Philip Pullman on how the mind takes in art:
One minute we’re admiring the way Degas puts his pastel marks on the paper, the next we’re wondering what it might be like to kiss the model. But then we notice something intriguing in the diagonals of the composition, and that sets us thinking about the Japanese print in the painting by Van Gogh on the other wall of the gallery, and while we’re thinking about Japanese art we remember the very sociological print involving the fisherman’s wife and the octopus; and that reminds us that it’s time for lunch. But on the way out, we look again at Degas, and think that his way with pastel really is exquisite. He puts this color against that one, and something quite different happens. Could I do that with words? we think. How would it work?
This is from a talk he gave in 1997. The "very sociological print" he refers to is Hokusai's "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife," an erotic woodcut of a two cephalapods on very familiar terms with a sleeping woman. Earlier in the lecture, he tells a story about a secondary school teacher confiscating his copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover because, said the teacher, Pullman was reading it not for its literary merit but for "the sociology," which I suppose meant the smutty bits.