In the face of a great work of art, we so often stand mute, struck dumb. Is this a function — perhaps the first and foremost — of aesthetic experience? Or do we lack the words to say what we feel? Countering current assumptions that art is valued only according to taste or ideology, Peter de Bolla gives a voice — and vocabulary — to the wonder art can inspire. Working toward a better understanding of what it is to be profoundly moved by a work of art, he forces us to reconsider the importance of art works and the singular nature and value of our experience of them.
In many ways a “practical aesthetics,” Art Matters proceeds by way of example. Through chapters attending to three works of art — Barnett Newman’s painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis, pianist Glenn Gould’s second recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and William Wordsworth’s poem “We Are Seven” — de Bolla plots a personal history of aesthetic experience that opens up the general forms of art appreciation. His book invites us to a closer encounter with art, and to a deeper appreciation and clearer expression of what such an encounter might hold.
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