Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front
of Paintings (Routledge, 2001), James Elkins, MFA'84, AM'84,
PhD'89, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute
of Chicago, examines the emotions that paintings inspire, hoping
to "capture the frames of mind that have led people to cry."
He enumerates some of the reasons-from religious devotion to reasons
they can't put into words-that people have cried.
group of viewers, he finds, are seemingly immune to the tear-provoking
power of art. In a chapter titled "The Ivory Tower of Tearlessness,"
Elkins shares letters from art historians responding to his question
of whether they have ever cried in front of a painting-the majority
of whom said no. He also looks at whether studying art distances
art historians from the subject they study. In an appendix, Elkins
includes other letters he received during the course of researching
the book which he solicited via journals and newspapers. And,
yes, many people have cried-whether at Goya's 3 May 1808
or René Magritte's Portrait of Madame Récamier.