Richard Wollheim on the Art of Painting: Art As Representation and Expression edited by Rob Van Gerwen, response by Richard Wollheim (Cambridge University Press) This critical collection of essays about the attempt by Wollheim to reinvent how we talk about painting as art should give pause and both puzzle and delight a plethora of readers. Given the high level of international recognition that Wollheim's work has enjoyed for many years, this book will be eagerly sought out by all serious students of the theory of art, whether in departments of philosophy or art history.
is one of the dominant figures in the philosophy of art, whose work has shown
not only how paintings create their effects but why they remain important to us.
His influential writings have focused on two core, interrelated questions: How
do paintings depict? How do they express feelings?
In this collection of new essays, a group of distinguished thinkers in the fields of art history and philosophical aesthetics offers a critical assessment of Wollheim's theory of art. Among the themes under discussion are Wollheim's explanation of pictorial representation in terms of seeing-in, his views of artistic expression as a type of complex projection, and his notion of the internal spectator. In the final essay, Wollheim himself responds to the contributors.
Editors summary: To sum up, the following are among the
most important concepts that Richard Wollheim has contributed to our aesthetic
understanding of the evaluative and descriptive appreciation of the art of
painting. Seeing-in is a twofold, perceptual attention both to the
surface which (hopefully) is painted in an individual style, and to a subject
that can be seen in it. Recognizing a work's expression involves a projection of
mental properties with a personal history on our behalf depending on an affinity
between that personal history and the very same individual style the subject is
painted with. In general, what we need, according to Wollheim, is an
art‑critical approach of art, a "Criticism as Retrieval" which
answers to the many notions of correctness I have just alluded to. With
Wollheim, this is no mere academicism. Whoever studies Wollheim's texts will
soon find out that critical conclusions reached too hastily can seriously damage
one's insights. One who takes this theory to heart finds himself or herself
forced to look afresh at paintings, and this time more critically and with a
better eye for art's psychological origins. It is therefore no coincidence that
among the authors in the present volume we find philosophers as well as art
For all the contributions in the present book, it will be
helpful to sketch the main arguments, without (of course) offering any judgement
on their soundness. Wollheim's views of pictorial representation form the core
subject of six chapters, and we begin with Wollheim's own recently elaborated
defense of them. In Chapter 1, Wollheim discusses three demands on theories of
pictorial representation. He argues, first, that if a picture depicts, then a
suitable experience can establish what is depicted in it. Second, a suitable
spectator will have such suitable experiences. Third, the spectator must have
the suitable capacities or be able to acquire them, and these capacities concern
the visual experience of the depicted. With these demands in hand, Wollheim
addresses (and dispatches) the subtle theories of depiction of Christopher
Peacocke and Malcolm Budd, who understand depiction and our recognition of
pictures in terms of the experienced resemblance between the structures or,
respectively, shapes, of visual fields of a picture and its real‑life
subject. Wollheim's main argument against this view is that there need not be a
separate experience of the two visual fields resembling one another, just as
there needn't be an experience of the real‑life subject, for a picture to
be recognized as picturing what it depicts. Thus, the demands this 'theory of
experienced resemblance puts on our perception of pictures do not meet
Wollheim's first, minimal requirement that there be a suitable experience.
The next chapter is by Jerrold Levinson, one of the two
contributors who had ready access to Wollheim's present text (the other being
Susan Feagin). Levinson finds himself in much agreement with Wollheim's present
views, but poses several questions concerning Wollheim's account of
seeing‑in. He doubts whether the experience of seeing‑in has a
uniform nature in all the relevant cases. For instance, Levinson argues,
imagination is implied in a different way in the experience of seeing columns in
a painting, in contrast to seeing "[ . . . ] them as having been thrown
down some hundreds of years ago by barbarians" (Wollheim, this volume, 24).
