Title:The Effect of Surrogation on Viewer Response to Expressional Qualities in Works of Art: Preliminary Findings from the Toledo Picture Study
Authors:Bradley Taylor
Publication:MW2001: Museums and the Web 2001

An empirical study conducted at the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art examined the responses of 86 non-expert museum visitors to pictures presented in five formats-oil on canvas paintings, printed pages from books, black-and-white glossy photos, color slides, and digital images. Test subjects responded to the same 20 pictures presented in different formats and different showing orders, identifying the expressional content depicted in the images and answering questions designed to test perceptions about the ability of surrogates to reproduce the expressional power of an original oil painting. This paper reports preliminary findings from the Toledo Picture Study. Test data show that statistically significant differences exist with regard to the intensity of the emotions test subjects feel, the ease with which they identify feelings and emotions in the various formats, and the relative ability of an original work of art to convey feeling or emotion. These findings thus reaffirm the informational imperative of access to museum collections in their original form. Qualitative responses, in particular those that mention the effect of the gallery's parquet floors and deeply-hued walls, the presence of others in the gallery, or those individuals who shared stories of past experiences at the museum as children, with their families, or as volunteers, all point to exciting new directions for future investigation. Future studies might be well served to look at the gallery itself and it's effect on the way individuals respond to the physical object.