How is it possible that two artists in different fields of art, born in different centuries in different countries have a change of style in their late creative period, leading to the same aesthetic phenomena in their work? We are talking about Lovis Corinth, the German painter (1858-1925) and the famous Italian film director Luchino Visconti (1906-1975). It is a fact that both of them suffered a stroke, which in both cases had the same effect on the brain function: a visual-spatial hemineglect.
Patients of this disease neglect the existence of the space to the left of the midline in their perception – be it the left side of a counterpart’s face or the digits 7 to 12 on a clock. In standardized paper and pencil tests they just omit these elements. Further graphical signs can occur, such as loss of perspective, general simplification and changed ductus.
The neuroscientists Blanke and Pasqualili investigate the pre- and post-stroke artworks of Corinth and Visconti against this background. In both cases the loss of perspective is striking. Corinth’s Bravourelements of depth and spatial relations are replaced by flatness and a disturbed balance between horizontal and vertical. Visconti’s characteristic panoramic scenes give way to a technique of close-ups, which conveys uncertainty and dislocation. Both artists started to express the relation between elements through a rich use of colours.
For their late style, Corinth and Visconti became known as very progressive. We know now that this is, at least partly, due to their brain damage.
Blanke and Pasqualili made a big progress in the actual knowledge of the relation between brain functions and the creation of art. In future they hope to find out how the proper brain produces art and eventually to be able to answer the question: What is art actually?
Blanke, O., & Pasqualini, I. (2012). The Riddle of Style Changes in the Visual Arts after Interference with the Right Brain Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00154