July 15, 2024

152: The 7 Functions of Art

This one is a doozy. Mom and I definitely do not see eye-to-eye at all on this topic and it makes for a very lively conversation!

Maria Popova at The Marginalian wrote a 2013 blog post called “Art as Therapy: Alain de Botton on the 7 Psychological Functions of Art”  It’s an exploration of the book “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong.  I read an interview with Alain de Botton and I loved everything he had to say about the function of art.

“Art can help us with our most intimate and ordinary dilemmas, asking: What can I do about the difficulties in my relationships? Why is my work not more satisfying? Why do other people seem to have a more glamorous life? Why is politics so depressing? The purpose of this book is to introduce a new method of interpreting art: art as a form of therapy. It’s the authors’ contention that certain art works provide powerful solutions to our problems, but that in order for this potential to be released, the audience’s attention has to be directed towards it in a new way (which they demonstrate), rather than towards the more normal historical or stylistic concerns with which art books and museum captions are traditionally associated. The authors propose that the squeamish belief that art should be ‘for art’s sake’ has unnecessarily held back art from revealing its latent therapeutic potential. This book involves reframing and recontextualising a series of art works from across the ages and genres, so that they can be approached as tools for the resolution of difficult issues in individual life.”

This is what he said about the 7 functions of art:

“art works can help us to remember what matters; they also lend us hope; they dignify sorrow; they expand our horizons; they help us to understand ourselves; they rebalance us; and lastly they make us appreciate the familiar anew.”

This is the Matisse painting I referenced during the podcast, “Woman on a High Stool”:


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