What the brain draws from: Art and neuroscience

Interesting post by Elizabeth Landau at CNN about the intersection of art and science.


“Pablo Picasso once said, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

If we didn’t buy in to the “lie” of art, there would obviously be no galleries or exhibitions, no art history textbooks or curators; there would not have been cave paintings or Egyptian statues or Picasso himself. Yet, we seem to agree as a species that it’s possible to recognize familiar things in art and that art can be pleasing.

To explain why, look no further than the brain.

The human brain is wired in such a way that we can make sense of lines, colors and patterns on a flat canvas. Artists throughout human history have figured out ways to create illusions such as depth and brightness that aren’t actually there but make works of art seem somehow more real.

The illusion of clouds reflecting on water

The illusion of clouds reflecting on water

And while individual tastes are varied and have cultural influences, the brain also seems to respond especially strongly to certain artistic conventions that mimic what we see in nature.

What we recognize in art

It goes without saying that most paintings and drawings are, from an objective standpoint, two-dimensional. Yet our minds know

[to keep reading]


Recent Posts

William Bridge's Classic Book on Managing Transition

Reading Now

Transitions:  Making Sense of Life's Changes.   I read William Bridges book years ago when I was in a period of professional reinvention after leaving the corporate world.  In … [Read More...]

The Season For Ocean Meditation

Watch this NASA film showing surface currents circulating in a high-resolution, 3D model of the Earth's oceans. Driven by wind and other forces, currents on the ocean surface … [Read More...]


Can Thoughts Make You Older?

What words would you associate with being old? I asked a few people recently, and here are just some of the words they used:  fuddy-duddy, not fresh, decrepit, sad, wrinkly, tired, … [Read More...]