Synopses & Reviews
What is art’s purpose? In this engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong propose a new way of looking at familiar masterpieces, suggesting that they can be useful, relevant, and – above all else – therapeutic for their viewers. De Botton argues that certain great works offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. Chapters on Love, Nature, Money, and Politics outline how art can help with these common difficulties – for example, Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter helps us focus on what we want to be loved for; Serra’s Fernando Pessoa reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; and Manet’s Bunch of Asparagus teaches us how to preserve and value our long‐term partners. Art as Therapy offers an unconventional perspective, demonstrating how art can guide us, console us, and help us better understand ourselves.
What is art for? The School of Life founder de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) and University of Melbourne art historian Armstrong (The Intimate Philosophy of Art) propose a profoundly refreshing and heterodox approach to art as a “therapeutic medium” that can help people access “better versions of themselves.” Upending the art world’s self referential culture the book assigns seven functions to art: “Remembering” “Hope” “Sorrow” “Rebalancing” “Self Understanding” “Growth” and “Appreciation.” The most novel moments come from lessons the authors glean from an eclectic range of works. Manet’s reflections on the mundane in the painting Bunch of Asparagus can instruct us to “re evaluate and re desire our partners.” A brooding sculpture by Richard Serra teaches us about dignity and the honor of sorrow. The authors formulate an intellectual framework for artists—one that includes the conflicts and virtues of love for example—to give art an educational goal. However such an agenda clearly favors one dimensionality over the complex or ambiguous. Related themes tackled here include money and politics with the authors arguing for “enlightened investment.” Scarcely convincing though is the case for progovernment censorship. Nevertheless the proposal that art dealers function as therapists that museums be organized into galleries of suffering and compassion and that scholars “analyze how art could help with a broken heart” boldly positions art at the center of our daily lives. 150 color illus. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"One of the most intellectually exciting books I have read this year. . . full of illumination and insights. . . The four teenagers to whom I gave the book have all been thrilled by the sense that art isn’t the preserve of high priests. Best of all, I took my student son to the Rijksmuseum and, utterly absorbed, he said he would never look at art the same way again. De Botton is throwing open a door and doing what art ought to do: making us think and feel afresh. I hope many people step through it." – The Times
About the Author
Alain de Botton (b.1969) is the author of bestselling books in more than 30 countries, including The Consolations of Philosophy
, How Proust Can Change Your Life
, Status Anxiety
, and most recently Religion for Atheists
. He founded The School of Life in London in 2008, which supplies good ideas for everyday life in the form of courses, classes, workshops and talks. In 2009 he founded Living Architecture, which aims to make high‐quality architecture accessible to everyone.
John Armstrong (b.1966) is a British philosopher and art historian based at Melbourne University. He is the author of five well‐received books, including The Intimate Philosophy of Art, Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy, and In Search of Civilisation: Remaking a Tarnished Idea.