Andrew Harrison, in Chapter 3, urges that the twofoldness of representational
perception does not fit well with the strict division Wollheim proposes between
pictorial and descriptive representation, because as is the case with linguistic
understanding, we start our understanding of pictures from principles (a
"pictorial syntax") which guide the production of a picture from the
basic elements an artist starts out with. These basic elements are in themselves
non‑pictorial combinations of colours and forms, what Harrison calls the
"pictorial mesh." If this is correct, as Harrison thinks, the strict
division should be abandoned, not the twofoldness. In Chapter 4, Monique Roelofs
disputes Wollheim's idea that seeing‑in should be treated as a primitive
type of perception. She thinks seeing‑in can and should be further
analysed. Roelofs proposes to view seeing‑in as a process of advancing and
testing hypotheses concerning what we see before us. Among other things, she
sees an answer in this to the question of the role of background knowledge in
our appreciation of works of art. Chapter 5 is dedicated to the question of
art's beginning and continuation. Anthony Savile argues here that the
development of art over time can best be understood as motivated by the idea of
wanting to pass on taste and artistic values. This theory, Savile thinks, is
compatible with Wollheim's ideas on individual style and its psychological
reality. But what about Wollheim's thesis that art works need not be motivated
by the wish to communicate? For Savile, Wollheim cannot make sense of the idea
of communication, because he takes the artist as producing his work for unknown,
hypothetical spectators. Against this position, Savile urges that any artist's
aimed for spectator isn't as unspecified as Wollheim has it.
Because Wollheim thinks of seeing‑in as a perceptual
capacity, he doesn't see a role in it for imagination. (Only when there is an
internal spectator in some painting is the imagination activated to assist in
the perceptual process). But one can see that the following is neutral as to
this issue: seeing‑in ". . . allows us to have perceptual experiences
of things that are not present to the senses" (A02 217). Obviously, only
those things that are represented in the picture present themselves to our
perception, and of these it remains to be seen whether or not they present
themselves to the imagination or ‑ more strictly ‑ to the senses.
Therefore, in the present volume, four authors Levinson, Crowther, Podro, and
van Gerwen ‑ disagree that Wollheim's characterization of seeing‑in
rules out imagination. Apart from Levinson, these authors do not necessarily
take imagination restrictedly as fantasy. In the sixth chapter on
representation, Paul Crowther investigates the role of imagination in our
twofold attending to pictures. He views the imagination as a basic function in
cognition in the transcendental sense which Kant ascribed to it: not as the
actual thinking up of fantasies, but as the often unconscious mental power that
is presupposed for experience, which puts before the mind image‑like
representants of things that are absent to the senses. In Wollheim's view, this
may be incorporated in visual perception, but Crowther thinks it is rewarding to
shuffle the distinctions in the way he does this, because this very
transcendental type of imagination, he thinks, is what is being objectified in
Wollheim's characterization of perception is challenged
from other angles, too. Thus, Malcolm Budd (Chapter 7) sees a problem with
Wollheim's account of expression as a kind of perception that corresponds to a
feeling one doesn't have. We see something in the picture, then become aware of
an affinity with some emotion, only then to reperceive the subject which is then
coloured by the emotion. Or do we first see the affinity, only to find that
there is no way to see the subject without the emotion with which it has an
affinity? What determines what? And, Budd asks, how does Wollheim account for
the correspondence between the thing perceived and the feeling not being had?
Concerning expression's relation with representation, Michael Podro (Chapter 8)
distinguishes three aspects in pictures that cannot be conceived of as
independent: the power of depicting a subject, the singularly specific and
complex coherence of a painting, and our experience of seeing the way the
painting is painted as loaded with expressiveness. Expressiveness derives from
the way something is rendered. Starting, like Wollheim, from a psychoanalytic
theory, Podro treats these three aspects in relation to how a child places a
transitional object between himself and his mother. The child projects onto such
a transitional object both his mother's and his own emotions, so as to repair
the separation he is experiencing. Podro perceives certain analogies with
expression, which introduce new subtleties into Wollheim's account.
