Art as therapy – I’m skeptical about pretty things

Gustave Caillebotte
France 1848–1894
The plain of Gennevilliers, yellow fields (La plaine de Gennevilliers, champs jaunes) 1884
oil on canvas
65.5 x 81.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 2011 (2011.289)

Philosophers Alain de Botton and John Armstrong of The School of Life have created the Art as Therapy Tour at the NGV. The self-guided tour of selected works from the NGV Collection includes special captions that challenge our assumptions about ourselves, society and how we view art in galleries. Here, they look at Gustave Caillebotte’s The plain of Gennevilliers, yellow fields (La plaine de Gennevilliers, champ jaunes) 1884, as a cure for those who are skeptical about pretty things.

 

I’m skeptical about pretty things

 

This is an unashamedly pretty picture. Educated people today quite often feel queasy about the idea that art can be so sweet and lovely. Isn’t this a denial of all that is wrong with the world? Shouldn’t art be about more weighty and worthy matters?

 

Once life has shown us its darker sides, we start to take this sort of thing more seriously. Beautiful flowers are not a way of avoiding the tougher facts; they are a consolation now that we know suffering. We need beauty to keep our spirits high and to refresh our appetite for life.

 

Cheerfulness, the mood beauty naturally encourages, is a good state of mind in which to confront difficult practical problems. Like confidence, cheerfulness isn’t a denial of the troubles of the world – rather, it makes us more able to deal with them.

 

Work Located at NGV International Level 2. Art as Therapy works are identified on the map available for download in PDF format and online from the mobile site by choosing a topic and  selecting a proposition to consider.

 

The NGV Publication Art a Therapy is available from the NGV Shop and online.

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