Book Review: Visual Intelligence

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper".
Author Unknown.

This quote, on the title page of the book, Visual Intelligence by Amy Herman, sums up the content and purpose of the book. The author believes that everyone has the innate ability she calls "visual intelligence". Visual Intelligence is the process of looking, understanding and responding to the world around us.

The book is a distillation of the course, The Art of Perception, which the author created in 2000 using artwork in the Frick Collection.
The book offers a series of exercises, based on looking closely at works of art, to assist the reader in discovering and improving their own visual Intelligence. The book contains many pictures of works of art which, unfortunately, are too small to show the details needed for the exercises. Readers will find it easier to complete the exercises using larger format versions of the works of art.

The book offers not only a philosophical discussion on looking at art but also the 4-As: Access, Analyze, Articulate and Adapt. These concepts assist us in looking harder, thinking better, communicating more clearly and understanding ourselves.

Why does this matter? Why should we care if we can observe and describe the lace detail in an 18th century portrait? The author offers evidence that the ability to accurately observe details in a work of art is a transfer skill that we can adapt and use in all areas of our lives. She offers fascinating examples of how crimes have been solved, corporate profits improved and patient care is improved. The skills contained in this book can help us discover our talents, identify other opportunities and even make us safer.

In additional to benefits in our personal lives, those who work with visitors at museums will find the tools helpful in assessing visitor needs. The book will also provide docents with practical tools to offer visitors a more meaningful and more personal experience with art work.

About the Author
Amy E. Herman is a lawyer and art historian who created the Art of Perception course. This course has enabled professionals in many fields to improve their observations and communication skills. She holds an AB, a JD and an MA in Art History. She currently lives in New York.
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-544-38105-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Submitted by Merrilee Anneberg, Jennifer Fowler and Dorothy Jaltuch, docents at the Denver Art Museum.

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