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Art spectatorship and haptic visuality: an eye movement analysis exploring painting and embodied cognition

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

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Abstract

Image reproduction has expanded our knowledge of the world’s great art collections, but the viewing experience of a reproduction as against an actual work is altered. Images evoke a range of sensory, emotional and cognitive experiences that go beyond the merely visual. In particular, paintings displayed in galleries are presumed to hold preeminence for spectators over reproductions of them. We might be said to engage a range of senses in a more active manner in the presence of a painting. This preeminence emerges in the availability for inspection of information about physical relief that we can add to the colour, texture and form - information that is available in both paintings and reproductions.

This study of Manet’s A Bar at the Folies Bergere by a team of artists and psychologists using eye-tracking technology tests this hypothesis, asking whether the availability of relief information changes the pattern of fixations for spectators viewing the picture. Four expert and four novice spectators viewed the original painting in situ at the Courtauld gallery, and sixteen novices viewed a to-scale reproduction of the picture. All spectators had their eye movements recorded as they verbally described the image and their response to it.