Discovering Art & Consciousness:

How To Look At Art

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci:

Our museums and galleries are filled with works of art that barely scratch the surface of our attention as we move from image to image. But great art tells a story, a story that tells us there is more than meets the eye.

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci, is arguably the most famous painting in the world, an image that has lured visitors year in year out. But it is difficult for us today to look at a painting such as this with fresh eyes. It is an image we have seen a million times over, emblazoned on every commercial product you can think of. The millions of eyes that visit her in The Louvre, Paris, each year, spend just an average of just fifteen seconds in her gaze before moving on to the next object. But to the renaissance eye, this image was alive and present. Is this why this painting has attracted such mystery and attention over the years? Looking at art for longer, with a different quality of attention, allows the image and your experience to become participatory rather than static, and where the work of art changes from a dead object to be analysed to something living and dynamic. But how do we do this, and what are your thoughts and responses to Mona Lisa?

Share your views about this work of art in our private facebook group. To join see details below.

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Slowing down and really taking time to engage with a work of art, gives you a chance to pause, absorb, reflect and appreciate in depth one great work of art at a time in the comfort of your own home. Broadening perceptions of art, beyond rational analysis, categories and styles, has proven to lower stress levels, increase creativity and effective action in the world. Art is for the senses, intellect and soul, and has the capacity open ways of knowing and seeing that have been lost or forgotten in our post modern age. 

"Mary does not ‘teach’ as such;  she introduces a painting (or an artist, or an idea) and then enters a process of mutual discovery as a co-explorer." Ms Veronica Bennetts 

Today, almost everyone has heard of the positive effects of yoga and meditation. But neuroscience and ancient teachings tell us that deep observation and appreciation of art is transformative for intellectual, emotional and spiritual awareness individually, societally and globally. It is even more vitally important for us today in our challenging times.

Through my experience of studying, researching and teaching traditional Art History I was always intrigued by the world and stories that art opened up. But I sensed something was missing, something that we had lost. The 'looking at art from a distance' approach meant that it remained as an object; devitalised and dead, something there for our inspection and criticism. But art, images, have a vitality. They are, as psychiatrist and thinker, Dr Iain McGilchrist writes, “more like people, living beings than objects”.

Art was never supposed to be interpreted only literally. This is a relatively recent inherited view. Art opened different ways of seeing and knowing that enabled us to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. Today, our times call for us to re-establish this vital and half- forgotten connection. Without it, we act half- hearted, lop-sided in our thinking, disembodied from ourselves and from the senses, imagination and heart.

Here is what you will receive:

We do not want to lose or dismiss historical fact and information altogether; these provide a solid foundation for getting to know a work of art better.  Instead facts can be re-woven back into the broader context of the senses, imaginative,  emotional and spiritual responses, philosophical insight, and where metaphor, myth and meaning allow us to see the bigger picture as well as appreciate the beauty or detail of what is before us.

As a member, here is what you receive with each Image:

  • 1 x work of art with a written description – per week or month
  • An audio description of the work of art
  • Access to the exclusive Facebook discussion group where you can share ideas and thoughts with like-minded enthusiasts

View an example:

Here is an example of what you will receive on a weekly or monthly basis. Each image is sent out to you via email and will include your description. There will be a button to listen to the audio description and a direct link into the exclusive Facebook discussion group. I will be in the group answering all of your questions and joining in on the discussion. This is a great opportunity to share ideas and thoughts. 

Mona Lisa
Painting by Leonardo da Vinci

Click to read:

It is difficult to look at a painting such as Mona Lisa with fresh eyes. It is an image we have seen a million times over, emblazoned on every commercial product you can think of. But to the Renaissance eye, this image was alive and present. Vasari wrote of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, "...whoever wished to see how nearly art is able to imitate nature, was readily able to perceive it from this head; for here Leonardo subtly reproduced every living detail. The eyes had their natural lustre and moistness…the nose with its beautiful nostrils, rosy and tender, seems to be alive...the mouth, joined to the flesh-tints of the face by the red of the lips, appeared to be living flesh rather than paint. On looking closely at the pit of her throat, one could swear the pulses were beating.” But with the millions of eyes that visit her room in The Louvre, Paris, an average of just fifteen seconds is spent in her gaze before moving on to the next object. Art is not merely an object to be glanced at or ticked off a checklist. Looking at this painting in the way Vasari described becomes participatory and dynamic rather than a static object to be analysed.

Simply choose your delivery option:

Four per month: £4.99

  • 4 x works of art to download
  • 4 x written descriptions to download
  • 4 x audio descriptions of the work of art to download
  • Access to the exclusive Facebook discussion group where you can share ideas and thoughts with like-minded enthusiasts

One per month: £1.99

  • 1 x works of art to download
  • 1 x written descriptions to download
  • 1 x audio descriptions of the work of art to download
  • Access to the exclusive Facebook discussion group where you can share ideas and thoughts with like-minded enthusiasts

Mary is clearly a teacher and communicator of the highest calibre.”

Dr Simon Wilson

Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

Mary Attwood BA (hons) MA

Mary Attwood is an art historian, author, lecturer and teacher and was the founding Chairman of the Victoria branch of The Arts Society, London, a membership charity dedicated to enriching peoples’ lives through the arts. She is also a qualified teacher in lifelong learning and a Yoga Alliance registered yoga, meditation and mindfulness teacher.  She has also worked as creator, producer, publicist and script writer for her own production company and created an award winning line of wellness DVDs, training courses and has ghost written two books published by Watkins. 

Mary holds an MA with distinction in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred where her thesis, Rebirthing a Lost Vision of Renaissance Art, researched different epistemologies of art and images from a broad context of ancient Greek philosophy, the neuroscientific approach of Dr Iain McGilchrist’s groundbreaking research on the difference of attention of left and right hemispheres of the brain, archetypal psychology of Drs C.G. Jung and J. Hillman and Renaissance artistic approaches. This is currently being transcribed into a book. She also holds a BA honours degree in the History of Art, University of London, where her studies focused on Italian late Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture.