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Move Closer: An Intimate Philosophy of Art (American) [Hardcover]

John Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1 Amer ed edition (Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374105960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374105969
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,934,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As close as you can get 13 July 2004
By ZDDQ140770 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are plenty of artists monographs and academic books on art history. There are also loads of ordy books on aesthetics or rants about how rubbish modern art is and so on. This is different, though. Armstrong has attempted to provide a guide to how to enjoy art, based on how we extract pleasure from things. Don't be put off by the use of the word "philosophy"- this doesnt presuppose any knowledge of philosphy, although Kant, Hegel even Nietszche are namedropped. The book adopts a philosophic frame of mind without philosophizing. Armstrong goes through the main "methods" of enjoying art, with discussions inculding reverie and contemplation and personal meaning and shows how they are all "valid". In a certain sense he may be preaching to the converted as you are unlikely to buy this book unless you already have a strong interest in art but to a newcomer or someone interested in WHY they enjoy art the book is both informative and interesting. Downsides: there is no mention of modern art, where i suspect the "ways of seeing" are different. It wont be deep enough for anyone studying aesthetics but for the amateur art-lover this should prove a worthy addition to their bookshelves along with John Bergers "Shape of a Pocket".
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing and intellectually stimulating piece of work 11 Feb 2001
By Rosengarten - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
John Armstrong's book is a wittily written essay about our personal enjoyment of the arts, in particular of paintings and architecture. Being generally easy to read, the book not only makes you laugh occasionally, but sometimes requires an all-round humanistic art education to grasp the points ("contextual knowledge" of the world of painting and literature). The book is a small piece of esthetical art in itself, pursuing to extend the philosophy of our unconscious mind to appreciate beautiful art. Armstrong's book carefully analyses what exactly makes art enjoyable and after you have read the book you will find that your personal enjoyment of art has been enhanced. All in all, a refreshing and intellectually stimulating piece of work. The book enables all those readers who are busily pursuing a hectic lifestyle to take a step back and start thinking about what rearly makes life enjoyable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book 23 Feb 2013
By patrick brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Armstrong has written a very thoughtful and clear analysis of the personal response to art, one I have used repeatedly in my own teaching. His knowledge is both wide and deep and his insights are original and gave me something to think about long after reading the book.
17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but don't push the ideas too far 19 Oct 2000
By Orrin C. Judd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The general task of this book [is] to elaborate the style of attention which works of art solicit. The cultivation of such a style is of importance because it is in the quality of our engagement that the human worth of art is apparent--art matters in virtue of the kind of experience it invites the spectator into. There is no access to art except in private--in looking, thinking, feeling as we stand before an individual work. Cultivation requires that we draw upon our own resources of sensitivity, reverie and contemplation, our capacity to invest our ideals and interests in the process of looking. Without these we can only know about art as detached observers who look on without being able to participate (like seeing people share a joke others don't quite catch). -John Armstrong, Move Closer
John Armstrong, director of the Aesthetic Programme of the School for Advanced Study at the University of London, is concerned here with "our private, individual response to particular works of art." He delineates the various techniques that we use when we approach art and how we use them to appreciate what we are seeing. The book is short, eminently readable and contains sumptuous illustrations which he uses to good effect in making his points. But the points he's making all deal, as his subtitle suggests, with internal reactions and personal likes and dislikes. This is fine up to a point, but there does come a point where this kind of intensely individualistic approach really abandons the idea of art and particularly of great art.
Obviously there are personal reasons why one individual likes Rembrandt best and another likes Michelangelo. Framed in this context, such preferences are not all that significant--who is to say ultimately which is the better artist ? Does the attempt to differentiate even make a whole lot of sense? But carried to it's logical extreme, and it breaks down long before the extreme, the idea that there is much significance to each individual's unique interaction with artwork undermines the concept of art itself. Given the 5 billion people on the planet, it is entirely possible that there's at least one person who will like just about anything that someone puts down on paper. The salient question is : does the fact that someone reacts favorably to it make it art? I would argue that it does not. Armstrong uses the metaphor in the quote above of "seeing people share a joke others don't quite catch." But an emphasis on individual reaction eventually leads to just such a situation, one where we are all incapable of detachment and only react to those jokes (or paintings) which appeal uniquely to us. Then art ceases to be capable of communicating ideas; it is reduced instead to appealing to viewers' emotions. At another point armstrong compares the affection that we develop for certain works of art to the way we develop love for another person, but someone loved Hitler and someone loved Ted Bundy. What do those emotions have to do with the absolute value of the objects of the affection?
Great art, those works which we generally recognize as canonical, should not merely be attractive to a few, but accessible to and appreciated by the multitudes. Art should be universal, not individual, and should prompt a general reaction in most of us, not in an elite or in a handful of folks. There are two excellent books by Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word (1975) & From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)(Tom Wolfe 1931-) (Grade: A+), and one by Jamie James, The Music of the Spheres : Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe (1995)(Jamie James), which together explain how art, which was once held to objective standards of beauty, became so subjective over the past century or two. Mr. Armstrong's book is an entertaining and instructive guide to some of the ways that we process what we see when we look at art and how certain works come to be our particular favorites, but for a compelling vision of how art should be judged in general and of the shortcomings of the modern individualistic approach to art, try Wolfe and James.
GRADE : C
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