AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. December 1999, Volume 1, Number 4.

Images of Healing and Learning

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Pieter Brueghel's Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap

Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap, by 16th century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel, shows how art and visual images have long been used to promote the healing process.

Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69), Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap, 1565. Oil. 38 x 56 cm. Wiltshire, Wilton House. (Available at:

Art and visual images have long been used to promote healing processes. Research has shown that certain works of art can positively affect patients' clinical outcomes. Representations of nature—for example, a picture of a pond surrounded by trees—can have beneficial effects, whereas abstract artworks, those open to a variety of conceptual interpretations, appear to be less therapeutic in a hospital or nursing-home setting.


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The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.