the ARTistry of ARThistory occasionally done ARTfully

History of Art Healing

Posted by gninja on January 10, 2008

While I recover from a pretty nasty cold…


(Jan van Eyck’s Madonna with Canon van der Paele, 1436)

It occurs to me that, when sick, I’d probably most like to be in a room filled with Jan van Eycks (paintings; not the guy) and other early Netherlandish paintings.  It could also depend on the season.  I don’t much feel like looking at early Netherlandish stuff when the weather’s warm.

In any case, in my sickly leisure (boredom?) I was trying to think of any art history studies that have been done on art therapy.  From just a quick glance, I gathered that the literature on art therpay in the “sciences” is vast.  A search for those keywords on Columbia’s Libary Catalogue turned up 616 hits, and each one I clicked on was listed in a health sciences, sociology, or medical collection.  There’s even an American Art Therapy Association.  JSTOR turned up about the same kind of results when I searched various combinations of “art” and therapy- or healing-related terms.  Looking through David Freedberg’s Power of Images, I found no section on art as curative.  This is all just to say that an art *history* study of the therapeutic role of art in X time period or X culture would be interesting.  I’m sure it’s been done.

2 Responses to “History of Art Healing”

  1. anna said

    there are a bunch of psych studies on art being curative… and then hildegard (your period, not mine) writes of it a bit. in the ren. music was considered curative of all things as well as certain works of art (and, more obviously architecture) that brought back the body into balance/harmony. i’m glad you’re over your cold now.

  2. gninja said

    Me too! Being sick was no fun. Especially since I didn’t have a room filled with van Eycks.

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