2000 volume 29(8) pages 981 – 987

Cite as:
Latto R, Brain D, Kelly B, 2000, "An oblique effect in aesthetics: Homage to Mondrian (1872 - 1944)" Perception 29(8) 981 – 987

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An oblique effect in aesthetics: Homage to Mondrian (1872 - 1944)

Richard Latto, Douglas Brain, Brian Kelly

Received 21 December 1994, in revised form 20 April 2000

Abstract. The effect of the orientation of Mondrian's paintings on their aesthetic appeal was examined. Eight paintings, four with horizontal/vertical frames in the original and four with oblique frames, were presented in eight different orientations and rated for aesthetic appeal on a 7-point scale. There was a stronger preference for pictures presented so that their component lines were horizontal and vertical than for pictures presented with their component lines in an oblique orientation. In addition, subjects showed a preference for the original orientation, perhaps because rotation changes the lateral balance of the paintings as well as the orientation of the component lines. There was no overall preference for one frame orientation over another, but there was an interaction between frame orientation and component orientation, resulting in a preference for paintings where the components were parallel to the surrounding frame. It is suggested that the aesthetic oblique effect reported here is related to the oblique effect in orientation perception and the privileged access which horizontal and vertical lines have to the visual system. This offers a possible mechanism for aesthetic judgments of abstract patterns: we find pleasing those stimuli which are closely tuned to the properties of the human visual system.

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