The Art of Seeing: An Interpretation of the Aesthetic Encounter
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Rick E. Robinson
This book explores the enjoyment of viewing art within the framework of flow, the psychology of optimal experience. Flow is an intrinsically rewarding feeling of total involvement in an activity. To be fully engaged in a state of flow, one must be skilled and challenged. The author studied museum professionals as a proxy for the more general art viewing population.
“The experience is one of an initial perceptual hook followed by a more detached, intellectual appreciation that returns the viewer to the work with a deeper understanding.”
“The best examples of objects containing such challenges are works whose meaning appears to be inexhaustible.” As one respondent put it, “‘A good painting will never be used up.’”
Four dimensions of aesthetic experience are explored: cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and communicative.