A Neuroesthetic Approach

During the study trip to D.C. I spent a great deal of time viewing impressionist art in the Phillips Collection. I used one of the pieces I viewed, Seated Woman in Blue, as the artifact for my unit 6 project. During my research I happened across an article focusing on a different series of Cezanne’s work , the Mont Sainte-Victoire series. This article claimed the decreasing detail in the paintings caused increased neural activity in the viewer. Given that in Unit 6 we studied Kandel who connected neuroscience to abstract art, naturally, I read the article. The authors use the Mont Sainte Victoire series to show the evolution of Cezanne because he painted many in the series. Over the course of the Mont Sainte Victoire series Cezanne increasingly abstracted the mountainscape. To study the effect of the abstraction, the authors mapped the “number of fixations, duration of each fixation, and number of saccades”[1] which are defined as rapid movements of the eye from one point to the other. Throughout the series Cezanne’s brush strokes vanished and his colors blurred and even changed forcing the reader to create detail out of the chaos. The article concludes that Cezanne’s abstractions mimicked the way the eye produces images. The parallel process teaches us that angles and lines create our perception of the world not just color and light meaning that the lack of realistic depiction caused our brain to seize on his angular brushstrokes to recreate the scene Cezanne painted. The incomplete nature of the Mont Sainte Victoire series forces neurons in the viewer’s brain to fire filling in the picture without all the information. The way in which the viewer do this shows us how the brain functions. David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel only scientifically showed the effects of lines and angels on perception in 1956 and won a nobel for it in 1981. Cezanne, however, demonstrated this fifty years earlier with a series of painting.  This exemplifies how science is not the only standard of proof.

Courchia, Benjamin, Sarah Guigui, Emmanuel Courchia, Maude Righini, and Jean-Paul Courchia. “Cézanne and the Mont Sainte-Victoire: A Neuroesthetic Approach *.” Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation, and Ergonomics 1, no. 4 (2011): 593-601. http://ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1726332419?accountid=10427

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