Modes of Address in Pictorial Art: An eye movement case study of Edouard Manet’s painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

MOA courtauld 2This research is part of the project Modes of Address in Pictorial Art conducted by an interdisciplinary team of artists and scientists led by Professor Beth Harland (Lancaster University) with Professor Nick Donnelly and Professor Simon Liversedge (University of Southampton).

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Courtauld Gallery, London. Experimentation took place in the gallery on Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere and involved expert and novice participants. This painting was seen as a pivotal example for study as it incorporates both absorptive and theatrical modes of address. Produced at the start of the modernist period, the painting problematises the role of the spectator by utilising devices of both modes, and introducing a ‘mutual facing’ (Fried, Manet’s Modernism, 1996), which unsettles the conventional relationship of painting and spectator. The research was published in Leonardo Journal of Arts, Sciences and Technology online in 2013, and in Volume 47, Issue 3, 2014. The research was also presented at the 1st Visual Science of Art Conference, Alghero, Italy in Sept. 2012.

The paper reports the extent to which expertise bears upon the viewer’s engagement with mechanisms of address, in the context of a range of previous experimental studies concerning scene perception and artworks. Data analyses include global measures of processing, local analyses of specific inspection patterns, and verbal utterances around key configurations of elements. The paper is the first to extend general principles of research into the role of visual expertise in configural relationships to spectatorship in art, and establishes a method for further research in the field.