This is a book about people who have had strong emotional reactions to artworks. It tells a history of times and places when strong passions were expected, and contrasts them with the habits of the last hundred years. The book also has letters from people who have cried, and those who haven’t or wouldn’t.
Chapter 5 is “Crying Over Bluish Leaves.” It is about my own experiences in the Frick Collection, looking at Giovanni Bellini’s Ecstasy of St. Francis.
At first I had a very strong reaction to the painting, but it was diluted and finally dispersed as I read art historical accounts of the painting, and of Bellini’s cultural context. Art history is pictured here as a kind of poison well, which endangers certain kinds of responses.
The book is also in Chinese, Czech, Korean, Italian, and Farsi. See the vita for details and links.