Art Exhibition – National Gallery of Victoria – “Art as Therapy”

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After seeing Alain de Botton talk about ‘Art as Therapy’ via YouTube – I was very keen to see what he and John Armstrong, renowned philosophers and authors had achieved at my home town galleryNational Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Australia.  My husband and I decided to take the time to go and see what they had done.  It was a self guided tour consisting of approximately 58 selected works from the collection of the NGV and were located throughout three levels of the gallery.  Each work had two labels beside it; one had been written by a curator from the NGV which listed “details of the work in an art-historial context” and the other label was “written by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong” (NGV. 2014).  The purpose of these additional captions was to “challenge visitors assumptions about themselves, society and how we view art in galleries” (NGV. 2014).

It was an interesting approach to viewing works of art.  Having the extra labels gave myself and my husband, an opportunity to view art works, with an added insight as to what the art work may have been about. It got me thinking more deeply, about each art work and I came away with a feeling of being more fulfilled, than I normally would after viewing a range of art work.  I also came away with more knowledge, understanding and a deeper curiosity about each art work I had viewed.  Now I am not an expert…no not at all – but this is part of the benefit of this whole project/philosophy of Alain de Botton’s and John Armstrong’s – you don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be intimidated by the whole process of viewing works of art.  You just have to be human and enjoy the journey of feeling more meaning and purpose about each art work viewed.  This way of viewing art becomes deeply personal and far more engaging in my opinion – art as therapy at it’s best…that is how I found it.

The below slide show consists of photos I took whilst viewing the ‘Art as Therapy’ NGV art work collection. For full ‘Art as Therapy’ label information, please refer to Alain De Botton and John Armstrong’s book ‘Art as Therapy:  Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria – Australia Exhibition.  NB:  A small number of the images are not part of the ‘Art as Therapy’ collection but I found them worthy of their inclusion.

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Following are images of some art works that I favoured and wish to share them with you. Also included is their ‘Art as Therapy’ captions written by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong.

 “Joseph Highmore – Susanna Highmore c.1740-45.  Sickness:  we grow up too fast.  She wears the finery of a fashionable young woman, but underneath she is still really a bit childish and naive.  It wasn’t so long ago that she was playing with dolls and thought her parents were the best people in the world.  The figure in the little oval picture she is holding looks like a winsome young soldier.  Yet what does she know of the difficulties of relationships?  It is not her fault.  Suddenly she has the power to attract mean; if she displays her wrists the right way, puts some lace round her bodice, they are falling over her.  She’s entering into the adult world” (Alain de Botton & John Armstrong. 2014)”

 “Japanese – Sweet container (Kashiki) Muromachi period 15th century – 16th century.   Sickness:  only rare things deserve to be in museums:  It’s always strange to see an object in a gallery that is not terribly different from something that can be bought in a shop.  This particular item may have refinements and a pedigree that set it apart from what’s on offer in High street, but the kinship is definitely there between them.  It might cause a moment’s anxiety.  Isn’t the point of a gallery that it’s a place where you can encounter things you cannot find (let alone buy) anywhere else?  Perhaps we’ve mistakenly fallen into the habit of linking beauty to rarity.  It is actually rather sad to think that only a very few things are lovely enough to deserve special attention.  We should wish for the opposite to be true.  We should hope that the world (and our homes) can be filled with things that are truly delightful and yet widely available.  This little sweet container is hinting at cultural revolution” (Alain de Botton & John Armstrong. 2014).

“Auguste Rodin – The thinker (Le Pensure) 1884 – Sickness:  I say I admire thinking, but in fact I don’t.  We would like to think of ourselves as thinkers.  To be called thoughtful is a very nice complement.  Sadly, thinking can go wrong in so many ways: one circles around the same conundrum, shoots off in distracted directions, or simply feels a bit numb and blank.  The actual prestige of thinking is quite low in comparison with other things:  action, money, fame, physical attractiveness, Auguste Rodin is trying to correct our perspective, to bring to our attention, in a memorable way, to the appeal of thinking (absorbing oneself in reflection, musing on great matters, sticking with a conundrum, working out what one really believes and why).  He is not reciting facts to himself.  We are so familiar with the low estimate of thinking that we rarely notice it.  We take it for granted that with world will be full of aeroplanes, restaurants, car showrooms, hotels, supermarkets and banks (to start the list) that we fail to notice temples devoted to thinking” (Alain de Botton & John Armstrong. 2014).”

At the Exhibition, we purchased Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s book ‘Art as Therapy:  Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria – Australia Exhibition.  The book can be purchased Online.

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson


NGV. (2014). Art As Therapy Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. [Map PDF]. Retrieved July 26, 2014

Alain de Botton & Armstrong. (2014). Art as Therapy. Works from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved July 26, 2014