In Chapter 9, Carolyn Wilde argues, via the case of forgery, that style forms the very basis of artistic value. She quotes Wollheim saying that "application of the concept of style to a work of art is a precondition of its aesthetic interest," and argues that individual style is the product of the artist's attention to a subject, which as such steers the beholder's attention to the right spots. A forger will use a style as a kind of matrix for his painting, whereas the painter applying his own style will use it as a way of perceiving the world in order to supplant that way of perceiving onto the picture plane. The authenticity of a picture and its expression is a function of the picture's individual style. Therefore, individual style is as important to understanding expression as it is to our understanding of depiction. Rob van Gerwen's (Chapter 10) approach to representational perception starts from the acknowledgement that a picture addresses only the perceptual modality of vision (while recognizing that vision is embodied). Seeing a horse in a picture implies an anticipation on the capability of recognizing such an animal's depicted visual characteristics if ever one were to be within the depicted reality. (The anticipation removes all talk of experienced resemblance from the analysis of depiction.) Thus, the perception of representation is characterized generally as an anticipation of some unimodal recognition. This general notion enables van Gerwen to understand the analogy of artistic expression to depiction, taking the difference between the two as that between the beholder's respective modalities of mind that are addressed. Pictorial representation is of the visual, whereas expression represents the experiential, and the latter's relevant perceptual modality is imagination. Therefore, according to van Gerwen, both depiction and expression function, similarly, as types of representation albeit with distinct types of subject matter. In Chapter 11, Graham McFee questions the combination of the projective nature of expressive properties with the realist undertone of Wollheim's approach. If expressive properties depend on the contribution of the beholder, how can they objectively be there in the work? Wollheim thinks that the perception of expression does not merely depend on the presence of an extra stock of knowledge, but rather on the ability to mobilize that extra cognitive stock in one's experience, to have it play a role in one's perception of the work. But if perceiving artistic expression becomes such an esoteric ability, then how can people still be educated aesthetically? Can people be taught to appreciate art? McFee offers a solution to Wollheim's difficulty by seeing what follows from the (obvious) "yes" answer.
In Part Three, the contributions which address the internal
spectator are collected. Art historian Svetlana Alpers (Chapter 12) takes a
close look at that other significant spectator, the artist, by analysing
Rembrandt's painting Bathsheba ‑ in particular, the artist's position
towards his own canvas. She disagrees with Wollheim that the crucial position
for the artist with regard to his own work is an upright stance frontally
opposed to it, which would as such be a stance available to every spectator. She
shows that the spectator of Bathsheba cannot quite take up the same position
Rembrandt held towards his painting. Two other contributors ‑ van Eck and
van de Vall ‑ propose to expand Wollheim's analysis of the internal
spectator in the direction of the external spectator. Caroline van Eck (Chapter
15) argues that Wollheim is too dismissive with regard to illusion, and that the
use of linear perspective can be understood as a rhetorical device that fulfils
the very conditions that, according to Wollheim, point to the presence of an
internal spectator. Consequentially, van Eck thinks that the phenomenon of the
internal spectator is more widespread than Wollheim thinks it is. Renee van de
Vail (Chapter 13) investigates the distinction between the external and the
internal spectator by developing the notion of staging. Installations stage
their spectators, luring them into the work so as to dissolve the very
separation between work and spectator and (so to speak) make the external
spectator an internal one. She then applies her insights to a painting by
Barnett Newman, showing how it lures one inside while itself entering the
beholder's space. Like van Eck and van de Vail, Susan Feagin (Chapter 14)
addresses the way a painting addresses its beholder. However, unlike them, she
does not loosen up Wollheim's sharp conviction of trompe l'oeil, but,
instead, defends it. She explains the difference between presentation and
representation by analysing the four characteristic differences between trompe
I'oeil and representation, and argues that although the former is not an
instance of the latter, it does lead us to applaud the technical powers of an
artist if only he uses them to empower his representation. Robert Hopkins
(Chapter 16) questions whether Wollheim really needs an internal spectator with
his own psychological repertoire on top of the already very rich phenomena of
seeing‑in and projection. This criticism becomes all the more pressing in
the light of the problem of whether or not external spectators are capable of
retrieving the internal spectator's
psychology. In Chapter 17, Michael Baxandall considers it
the task of the art critic to show the external spectator where to aim his
projections. He ‑ the critic ‑ must in this process maintain a
certain openness. He must point out the visual connections, but not the
psychological ones, which he must leave for the beholder to fill in. The last
word on each of these topics is left, as expected, for Richard Wollheim. In
Chapter 18, he has defences on offer, as well as further questions. The debate
is not over yet, far from it.
