De Botton’s Art as Therapy

In his book, De Botton attempts to understand the reasons why people appreciate art and in particular what makes something seem beautiful. He moves from an individual understanding to a societal one and additionally mentions how societies benefit from art. This book, created as a textbook, provided me with some great new insights but best of all, introduced me to a few artists which now belong to my list of favourite artists. Below, I’m sharing with you some of my favourite works by David Hockney (top left corner) and Sir Lawrence Alma – Tadema.  I love days when I discover a new artist-one who gives me the perfect amount of goosebumps.

I have mentioned in other blog posts that I enjoy photographing scenery and architecture. I wanted to be an architect when I was younger and maybe through my photographs, I’m trying to make my dream seem more within reach. I photograph things that I wish I could see more of in my daily life. De Botton helps me make sense of my thinkings. I liked his suggestion that the more complex our lives, the more we may be moved by a certain painting. For example, a man who experiences tragedy on a daily basis may paint the most moving and beautiful flower. He draws not what he experiences but what he sees as a hope, an escape.

This ties to another point in the book summarized by one of my favourite quotes from the book : ‘as nature begins gradually to vanish from human life as a direct experience, so we see it emerge in the world of the poet as an idea.’ This also caught the German philosopher Schiller’s attention and he made the observation that in Ancient Greece, artists paid little attention to landscapes. Schiller suggested that this was because they spent all their days outside. Of course this is not true of all artists. Monet for example captured the beautiful garden of his home in many paintings even though he likely spent many hours either in the garden or looking out from indoors.

A final point about the book that I made note of was the way in which museums are set up. I love museums but I always felt unlike myself, like I was in a way being given suggestions as to what to think. The frames and the lighting and the positioning of the photos were all variables that influenced what we thought of a painting. Curators would carve the exact path they wished you to take when walking through the different rooms. It wasn’t just coincidence that everyone would be hovering around one painting in a room, even if it may not have been the most beautiful painting by everyone’s standards. De Botton mentions this and goes further to touch upon the different classes of individuals visiting the galleries. Museums often seem to forego trying to create inclusive environments. A majority of the works displayed are religious art or paintings of aristocrats which overlook the large secular and lower – middle class individuals in society.




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