Cover of How Pictures Complete Us by Paul Crowther
How Pictures Complete Us
The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Divine
Paul Crowther


192 pages.
from $25.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804795739
Paperback ISBN: 9780804798464
Ebook ISBN: 9780804798587

Request Review/Desk/Examination Copy


Excerpts and More

Despite the wonders of the digital world, people still go in record numbers to view drawings and paintings in galleries. Why? What is the magic that pictures work on us? This book provides a provocative explanation, arguing that some pictures have special kinds of beauty and sublimity that offer aesthetic transcendence. They take us imaginatively beyond our finite limits and even invoke a sense of the divine. Such aesthetic transcendence forges a relationship with the ultimate and completes us psychologically. Philosophers and theologians sometimes account for this as an effect of art, but How Pictures Complete Us distinguishes itself by revealing how this experience is embodied in pictorial structures and styles. Through detailed discussions of artworks from the Renaissance through postmodern times, Paul Crowther reappraises the entire scope of beauty and the sublime in the context of both representational and abstract art, offering unexpected insights into familiar phenomena such as ideal beauty, pictorial perspective, and what pictures are in the first place.

About the author

Paul Crowther is Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His many books include Phenomenology of the Visual Arts (even the frame) (Stanford, 2009).

"Paul Crowther's vital contribution to the burgeoning field of theological aesthetics analyzes what exactly the experience of transcendence is and how it takes place through the mediation of visual art. At once a complement and a challenge to contemporary scholarship, his book is a must-read for anyone attempting to understand the visual arts as a humanizing endeavor."

—Sandra Lynne Shapshay, Indiana University Bloomington

"Bold, original, speculative, and striking a good balance between analytical clarity and phenomenological perceptiveness, this book sets forth an important and exhilarating idea that it explores in a philosophically sophisticated manner."

—Richard Viladesau, Fordham University

"[U]nlike other aesthetic studies, How Pictures Complete Us looks carefully at a range of specific artists. Crowther's approach is out welcome because he focuses on what artists do....[A] rich study of aesthetics and the divine."

—Ben Schachter, Religion and the Arts