Art and Spiritual Experience: Exploring the Romantic Period

Dr David M. Greenwood

During the past few years there has been an increasing interest in the rise of spirituality alongside the decline in church attendance and loss of interest in formal worship.

In this original book David Greenwood explores how works of art (especially landscapes) can trigger religious and spiritual experience, and offer artistic windows into transcendence.

This interdisciplinary study begins by setting the philosophical background, starting with the reawakening of the discipline of aesthetics, and the development of Idealism in Germany by Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schelling. It is these movements that led to recognition of landscape painting as fine art.  

Greenwood argues that artists can express their view of transcendence through their landscape images. These landscape images can induce spiritual experiences within some viewers and can be used by others as aids to religious devotion. Some landscape images can even be regarded as sacred.

Greenwood draws on the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Rudolph Otto to illuminate discussion of spiritual and religious experience and the triggers that stimulate such experience. The works of a number of artists have been considered in this study but special emphasis is given to Samuel Palmer in Britain and his contemporary, Caspar David Friedrich in Germany

David Greenwood holds degrees in engineering and theology and achieved his doctorate with a multidisciplinary study involving art history, philosophy and theology.  This unusual background in both science and the arts enables Greenwood to write with both lucidity and coherence.

This work should have a special appeal for readers interested in the relationship between art and religion, especially those concerned with novel approaches to the numinous, including artists, clergy, and students of secular spiritualities.  It is concerned with the interconnections between art history, spirituality, philosophy, mysticism and theology.  Questions which are often left unexamined when these disciplines are accessed individually are here subjected to interdisciplinary enquiry, bringing the study of spiritual experience to a level not often probed.

David Greenwood is Vice-Chair and Treasurer at the Alister Hardy Trust (Supporting research into religious and spiritual experience) University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter.

978 085244 925 7                                      250 pages                                    £15.99

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