Gazing at the realistic – Eye movements during aesthetic appreciation of Baroque, Impressionist, and Expressionist art portraits

Pik Ki Ho, Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Portraits have been a prominent class of art paintings for centuries. While the
motif remained relatively stable, the style and realism of the paintings changed
over time. Here, we investigated how viewing behaviour during aesthetic
appreciation of art portraits is influenced by artistic style, perceived level of
realism and attractiveness of the sitter. Twenty-six participants were presented
with 48 art portraits (16 Baroque, 16 Impressionist, 16 Expressionist; with
normative ratings of attractiveness and realism) for a free-viewing time of 15
seconds each. During this time, we recorded their eye movements. Participants
were then asked to rate the overall beauty of each portrait (not the attractiveness
of the sitter). Results of linear mixed effects model analyses revealed a significant
fixed effect of artistic style on the number, average and total duration of fixation
on the sitter (overall more fixations for Impressionist, but longer average
duration of fixation for Baroque). Artistic style significantly interacted with both
realism and attractiveness on the total duration and number of fixations on the
sitter. Realistic Baroque portraits with attractive sitters attracted more fixations,
especially in the eye area, while an opposite effect of realism was observed for
Expressionist portraits. We found no effect of attractiveness for Expressionist and
Impressionist portraits. None of the eye movement measures could be predicted
by the beauty ratings. Taken together, our findings suggest a distinct pattern of
viewing behaviour on art portraits independent of aesthetic judgments. However,
the viewing behaviour might reflect the cognitive processing of artistic style and
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2023
Event8th Visual Science of Art Conference 2022 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 24 Aug 202227 Aug 2022


Conference8th Visual Science of Art Conference 2022
Abbreviated titleVSAC 2022
Internet address


  • Aesthetics
  • Art portraits
  • Eye movements


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