Painting as Art by Richard Wollheim (Princeton University Press) provides the first sustained discussion of the complex of perceptions, design, pigments, biography, social history, and lived experience that becomes the experience of a painting as a work of art. Wollheim is well conversant with the philosophical issues while bringing a depth and expertise to the appreciation of the art and craft of painting within both broad historical contexts and the minutiae of a particular artist and this unique painting. So that what he says about any painting becomes a phantasmagoria of informed facts and conjectures that is a marvel approaching Keats truth, beauty; beauty, truth. Wollheim's interpretations are intrepid corrections of received wisdom and well-argued virtuoso interpretations. His scientists appreciation of the subtle effects of perception blends well with an informed style; not an easy read, but one likely to educate ones sensibilities anew.
Art and Its Objects by Richard Wollheim (Cambridge University Press) What defines a work of art and determines the way in which we respond to it? This classic reflection was written with the belief that the nature of art has to be understood simultaneously from the artist's as well as the spectator's viewpoint. The rigor of his abstract language may put off readers lulled by narrative artspeak or not used to the cryptocare given to analytical reformulations of aesthetic sensibility, but Wollheim is trying to cover all bases even if he isnt actually up to the play itself.
On the Emotions by Richard Wollheim (The Ernst Cassirer Lectures, 1991: Yale University Press) This rich and thought-provoking account of the emotions considers what emotions are, how they arise in our lives, and how standard and "moral" emotions differ. Drawing on insights from literature, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, Wollheim argues that emotions form a distinct psychological category, not to be assimilated with either beliefs or desires. These three lectures were delivered to the philosophy department at Yale in 1991, but are here revised and enlarged. Wollheim writes within the analytic tradition, yet abandons many of its assumptions, developing a re-invented psychology of the mind by adapting and reconceptualizing ideas from such writers as Sartre, William James, Freud, Melanie Klein, Stendhal, Montaigne, and Bertrand Russell. The Thread of Life by Richard Wollheim (Yale University Press) attempts a synthetic view of life and what it means to us.
Art As a Social System by Niklas Luhmann, translated by Eva M. Knodt (Meridian: Stanford University Press) Art As a Social System continues a series that aims to elaborate a theory of society. Since the overall project focuses on theories that deal with individual functional systems, I have considered the elaboration of these systems a priority. The theory of society itself requires two different approaches, assuming (r) that the system as a whole is operatively closed on the basis of communication, and (z) that the functional systems emerging within society conform to, and embody, the principle of operative closure and, therefore, will exhibit comparable structures despite factual differences between them. Comparisons derive force when we recognize that the compared realms differ in all other respects; we can then highlight what is comparable and charge it with special significance. However, to illustrate this point requires an analysis of individual functional systems. The introduction to this series appeared as Soziale Systeme in 1984.1 Since then, the following studies have appeared: Die Wirtschafa der Gesellschaft (1988; The Economy as a Social System); Die Wissenschaft der Gesellschaft (1990; Science as a Social System); and Das Recht der Gesellschaft (1993; Law as a Social System). The volume presented here is the fourth in this series. Further studies are planned.
