Passions – Five Centuries of Art and the Emotions by Nationalmuseum Stockholm Via Flickr: Interior from the exhibition/Interiör från utställningen.
8 March–12 augusti 2012
Artists have been interested in the emotions, and how they are expressed, since ancient times, depicting gestures, facial expressions and body language in their works to convey sorrow, suffering, fear, melancholy, tenderness and joy.
Interpretation is key
Our views on the emotions and on the relationship between reason and emotion have varied over time. Calmness and self-control have been presented as the ideal alternative to passion. Views on the emotions also vary between cultures. Interpretation, both by the creator of an artwork and by the audience, is therefore critically important. What does the artist wish to convey, and what do we feel as the audience?
We all need the ability to interpret emotions. It’s an essential life skill, but not an easy one. As a result, at various times in art history, standardized depictions of the emotions have emerged. One example is Le Brun, a 17th-century French artist, who created “templates” for depicting emotions such as anger, fear, suffering and joy. These were used by artists for many years to aid comprehension of works portraying emotions.
The science of physiognomy believed that what happened inside the body and a person’s inner life manifested itself externally. Modern neuroscience has developed methods of showing how the brain works in various emotional states and the visible effects on facial and other muscles.
Appropriate body language
Over the ages there has been constant interest in understanding body language and emotional expression. The modern manifestation of this is the abundance of self-help books and courses offering guidance on appropriate – and inappropriate – body language for various situations.
Laughing with or at?
The exhibition encourages us to reflect on our own emotions. Do we always show our feelings, or do we hide them? How do we show what we feel? Are we laughing with or at someone? Mirrors on the gallery walls confront exhibition visitors with their own and their fellow visitors’ reactions to the artworks and the emotions conveyed.
The exhibition features almost 200 works from the 16th century to the present day – a mix of painting, sculpture, video, drawing and graphic art. The artists include Albrecht Dürer, Edvard Munch, Rembrandt, Tony Oursler, Rineke Dijkstra and Bill Viola. The exhibition also includes a collection of illustrated books on physiognomy from the Hagströmer Library at Karolinska Institutet and drama books from the Music and Theatre Library of Sweden.
Photo: Linn Ahlgren/Nationalmuseum
From the collections of the Photographic archives, Nationalmuseum.
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> Well this is just great, you got yourself lost. Huff a little and snap a few photo’s here and there, the camera’s light illuminating portions of the dark woods. This is what you get for trying to snag some nature shots. Then you heard there were even caves out here, but seems unlikely you’d find /any/ of them.
> Hear a bit of rustling somewhere out of sight, silently debating if you wanted to head towards it. On hand it could be someone who could help you find your way back hive, on the other hand it could be something or someone much worse.
Las series de Dijkstra demuestran que la relación entre fotógrafo y modelo no tienen por qué ser las de un intercambio de miradas como extraños, uno de los cuales está armado con una cámara mientras que el otro carece de toda defensa. Sus retratos dan fa del desarrollo de jóvenes de ambos sexos sometidos a ritos iniciáticos como la adolescencia o la niñez; pero para asegurarse de no ser una mera ladrona de imágenes aisladas, la artista permanece en contacto con los retratados para documentar su crecimiento a lo largo del tiempo.
“Para mí es importante poder relacionarme con el tema que estoy tratando. Tiene que haber una interacción. Creo que todo se resume en el reconocimiento a un nivel emocional. No me gusta controlar demasiado”.