Mapping the Margins of Monstrosity
Edited by Elizabeth Ann Hollis Berry
Edited by Andrew Kuzmicki and Ilona Błocian
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.
Stefanie De Winter, Pieter Moors, Hilde Van Gelder and Johan Wagemans
Although Frank Stella intended to create flat, illusion-less Irregular Polygons paintings, it is not uncommon to experience the illusion of colour depth, based on the interaction between their fluorescent and conventional colours. Some critics praised these artworks’ flatness, while others described odd depth experiences that they categorised as a new kind of illusion. In order to provide a correct reading of these works and to reassess their art historical significance, a scientific case study regarding this colour-depth effect imposes itself. This article discusses an experiment in which we determined whether twenty artists, twenty art historians and twenty laypeople experienced fluorescent colours as protruding, receding or flat in combination with conventional colours. We additionally looked at whether they still perceived colour depth when all fluorescent colours were replaced with their conventional variants. All participants observed fifteen designs, which they had to rate according to the perceived depth of each coloured region with a number between −3 (strongly receding) and +3 (strongly protruding). The results revealed that most participants experience fluorescent regions as strongly protruding, unlike all conventional colours, which were rated as much less protruding. When a fluorescent colour was swapped with a conventional variant, all participants experienced significantly less depth. The differences between the subject groups were statistically negligible when looking at the mean depth ratings for both colour types. However, we discovered that artists experienced more contrast effects, as they gave different ratings to different panels (of identical colour and shape) in the same design, depending on their position.
Stefano Mastandrea and John M. Kennedy
In two experiments, we tested pictures of horse gaits—alt (standing), walk, trot, gallop, and a fake gallop, a pose shown in a well-known Gericault painting. The pose was portrayed frequently in the nineteenth century, its features hotly debated. Fake gallop has legs extended fore and rear, close to parallel to the ground. Experiment 1 sampled real artworks depicting horses and Experiment 2 used silhouettes of horses. In both, reports of amount of movement increased from alt to fake gallop. In Experiment 1 similar results were obtained from novices and equestrians (‘experts’ familiar with horses). The extreme leg extension in fake gallop may suggest high speed, as Arnheim suggested. However, true gallop includes legs curled close together under the body—a ‘running pony’ pose—so both extremes of extension may suggest high speed. In Experiment 2, novices judged fake gallop unrealistic despite giving high movement scores. We suggest its depiction may be metaphoric, meaning a deliberately false item has relevant features of a referent. For the artworks, the amount of movement reported correlated positively but quite modestly with aesthetic appreciation, but for the silhouettes, the correlation was reversed. We suggest expression can be positive for many horse poses.