What is the purpose of art.

What is the purpose of art?  How can we use art in society today?  I want to introduce to you a different way of looking at art  that makes its purpose practical and relevant to you, personally. You can use  looking at paintings/artworks to help you in your daily life.

Looking at art can motivate and inspire you –  helping you  to develop your personal growth and increase your happiness and well-being.

This is the first part in a series to help you to do just that.

My background is in art and design history and most of my working life has been involved with  design.  In later years, after a lifetime of independent study of psychology and personal development, I qualified as a life coach and then a positive psychology practitioner.

I enjoy my work the most when I can combine all of my interests and skills to help others. I started to look at art from a positive psychology viewpoint.

Art Therapy

Art therapy has become established as a means of helping vulnerable groups to express themselves and use the creation of art as a route to healing.   We are not talking about that here.

Here, I am saying that simply engaging with art can help you to flourish.

Studies show a definite link between mental well-being and engagement in culture.   One study found that the stress levels of office workers dropped 10 times quicker than it would normally do – after just 15minutes in an art gallery.

There is even evidence that by regularly attending a museum or art gallery you can increase longevity!

Covid 19

At the moment, in the UK and around the world we may not be able to visit art galleries but we will.  Until then, you can visit virtually and, anyway,  for my purposes today –  just looking at an image online will be enough.

On my You-tube channel, Happy stuff and fluff, this week, I included one of my all time favourite winter scenes paintings and  used it to talk about a Positive psychology exercise –   savouring.  You can click the link at the end of the blog to watch.

In order to learn to savour you need to practice ‘being in the moment’ observing what you see right here, right now. For this we can look to the Impressionists for help.

The Japanese footbridge (1899) – Claude Monet  (1840-1926)

(original National Gallery of art)


I have chosen this painting by Claude Monet, I could have chosen any of the Impressionist’s works.


The Impressionist painters painted outside exploring the French countryside, studying the changing effects of the seasons. They painted their work using loose and quickly applied brushwork to try to show us the effects of light.

Some artists painted exactly the same scene at different times of day to capture the light at different times. Monet, himself, painted this view of the bridge and pond twelve times trying to capture the light dappling on its surface.

The Impressionists observed nature the way it was at that very moment.  Capturing that moment, at that place.

Look closely at Monet’s footbridge.

Do you think it is beautiful?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you do, right now as you look at it a response is being triggered in a part of your brain called the  – Orbitofrontal cortex – the very same part of your brain associated with PLEASURE. Who knew?

Already positive emotions are flooding your system.

What colours do you see? – the cool blue of the bridge, or the green of the trees and bushes with just a hint of yellow? The pink and white of the lilies serenely floating on the water? Do you see the reflection of the bushes in the water?

 Now, for a second immerse yourself in Monet’s lush garden, you are right  there about to walk over that bridge – what can you smell, hear, touch, see?  How do you feel?

Looking at art forces you to be in the present moment and I believe that is why the stress levels of the office workers above fell so quickly.

Practice looking at paintings  like this or take another look at your favourite painting and use all your senses to look.

Look like an Impressionist

Then,  in your ‘real life’ when you go out walking in nature – just like the  Impressionists, practice being in the moment observing and noticing everything around you without trying to label or name what you see.

Use all of your senses to experience and capture that moment at that place.  Maybe even go back to the same spot at a another time of day and see the difference.

I hope you find that useful.  This is the beginning of a  conversation about how to look at art to practice being in the moment and reduce stress.                                                                                                              There are many ways to use it to help to increase your happiness and wellbeing.  Watch out for more in the series.

Here is the link to the Happy stuff and fluff video –THE ART OF SAVOURING

But before you go to watch it – in the comments box below please tell me – what is your favourite painting?  I would love to know.