could inform debate about the transitions between art movements. This longitudinal statistical study shows that two measures of the statistics of Western paintings remained relatively stable for 500 years, and similar to the values found in photographic images depicting the same subjects. Dramatic changes began in the late nineteenth century between the years 1878 and 1891, when the statistics of artworks became steadily more variable, and more frequently departed from values that are typical of representational images. This period can be considered as a major turning point that marks the beginning of the Modern Art movement. Statistically, abstract Modern art is more diverse than the representational art of any period. There is only limited evidence that aesthetic responses to paintings bear any relation to their visual statistics.
GombrichE. (1972). The Story of Art13th ed. Phaedon Oxford UK.Graham D. J. and Field D. J. (2007). Statistical regularities of art images and natural scenes: Spectra, sparseness and nonlinearitiesSpat. Vis.21149–164.
Hayn-LeichsenringG. U.LehmannT. and RediesC. (2017). Subjective ratings of beauty and aesthetics: correlations with statistical image properties in Western oil paintings iPerception 8 2041669517715474. http://doi.org/10.1177/2041669517715474.
LiuY.ChenL.WangH.JiangL.ZhangY.ZhaoJ.WangD.ZhaoY. and SongY. (2014). An improved differential box-counting method to estimate fractal dimensions of gray-level imagesJ. Vis. Commun. Image Represent.251102–1111.
SartoriA. (2014). Affective analysis of abstract paintings using statistical analysis and art theory in: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Multimodal Interaction - ICMI ’14V(212)IstanbulTurkey pp. 384–388. http://doi.org/10.1145/2663204.2666289.
YanulevskayaV.UijlingsJ.BruniE.SartoriA.ZamboniE.BacciF.MelcherD. and SebeN. (2012). In the eye of the beholder: Employing statistical analysis and eye tracking for analyzing abstract paintings categories and subject descriptors in: Proceedings of the 20th ACM International Conference on MultimediaNaraJapan pp. 349–358. http://doi.org/10.1145/2393347.2393399.