You can tell a lot about people by the kinds of art they like; that is, if they like #Art at all. And if they don’t, that’s a tell, too. When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime art lover, erupted over the possibility of Donald Trump as president during a New York Times interview last May, saying, “I don’t even want to contemplate that,” it was incongruous given her taste in art.

The big picture  

Washingtonian Magazine made known Ginsburg's aesthetic taste in a report on the paintings she chose to hang on her chamber walls. She favors abstracts, although not the psychedelic or high-colored variety. She likes meditative, muted abstracts.

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She likes Mark Rothko's paintings of scant rectangles resting one atop the other and Josef Albers' paintings of scant squares resting one atop the other. Both convey clarity, simplicity, and silence. Her attraction to quiet pictures - the gentle tranquility of Rothko's work and the orderly construct of Albers' work - just don't jibe with her emotional outburst about Trump. Clearly it was an anomaly. She's known for weighing her words deliberately, thoughtfully, precisely with lengthy silences between them, as if she channels Albers' pictures. 

Do I have to draw you a picture?

Her love of Albers goes back to her youth when she had little money and took advantage of MoMA’s art rental program and leased one of his works. Her attraction to what he painted stayed with her and when she got sick with pancreatic cancer in her later life, the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation gave MoMA one of the artist’s Homage to the Square paintings in her honor.

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The work shows a yellow palette, a color that Albers was known to think was good for healing.  Apparently Albers, a native of Germany, who moved to the U.S. before WWII, forgot that Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear arm band of yellow Stars of David.

What the shrinks say

It's safe to say that the color doesn't mean the same thing for everyone. But conclusions about aesthetic preferences and personalities can be drawn. The British Psychological Society sought to determine links between taste in art and traits like judgment. The docs looked at 91,162 people and at a difference in personality between those who like representational art and those who like abstract art was clear. People who liked recognizable art were significantly more agreeable than those who favored abstract art.

Independent thinker

Ginsburg is known in the court as a lone dissenter. When her fellow jurists left affirmative action alone for the present, she was the only justice to object, saying there was plenty of information to dispense with the case. All of which suggests that Ginsburg’s appreciation of Rothko and Albers telegraphed from the start that she is not given to go along to get along. Maybe when senators size up candidates for the Supreme Court, they should ask their art preferences.