Art as Therapy

Almost at the end of another long year, and time, though moving realistically at a constant pace, seems like it has sped up and slowed down all at once. After a fun but long day of adventuring yesterday, I spent this morning reading one of my new books entitled “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong.


Reading this book is timely as I begin to look to the new year and the beginning of the end of my undergraduate degree. Thinking about art and its place in life recently, and being questioned about its purpose almost every time that I introduce myself as an art student this book has helped me reorient my thinking about art. It introduces art as a product of psychological inability or lack, more accurately describing art as a tool.

“A tool is an extension of the body that allows a wish to be carried out, and that is required because of a drawback in our physical makeup. A knife is a response to our need, yet inability, to cut. A bottle is a response to our need, yet inability to carry water. To discover the purpose of art, we must ask what kinds of things we need to do with our minds and emotions, but have trouble with.”

The book goes on to outline seven major psychological frailties that provide a function for art to exist from assisting memory to expressing sorrow to providing an element of balance in our lives. What I have found particularly interesting is its section on expressing sorrow and grief.

De Botton suggests that the expression of the common, the unextraordinary elements of sadness and grief are made noble by artworks that sublimate them – they are not shameful or taboo allowing the process of sadness to be as it is, rather than attempting to change it.

“When you feel sad, you are participating in a venerable experience, to which I, this monument, am dedicated. Your sense of loss and disappointment, of frustrated hopes and grief at your own inadequacy, elevate you to serious company. Do not ignore or throw away your grief.”

Though I am only part way through this book, so much about my perspective on art has been refreshed – made clearer and I cannot wait to delve back into this piece of work.

Till next time x

I am a person who loves books.

One thought on “Art as Therapy

  1. Alain de Botton has rich theories in many areas. He was a guest on one of the author interview shows I produce, and I highly recommend reading as much of his work as you have time for. Best to you.


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