Armstrong, John 1966-
ARMSTRONG, John 1966-
Office—University of Melbourne, Department of Philosophy, Old Quad, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3010.
Art dealer. University of London, London, England, director of aesthetics program; Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, director of Centre for Public Philosophy; University of Melbourne, senior research fellow in philosophy.
Looking at Pictures: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art, Duckworth (London, England), 1996.
Move Closer: An Intimate Philosophy of Art, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.
Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2003.
John Armstrong works as an art dealer, a scholar, and a writer. His research interests include aesthetics and philosophy of the emotions. Armstrong's first book is Looking at Pictures: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art. In this work he discusses what makes art valuable and why one should take time to appreciate and care about it. Robert Hopkins, in the British Journal of Aesthetics, called the book "elegant, imaginative, sensible, and sometimes thought-provoking." He continued, "The questions Armstrong has chosen to tackle are terribly difficult ones. To make any progress with them while staying true to the goal of addressing the lay reader is an achievement, and one for which Armstrong deserves admiration." A critic for the Times Educational Supplement stated that Looking at Pictures "should be in the portfolio of any student, amateur or professional: the language may be simple, and blessedly jargon free, but the ideas and vision embodied in the pithy book will serve a life-time of looking."
Armstrong's next work is Move Closer: An Intimate Philosophy of Art. This book focuses on the viewer's relationship with art. Here Armstrong encourages the reader to develop a personal relationship with that which they are viewing, instead of worrying about searching for an objective meaning. He focuses on the concepts of affection, information, resources, reverie, contemplation, and investment when looking at art, and applies them to a number of different works created throughout the centuries. D. Topper in his review for Choice wrote that Armstrong "not only offers his personal views of the works but presents insightful analysis of them, proffering provocative theses that usually ring true." Steven Martinovich, writing for Enter Stage Right Online, found fault in the book, stating: "By arguing that art is largely a subjective experience, Armstrong undercuts any notion that it is the communication of concepts that is the root of great art." A reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review found Move Closer to be "pleasant enough, but it seems caught between lay and scholarly audiences." However, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, in Spirituality and Health, dubbed the book "a user-friendly resource for anyone who wants to move beyond just staring at a work of art."
In his next work, published in 2003, Armstrong exchanges a focus on art for the issues surrounding love. Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy looks at our fascination with love, particularly the beginning romantic stages, and stresses the importance of moving past the short-lived infatuation stage of love and forming deeper, more-lasting connections. Armstrong drew heavily from his own experiences with love to write the book, particularly his relationship with his wife. He also draws from a number of literary sources including Goethe, Dante, Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine, and Jane Austen. Terry Skeats of Library Journal called the work "a very charming and thoughtful little book on the topic of love." Skeats added, "His writing style is clear, precise, and open and his references well chosen." Rochelle Gurstein, writing in the Washington Post, felt differently, noting that Armstrong's "eclectic approach—twenty-two extremely brief chapters that move back and forth between philosophy and psychoanalysis, with hasty glances at novels, poems and paintings—sheds little light on why the pursuit of love in the modern age has proven so treacherous." Neil Levy, in Australian Book Review did not agree with some of Armstrong's conclusions, but stated: "That Armstrong's culminating vision of love is disappointing does not detract from the many insights and new vistas he opens up for us on his tour."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Book Review, June, 2002, Neil Levy, "Facets of Love," p. 49.
British Journal of Aesthetics, July, 1998, Robert Hopkins, review of Looking at Pictures: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art, p. 343.
Choice, March, 2001, D. Topper, review of Move Closer: An Intimate Philosophy of Art, p. 1252.
Library Journal, September 15, 2000, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Move Closer, p. 81; May 1, 2003, Terry Skeats, review of Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2000, review of Move Closer, p. 185.
Times Educational Supplement, January 3, 1997, "Picture It like This," p. 23.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 2001, review of Move Closer, p. 50.
Enter Stage Right,http://www.enterstageright.com/ (October 22, 2003), Steven Martinovich, review of Move Closer.
SMH,http://www.smh.com.au/ (February 16, 2004), Catherine Keenan, "In Love for the Long Haul."
Spirituality and Health Web site,http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ (October 22, 2003), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Move Closer.
Washington Post Online,http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (October 22, 2003), Rochelle Gurstein, "Is That All There Is?"*