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Art Matters

Art Matters

Peter de Bolla

ISBN 9780674011106

Publication date: 03/30/2003

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.


  • Peter de Bolla's book is a series of meditations on certain works of art ("fragments from an aesthetic education"). He writes with originality and his prose is notable for its clarity--the matter is too serious to be spoiled by false rhetorical flourishes. The subtlety and honesty of his book is extremely impressive; his success may be, as he himself remarks, "hard won," but to the reader the book is a source of unmixed pleasure.

    —Sir Frank Kermode


  • Peter de Bolla is Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and author of Harold Bloom: Towards Historical Rhetorics and The Discourse of the Sublime.

Book Details

  • 190 pages
  • 5-3/8 x 8-1/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press