What happens to you when you look at great works of art? Okay, let me rephrase the question: does anything happen to you when you look at art at all? I feel amazingly refreshed and excited when I am in the presence of very good art; I feel something when I am in the presence of art, period.
There's an historical precedent for an exagerrated version of this phenomenon. It's called "Stendhal Syndrome" as noted in this article from London's Telegraph. The term is rooted in the eponymous author's feeling or rush from seeing Renaissance masters when he visited Florence in 1817. Consider that the 19th century had no shortage of light, feeble, and consumptive personalities --- many who contributed richly to the fabric of the humanities, particularly the fine arts and literature of the time. It makes complete sense that the condition would be named after one such character, Monsieur Marie-Henrie Beyle, also known as Stendhal.
Those suffering from Stendhal Syndrome are known to evidence "rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations...[when] exposed to extraordinary artistic achievement, whether it is paintings or sculptures." Clearly, this is not a harmful condition, however, the effects "are serious enough for [subjects] to require treatment in hospital and even antidepressants."
Researchers this summer performed tests to root the existence of this condition and its effects. I'd be interested to know their findings. It doesn't take another researcher to tell me how I feel in front of art. I deeply recall a specific moment of awe: I was sitting in the Print Room at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and gazing upon Raphael's self-portrait. In all of my life, I had never seen (and likely will never again see) a more beautiful and expressive work. This is one of my "art moments" where I very likely may have swooned! How about you? I am interested in hearing from our art friends. How does art make you feel? Do you swoon in the presence of a master's work?
Side note: I find it frustrating and altogether abhorrent that Stendhal Syndrome has been said only to exist in the presence of painting or sculpture. What about other art forms? To me, there is nothing more palpable than an installation. Take a gander at Joyce Ogden's work. Exquisitely charted and expertly displayed, it's "swoon-worthy." If you've not seen it in person, she's got 53.93 on view in Louisville.