The art of healing, the visual arts, and the clinical perspective

On April 25th, 2018, a visual artist, a surgeon and an art historian discussed the relation between viewing and art, the art of healing and the visual arts, and how the clinical perspective is shared by the humanities, medical sciences and artists.

Viewing as an art

What is the impact of illness on the way how we perceive the world around us? What is it like, when you are a patient, to literally and figuratively be subjected to a clinical perspective? What perspectives on health and illness dominate in art history? Briefly put: what can the artist, the medical expert and the humanities scholar teach each other about the role of looking, viewing, and perspective in a human life - both as part of being healthy, as well as being ill?

Whether we consider the visual arts, art history, or the art of performing medicine: viewing, looking and interpreting is a valuable skill for all these arts. Artists translate their unique perspective on the world in shapes, colours and compositions, with which they show their audience how they interpret the world. Subsequently, art historians and cultural scholars sharpen our perspective in understanding art and culture. In much the same way, doctors need to view and interpret the world carefully and with eye for detail: they have to read body language, understand subtle signals, and discover patterns in descriptions of often difficult symptoms. The artist, art historian and the doctor, therefore, are all experts in 'interpreting at a glance'.