Modern art evokes more emotion

A Miller-McCune brief alerts us to a survey recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. That sounds like something I need to subscribe to. It also sounds like something over my head.

The survey, conducted by the University of Rome, suggests — I can’t make myself use the word “concludes” when they only talked to 137 people — that visitors to museums exhibiting modern art are more likely to engage the artwork emotionally, while those viewing classical works use their brains.

A sound work of art will invite a viewer to employ both their emotions and cognitive skills. Both are valid responses; as humans we’re both emotional and thinking creatures. Imagining myself walking through a gallery, I can’t separate my own responses. A well crafted still life or portrait elicits just as much emotion as a modern work, and vice versa.

Some artwork will, admittedly, evoke emotion more easily than others. And that’s OK. The model for the following sculpture was the sculptor’s six year old daughter. In the context of the title of the work, it’s entirely appropriate.


Guernica by French artist René Iché. Image from Wikipedia.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to Modern art evokes more emotion

  1. Bette Drummond says:

    Guernica? Related to the word war?

    I know I respond emotionally to modern art. I especially liked your Thunderhead (do I have the title right?) And to some classic art if it resonates with my Christian heart. Although the series I’m thinking of Jesus life that I saw in St. Paul’s in London is a cross. His birth, ministry, death on the cross and resurrection–done VERY gothic and very moving. Probably about 2004, if I remember right.

  2. Pingback: Art is supposed to be challenging; what is design supposed to be? « The Aesthetic Elevator

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