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Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

Nine of the most famous essays by one of the preeminent philosophers and art historians of the pre-modern world, both east and west. Coomaraswamy explores such subjects as the true function of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

This is worth more stars than five!

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) was really somebody. I've owned and eventually given away at least half a dozen copies of this book over the years. I mean, I tend to force it on people. It changed my life. The writer I'd compare him to, perhaps weirdly, is Joseph Conrad - if the young Conrad had, instead of going to sea, run away to join a museum and become an art historian, curator, philosopher and intellectual bridge between worlds. Certainly both men have a similar way of making you pay attention to every single word, and - this is so rare - repaying that attention with insight, not only into what the author means by what he's saying, but what he's actually talking about ie. the subject under discussion. In a novelist this is a great thing, but in a historian of thought, art, mythology, metaphysics etc. it's almost miraculous. He spent his life explaining what we look at when we look at art - and why art matters, what it's for. Every sentence that he wrote was written to assist. And these good intentions are almost tangible.In 1975, I dropped out of architecture and wandered off to become a poet, to the despair of my family and the amusement of my friends. At first this mostly just involved smoking pot and waiting for something to happen. Then I found this book. Just the footnotes are a virtual study guide to the wisdom of the world. Plato and Shankara, Aquinas and Eckhart and Plotinus and the Upanishads etc. It was all new to me back then, this book my door. It was like my Yoda. It taught me how to read and think and start to know things for myself, and find the next book too, and the book after that. It also, and this was so important, helped me understand (in a way that didn't fall apart the first time someone called me on it) why art of any kind is not only worth doing, but doing well, the best you can. I love this book.If you're interested in art (in any form, not just pictures on a wall) you will be interested in what he has to say. You might not accept all of his argument, but in the process you'll have thought harder and more clearly about where you stand than you ever normally get the chance to. And you'll learn things you didn't know. Because in this little book, as in all his work, Coomaraswamy is trying to pass on a vast and ancient and fruitful tradition in the best way that he can. And I'm grateful to him for having tried so hard, and succeeded so well. I mean, it's just a bunch of essays, but hey - go for the paperback. It's cheap and well made (by Dover, a company that knows how to bind books) and you just might like it.

How to understand a traditional work of art

Definitely one of the most accessible works by A.K. Coomaraswamy and a good introduction to his oeuvre, of which the present book is somehow the sinthesis. Themes such as the meaning of art in its universality, the relationship between beauty and truth, and utility of art are developped to their maximum extent. The strenght of the thesis of the author, the almost perfect rigour of his analisys, the impressive richness of documentation provided, are such as to strike one's knowledge on the matter to the point of being able to change reader's relationship to the present reality.
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