Office workers who would normally step into a pub or gym to cope with the stress of a working day are being invited instead to sit in front of a painting.
Manchester Art Gallery has recruited two of the country’s leading experts in stress management to choose pictures that are guaranteed to leave even the most frantic feeling at ease with the world. They have created the “tranquility tour” which allows city-centre workers to spend their lunch hour taking a soothing tour of what are described as “some of the most relaxing and inspiring paintings ever committed to canvas”. The free tour takes the visitor through several centuries of painting, from the Victorian aesthetic movement. through the PreRaphaelite school, to modern abstract an.
Kim Gowland, a gallery executive. said: “Looking at art is a stress-relieving activity. What we are trying to do is encourage people who work in the city to spend half an hour of their lunch break in the gallery, to chill out rather than rush around the shops.”
The five works chosen by Andrew Loukes. the gallery’s manager, are: John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s The Waters of Lethe (1880), Turner’s Thomson’s Aeolian Harp (1809), Sir John Everett Millais’s Autumn Leaves (1856), James Durden’s Summer in Cumberland (1925) and Bridget Riley’s Zephyr (1976).
Mr. Loukes said: “We chose five pictures that suggest restfulness. We also wanted to display the breadth of the collection. We are particularly strong in early-19th and early-20th-century British art.”
Their therapeutic powers have been endorsed by Olga Gregson and Terry Looker from the Department of Biological Sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University. Dr. Gregson said that “research shows that stress levels have reduced and moods changed for the better” when subjects looked at paintings.
“Although art appreciation is very much a matter of personal choice, it is true that some works of art appeal to almost everyone, and that some paintings have qualities that can induce relaxation in most people.”Dr. Gregson said. “Great painters such as Leonardo da Vinci were masters of techniques that could evoke particular responses in the viewer.”
Dr. Gregson said the gallery represented an “oasis of calm”. “You have got this wonderful opportunity to evoke a different kind of psychophysiological response.”