Art and Expression: Studies in the Psychology of Art, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Art and Expression

Studies in the Psychology of Art, 1st Edition

By Alberto Argenton

Edited by Ian Verstegen


280 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138604100
pub: 2019-04-11
SAVE ~$21.00
Available for pre-order

FREE Standard Shipping!


Perception of expression distinguishes our cognitive activity in a pervasive, significant and peculiar way, and manifests itself paradigmatically in the vast world of artistic production.

Art and Expression analyses the cognitive processes involved in artistic production, aesthetic reception, understanding and enjoyment. Using a phenomenological theoretical and methodological framework, developed by Rudolf Arnheim and other important scholars interested in expressivemedia, Alberto Argenton considers a wide range of artistic works, which span the whole arc of the history of western graphic and pictorial art. Argenton analyses the representational strategies of a dynamic and expressive character that can be reduced to basic aspects of perception, like obliqueness, amodal completion, and the bilateral function of contour, giving new directions relative to the functioning of cognitive activity.

Art and Expression is a monument to the fruitful collaboration of art history and psychology, and Argenton has taken great care to construct a meaningful psychological approach to the arts based also on a knowledge of pictorial genres that allows him to systematically situate the works under scrutiny. Art and Expression is an essential resource for postgraduate researchers interested in visual perception, art, and gestalt psychology.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction

Ian Verstegen

Introduction to the Italian Edition

Part One: Expression and the Dynamics of Perception

Chapter 1. Expression and Expressive Qualities

1.1. The study of Expression in Psychology

1.1.1. The Deficiency Disease

1.1.2. The Phenomenological Method Inter-observation

1.2. For a Definition of Expression

1.2.1. Expression and Physiognomic Perception

1.2.2. The Genetic and Phenomenal Primacy of Expressive Qualities

1.2.3. Emotive Determinism

1.2.4. The Lexicon of Expression

1.2.5. The Essential Traits of Expression

1.2.6. Isomorphism and Figurative Thought


Chapter 2. The Dynamics of Perception and Expressive Qualities

2.1. The Construct of Dynamics

2.2. Arnheim’s Conception of the Dynamics of Visual Perception

2.2.1. Vectors, Forces, Tensions, and Dynamics of Perception Physical Forces and Perceptual Forces

2.2.2. Dynamics is the Vehicle of Expression An Example Taken from Art

2.3. Dynamics, Expression and Graphic and Pictorial Language

2.3.1. A Comparison of Two Paintings

2.4. The Two ‘Guiding Values’ of Art and Behaviour

2.5. Representational Strategies of the Graphic-Pictorial Medium


Part Two: Thematic Studies

Chapter 3. The Swing Effect: A Little-studied Perceptual Phenomenon

3.1. Pictorial Perception and Line Drawing

3.2. Contour Rivalry

3.2.1. The Visual Tug-of-War

3.3. Perceptual Conditions of the Swing Effect

3.3.1. Differences between the Swing Effect and other Cases of Percept Alternation

3.4. The Dynamic Aspects of the Swing Effect

3.5. The Presence of the Swing Effect in Graphic and Pictorial Representation

3.5.1. Trademarks

3.5.2. Symbols

3.5.3. Decoration

3.5.4. Enamels and Painting on Glass

3.5.5. Cubism and Pablo Picasso

3.5.6. A Unique Case: Sano di Pietro

3.6. The Nature and Properties of the Swing Effect


Chapter 4. Amodal Completion and Pictorial Representation

4.1. Amodal Completion

4.2. Perceptual Completion

4.3. The Structural Conditions, Laws and Psychological Principles of Completion

4.4. Amodal Completion between Seeing and Thinking

4.5. Amodal Completion, Dynamics and Expression

4.6. "Completion by Frame"

4.7. Amodal Completion and Cognition


Chapter 5. The Dynamics of Obliqueness: Windmills and Timepieces

5.1. Obliqueness in Perception and in Pictorial Representation

5.1.1. The Local Use of Obliqueness

5.2. Two Studies on Local Obliqueness

5.3. The Study of the Pictorial Representation of Windmills

5.3.1. Windmills

5.3.2. The Pictorial Genre

5.3.3. Stylistic Characterization

5.3.4. The Premises of the Research Windmill Illusion

5.4. Hypothesis, Aims and Structure of the Research

5.4.1. Research Results The 1400s, 1500s and the Flemish Tradition The 1600s and Dutch Landscape Painting The 1700s The 1800s The Early 1900s: Piet Mondrian

5.5. Research into the Pictorial Representation of Timepieces

5.5.1. Timepiece Advertising

5.6. Hypothesis, Aims and Structure of the Research

5.6.1. Research Results

5.7. Obliqueness and Visual Thinking



Authors Index

Subject Index


About the Author/Editor

Alberto Argenton was Professor of psychology of art in the Faculty of Psychology at University of Padova (Italy) until 2014 and passed away in 2015. He is recognized as one of the preeminent scholars of the psychology of art in Italy. He authored numerous scientific papers and books, and was also a skilful artist, conducting his pictorial research with the same rigour that he adopted for his scientific work (

Ian Verstegen is the Associate Director of Visual Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where his current teaching is focused on the image and its special characteristics.

About the Series

Studies and Research in the Psychology of Art

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology