By Sheri R. Klein
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Extra info for Art and laughter
While we cannot see the man’s facial expression because he is turned away from us, we assume the man is knowledgeable about art, and perhaps he is studying this painting as a connoisseur. Rockwell’s paintings and illustrations about art and artists are still some of the funniest parodies on art in the twentieth century. His illustration background gave him many liberties to mock the art world in a way because he was not directly involved in it. At the same time, later in his life, he painted and exhibited in fine art galleries and museums and became part of the establishment that he gently mocked.
Both settings are likened to a high-class urban grill or bar. Her neck is quite elongated, unadorned, and her skin a pale shade of flesh. Her blouse is slightly open, unbuttoned at the neck, and her mouth gaping with wide laughter. Did he just tell her a joke? Are they laughing at someone? Or are they just happy? Is he flirting with her? Or she with him? Is her blush the afterglow of a hearty laugh, or a mild seduction? Her hair is slightly jostled back as if she is sitting in a wind tunnel. Her male admirer, in a three-quarter turn, slightly cut off by the picture frame, smiles back at her with whitened teeth.
One kind of smile that may not elicit a smile from the viewer is a smirk or a ‘smile in an affected or smug or snide manner’, for such a smile may not arouse pleasure. Contrary to the smile, which is quiet, the laugh represents ‘the show of mirth, joy, or scorn with a smile or a chuckle or explosive sound’, as a result of surprise, the recognition of the unpredicted and the incongruous, the contradiction between what is expected and what occurs, and the jolting of one’s expectations. 3 While we may view paintings that depict hearty laughter, we can only imagine what kinds of sounds they might produce if the painting could come alive.