Bjarne Sode Funch

Bjarne Sode Funch

Adjungeret professor

Bjarne Sode Funch is an Associate Professor in psychological aesthetics at Roskilde University and an Honorary Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is also a Senior Researcher at the Esbjerg Art Museum. For the academic year 2015-2016 he was a Templeton Fellow at Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Notre Dame, USA. His scholarly interests are in the areas of psychological aesthetics, phenomenology, and existential psychology. Much of his research is dedicated to curatorial and educational programs at art museums.

His book The Psychology of Art Appreciation (1997) is one of the most comprehensive studies of how different schools of psychological thought have concerned themselves with the topic of art, from the time of Gustav T. Fechner’s ground-breaking approach to formal beauty in the 19th century until recent works by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book also offers a new existential-phenomenological theory of art appreciation. Funch proposes that an aesthetic experience as a transcendent phenomenon provides an emotion with a distinct form, concluding that art is a supreme option for constituting fleeting emotions caused by previous or current existential circumstances. This emotional constitution contributes to existential well-being.

His monograph Matissekapellet: Et jordisk paradis (2010) [The Matisse Chapel: An Earthly Paradise], which is only published in Danish, is about the French painter Henri Matisse and his work on a small chapel, Chapelle du Rosaire des Dominicaines de Vence, in the south of France. With a focus on four major works of art, it is demonstrated how Matisse brings his own artistic force into play with Christian ideas of paradise, purity, love, and suffering. It is argued that Matisse’s work on the Vence Chapel is not only a major work of art, but it also contributes significantly to contemporary conceptions of Christianity. The book is being translated into English.

His most recent book The Psychology of Artistic Creativity: An Existential-Phenomenological Study (2022) provides a unique insight into artistic creativity and lays the foundation for a new theory. Through a review of documents such as essays, published interviews, lecture notes, and more, the book uses case studies of six contemporary artists to provide a detailed phenomenological study of artistic creativity. The book offers a narrative account of six contemporary artists and their ways of approaching art-making. Through comprehensive accounts based on the individual artist’s descriptions, the book reveals an existential dimension of art-making that explores the inspirational moment, the state of mind during creativity, how creativity can originate in a spontaneous stream of consciousness and how emotions play a major role in the creative process. The book sets out a unique understanding of artistic creativity as an alternative to the prevailing cognitive conceptions within psychology.

Bjarne S. Funch has written a great number of articles and other scholarly writings on art appreciation and art’s importance for emotional and existential integrity, as well as articles about the ethics of confrontational drama in museums, the phenomenological method in museum studies, silence as an existential utopia, and many other topics. He is currently participating in a research project on “The Nature of the Aesthetic Experience” at the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, and research projects on art curatorial studies at the Esbjerg Art Museum. He participates in research networks on existential-phenomenology, interdisciplinary aesthetics, and museum studies, and is a member of the American Society for Aesthetics, International Council of Museums, European Society for Aesthetics, American Psychological Association, British Society of Aesthetics, and Society for Existential-Phenomenology.

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