ASK 24

The Countess von Schönfeld and Her Daughter (1793)
French, 1755–1842

Oil on canvas.

"I may see some work of art, a smiling painting of The Countess von Schönfeld and Her Daughter painted by Vigée-Lebrun for Marie Antoinette and have thoughts of the sadness of peasants who suffered while she smiled. But the painting does not express sadness. The response might be widespread, after the French Revolution in France, for example, but the painting still does not express sadness. That is not in the painting. 

In short, the error theory, attempting to explicate expressed feelings in art in terms of thought about those feelings, disconnects the expression of the specific feeling from what is in the medium, by allowing for association to replace expression. We must distinguish between reflections caused by a work of art from what is expressed in the work."

— Keith Lehrer, Art, Self, and Knowledge