Emotion & Art Connectivity

by Annie Saxena on Feb 10, 2023

It just seems obvious that we can feel happiness, sadness or pity for fictional characters while watching a play, looking at a painting or listening to music. Art can capture the emotions of human experience when words fail us. This is why so many of us are consumers of art in the first place. But how intrinsic is emotion in the creation & selling of art?

Art is considered to be a subjective field, in which one composes and views artwork in unique ways that reflect one’s experience, knowledge, preference, and emotions. The aesthetic experience encompasses the relationship between the viewer and the art object. In terms of the artist, there is an emotional attachment that drives the focus of the art. According to Bosanquet, the ‘aesthetic attitude’ is important in viewing art because it allows one to consider an object with ready interest to see what it suggests. However, art does not evoke an aesthetic experience unless the viewer is willing and open to it. No matter how compelling the object is, it is up to the beholder to allow the existence of such an experience.

The idea of showing emotion in art started with the Sturm und Drang movement in the 18th century. The Sturm und Drang movement which was a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music an important art movement that took place from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements. This led to one of the most influential literary, artistic & musical movements – Romanticism. Romanticism was characterised by its emphasis on emotion and individualism. It started as a reaction to Classicism – a movement rooted in logic & order. Romanticism in art appealed to people on a deeper and different level than artwork had in the past.Romanticism also had to do with a renewed look at nature and mankind’s relationship with it, making landscape paintings in particular much more important and popular as a result. The Haywain by John Constable is a great example of that. Constable’s paintings were so detailed, rich, and expressive that it’s almost like the landscape itself was exalted, even deified. Other Romantic painters used emotion in their work to rally political awareness like Eugene Delecroix did in his painting entitled Liberty Leading the People.

The inspirations of an artist are fueled by his/her experiences, perceptions, and perspectives of the world art movements such as Expressionism are known for the artist’s release of emotions, tension, pressure, and inner spiritual forces that are transcribed to external conditions. Art comes from within oneself, and is expressed in the external world for the entertainment of others. Everyone can appreciate a piece of artwork because it speaks to each individual in unique ways—therein lies the criticism of subjectivity.

Even in contemporary times, art evokes a variety of emotions from the viewer. Money oriented art industries such as television & movies often used standard tropes or ‘formula’ to evoke a set standard range of emotions from the audience.

For instance, most Bollywood movies are categorised as ‘masala movies’ because of the manner in which cliche scenarios & characters are represented.

This has often been critiqued for limiting the aesthetic experience of an audience because the same story is told in different formats. However, these industries counter argue that the audience only enjoy such visual stories.

In addition, the aesthetic experience of art is heavily criticised because it cannot be scientifically determined. It is completely subjective, and it relies on an individual’s bias. Tell us what you think. Do you think the subjective aspect of art reduces it or does it adds to it?