James Elkins is the E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the author of several books, including Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students and The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing.
The second column in the series is How Long Does it Take To Look at a Painting?, in which he considers the time individuals devote to looking at a painting, from the cursory (the Louvre reports that people look at the Mona Lisa for an average of 15 seconds) to the kind of extended interaction with a painting that takes place over the course of a lifetime.
He focuses in particular on a beautiful little 15th Century devotional painting, Weeping Madonna by Dieric Bouts.
(His description of the painting, particularly the handling of the eyes, prompted me to think of another painting, very different in some ways, similar in others, by Rogier van der Weyden.)
Elkins invites comments on the post (login necessary) from readers who have had experiences with spending long periods gazing at a painting, getting lost in the work, or returning to it repeatedly.