John Armstrong's The Intimate Philosophy of Art
is much less a philosophy or a critique of particular artworks or a retread through the now familiar course of art history than an invitation to look and look again. Armstrong's argument has a wonderfully egalitarian underpinning: it is not book learning, he argues, that is going to help us get the most out of any particular art work (although contextualising art may add something to our appreciation of it) but rather cultivating the (difficult) skill of looking. What constitutes this skill? Reverie, contemplation (classically broken down into five parts: animadversion, noticing details; concursus, seeing relationships between parts; hololepsis, seizing the whole as the whole; the lingering caress; catalepsis, mutual absorption) and investment. This is somewhat akin to the process of falling in love. And if we are to love, and so get the most out of, particular works of art this process of properly looking is what should concern us. If we really look, and spend the time to look that huge galleries packed full of more and more works so hinders, and speeding past wonderful buildings forbids, then art will respond to our gaze and will reveal what it has revealed to the likes of Ruskin, Goethe and Proust. Armstrong writes clearly and cleverly about art, architecture and philosophy. He gives a particularly good, not to say pithy, account of Kant, Schiller and Hegel's aesthetics. The book itself is abundantly illustrated with some 37 excellent reproductions to encourage the skills that Armstrong describes throughout his essay.