11/07/2014 10:25 am ET Updated Nov 07, 2014

From Millet's The Angelus to Rothko, why do some works of art make us cry?

People weep at concerts when listening to transcendent music; people weep watching films or reading sad books; but fewer tears are shed in front of works of visual art. In the hierarchy of arts that provoke strong emotional reaction, painting and sculpture are some way down the list. There is something about the static nature of a work of plastic art that puts it at an emotional disadvantage by comparison with the greater dynamism and temporal flexibility offered by music, film or books. But are we beginning to change? Is it my imagination, or are more people weeping at art today?

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