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Art as Therapy - Alain De Botton


Published: 14th October 2013
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RRP $45.00

The conventional framework of art history, which tells us when, where and by whom an artwork was made, does little to make the case for why art is so important. In this book Alain de Botton and John Armstrong propose a new way of looking at art, suggesting that it can be useful, relevant and above all else, therapeutic for its audiences. The authors begin by laying out a method for looking at art therapeutically, then demonstrate it in action on key themes of existence, like Love, Nature, Money and Politics.

They argue that in each area, certain great works of art have clues as to how to manage the tensions and confusions of life. The range of examples of works is part of the pleasure of the book. Unexpected lessons lie in each one: Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter helps us to focus on what we want to be loved for; Richard Serra's Fernando Passoa reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; the colonnades of the monastery at Le Thoronet hold a promise of a serenity that too often escapes us; and Edouard Manet's Bunch of Asparagus teaches us how to preserve and value our long-term partners.

Passionate, thought provoking, often funny and always accessible, this book reframes art as a therapeutic medium that can guide, console and exhort us, and along the way, help us to understand both art and ourselves better.

Read John Purcell's Review

Alain de Botton's early successes How Proust Can Change Your Life and The Consolations of Philosophy attempted to teach us that literature and philosophy are not rarefied artefacts to be shut between leather binding, studied and venerated but are instead practical, useful guides to living well.

In his new book, Art as Therapy, de Botton joins forces with philosopher John Armstrong to remake our relationship with art:

"This book proposes that art (a category that includes works of design, architecture and craft) is a therapeutic medium that can help guide, exhort and console its viewer, enabling them to become better versions of themselves."

Some may call this approach naïve, but I believe any attempt to strip art from the hallowed walls of the world's galleries where it is invariably viewed through the befuddling mist of conscious appreciation must be lauded. I agree that art is more valuable to us than we are lead to believe. So a new approach should be given consideration.

But beyond these concerns on a purely aesthetic level, the publisher Phaidon has produced a beautiful book filled with gorgeous reproductions of world art. So if the treatise does not please you the pictures will.

About the Author

Alain de Botton is the bestselling author of How Proust Can Change Your Life and Religion for Atheists in addition to other works of fiction and essays. In 2008 he founded The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. His work has been reviewed in The Times, The Guardian, The Economist among many others and he has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Question Time and Newsnight. His popular TED talks have combined received over 3 million views. De Botton lives and works in London. John Armstrong is a philosopher and art theorist based at Melbourne University in Australia. He is the author of several books, including The Intimate Philosophy of Art, Conditions of Love and In Search of Civilisation.


A book deserving of its title


I use the book as a reference. I am preparing for further study in the arts and it has proved very useful.

Melbourne, Aus


Art from a human need perspective - great read


Excellent for developing a broader perspective on art appreciation



For Art Lovers Who Love To Think!


It's the perfect companion to a tour around the NGV (that's National Gallery of Victoria) and so lucky to have the only Australian School of Life in Melbourne. I love living in the world's most liveable city.

Melbourne, Australia



4.7 3


a highly optimistic vision...roams widely through subjects as immense as love, nature, money and politics. De Botton and Armstrong's examination of love is most rewarding Vanity Fair on Art ...like going back to college, but in a good way. ... a little bit like dipping in to a modern day Gombrich albeit through the eyes of Oprah ... a really entertaining and thought-provoking look at the role that art plays - or could play - in our lives. [ ... ] Part philosophy, part art history, the book takes work that is considered by many to be lofty and rarified, and relates it to our everyday lives. [Art as Therapy] makes the reader consider the work far more intensely and deeply than perhaps we otherwise would. The Mayfair Magazine The beautifully designed and illustrated book, Art as Therapy argues for a new way of using art to help us with a variety of psychological ills. The School of Life

ISBN: 9780714865911
ISBN-10: 0714865915
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 240
Published: 14th October 2013
Publisher: Phaidon Press Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 27.0 x 20.5  x 2.7
Weight (kg): 1.48
Edition Number: 1