Loomis & Saltz - Artistic Types

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

In their study of artistic styles, Loomis & Saltz (1984) had subjects rate eight well-known artists on a list of descriptors. Four clusters of artistic style emerged, organized along two dimensions: figurative vs. non-figurative and narrative vs. descriptive. The dimensions essentially represent the degree of distance from perceptual realism. Non-figurative art leans towards cognitive-perceptual or expressive abstraction, narrative or imaginative art uses recognizable elements, but arrange them in fanciful rather than logical/rational or normal ways.

P – Rational/Descriptive, Figurative: Matisse, Warhol, Wyeth
This style remains closest to perceptual realism, representing either what is seen, or imaginary scenarios that obey most of the rules of ordinary reality, rather than fanciful rules. Subjects are represented in ways faithful to their concrete appearance, rather than as cognitive, perceptual or expressive abstractions.

A – Rational/Descriptive, Nonfigurative: Mondrian
This artistic style remains representative in the sense that features of objective perception – the observation of line, shape, mass, rhythm, balance and so on – provide the foundation for abstraction and elaboration, particularly along cognitive and perceptual lines.

E – Spontaneous/Narrative, Nonfigurative: Kandinsky, Miró, Pollock
Spontaneous and narrative forms of art are grounded primarily in the imagination or emotions of the artist, rather than observations or perceptions. They need not follow the visual and physical rules of observed reality. The artistic style described here is thus both spontaneous and nonfigurative or abstract. The classic example of this artistic stryle would be abstract expressionism.

I – Spontaneous/Narrative, Figurative: Chagall
This style of art is grounded in the imagination or emotions of the artist, but the objects or compositional elements the artist uses represents real objects in the world, or modifications of them. These kinds of artistic works are like dreamscapes – unusual combinations of usual things in unusual ways. Dali comes forcefully to mind here, although Loomis and Saltz point to Chagall as their exemplar for this type. The elements of ordinary experience are combined to achieve emotional and expressive results.

Loomis and Saltz interpret these results using Jungian functions. Extraversion/Introversion is placed alongside their figurative/nonfigurative distinction to describe people who are oriented towards sensation vs. imagination. The difference between descriptive and spontaneous styles is aligned with Jung’s distinction between the rational (Judging) and irrational (Perceiving) functions.

1. Loomis, M., & Saltz, E. (1984). “Cognitive styles as predictors of artistic styles.” Journal of Personality, 52, 22-35.
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