Art as Therapy


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Art as Therapy

There is widespread agreement that art is ‘very important’ – but it can be remarkably hard to say quite why. Yet if art is to enjoy its privileges, it has to be able to demonstrate its relevance in understandable ways to the widest possible audience.

Art as Therapy has been written with the firm belief that 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.


To coincide with the launch of the book, a new website and mobile app is available to consult and download at

This is a tool to put you in contact with particular works of art that are helpful to look at when facing certain problems. We believe the point of art in general is to offer therapeutic assistance; it should help us to better endure and enjoy our lives.


Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.' He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature, including the titles 'How Proust Can Change Your Life' and 'The Consolations of Philosophy.' He is the founder of Living Architecture, a social enterprise that asks top architects to build holiday homes for rental around the UK. He is also the founder and Chairman of The School of Life.

John Armstrong is a British philosopher and art historian based at Melbourne University. He is the author of five well-received books, including 'The Intimate Philosophy of Art', 'Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy', and 'In Search of Civilisation: Remaking a Tarnished Idea'.