This project seeks to distance itself from prevailing social theories that attempt to describe their object in terms of normative, integrative, and unifying concepts. Such theories envision society as a system determined by stratification, that is, by a principle of unequal distribution. In the eighteenth century, a counter-discourse insisted on the possibility that mankind could nonetheless attain happiness. This promise was replaced in the nineteenth century by the demand for solidarity. In the twentieth century, politics was put in charge of establishing equal living conditions throughout the world‑a demand frequently made upon democratization or developmental and political modernization. As this century draws to a close, we are far from realizing universal happiness and satisfaction. Nor have we reached the goals of achieving solidarity and creating equal living conditions. One can continue to insist on these demands and call them "ethics," but it becomes difficult to ignore their increasingly apparent utopian component. This is why we recommend rewriting the theory of society. To do so requires a shift, at the structural level, from stratification to functional differentiation. The unity of society is not to be sought in ethico-political demands, but rather in the emergence of comparable conditions in systems as diverse as religion or the monetary economy, science or art, intimate relationships or politics‑despite extreme differences between the functions and the operational modes of these systems. Our theoretical proposition offers the following: a clear demarcation of external system boundaries of different domains and comparability between different systems. Talcott Parsons launched a similar experiment, taking the comparability of all subsystems of the general action system for granted. He believed that each action system, even in the position of subsystem or subsubsystem, needed to fulfill four functions to be complete, that is, if it were to exist as a system capable of maintaining its boundaries and orienting itself in relation to temporal differences. This is not the place to argue with Parsons's position. What matters is that with Parsons, the comparability of subsystems began to occupy a pivotal theoretical position in sociology. In what follows, we do not propose a theory as rigorously derived as Parsons's from an analysis of the concept of action. Instead, what interests us is another one of Parsons's ideas: that each evolutionary differentiation process must reconstruct the unity of the differentiated system. This does not presuppose central norms, no matter how generalized. In our modern (some would say postmodern) society, such norms are difficult to detect. It suffices that all subsystems employ the operational mode of the system as a whole, in this case communication, and that they are capable of fulfilling the conditions of system formation‑namely, autopoiesis and operative closure no matter how complex the emerging structures turn out to be.
Carrying out this program in the realm of art requires theoretical models that cannot be extracted from observing works of art and can be demonstrated in the communicative employment of these works. Here we use distinctions such as system/environment, medium/form, first‑ and second
order observation, self‑reference and external reference, and above all the distinction between psychic systems (systems of consciousness) and social systems (systems of communication); none is meant to assist in judging or creating works of art. We are not offering a helpful theory of art. This does not exclude the possibility that the art system, in its own operations, may profit from a theoretical endeavor intended to clarify the context and contingency of art from a socio-theoretical perspective. Whether such a transposition of insights can be accomplished and what kind of misunderstandings may contribute to its success must be decided within the art system itself, for "to succeed" can mean only "to succeed as a work of art." The issue is not to propose a theory that, if properly understood and applied, would guarantee success or assist the art system in coping with its worries about the future. It follows from the general theory of functional social differentiation that functional systems are incapable of directly influencing one another. At the same time, their coexistence increases their mutual irritability.
Science [Wissenschaft], here specifically sociological theory, must open itself to irritation through art. Science must be able to observe what is presented as art. In this basic sense, sociological theory is an empirical science (according to its own self‑description, at any rate). But the labor of transforming irritation into information that can be used within science is an entirely internal affair. The proof must be delivered within science. Art becomes a topic in the first place, not because of a peculiar inclination of the author, but because of the assumption that a social theory claiming universality cannot ignore the existence of art.
In view of how these intentions have been realized in this book, we acknowledge that it turned out to be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the systematics of the system from the bare facts while bracketing historical analyses (as it would have been feasible with the economic system, the system of science, and the legal system). Aesthetic endeavors involving art have always separated themselves from a historical discourse oriented toward facts. This was the case in the poesia/theoria discussion of the sixteenth century with its emphasis on "beautiful appearance," and it holds for twentieth century hermeneutics, which distinguishes historical documentation that may be useful in the sciences from an understanding of the expression and significance of individual artworks. From a sociological standpoint, this separation is untenable and breaks down to the extent that art orients itself historically. This is the case in Renaissance art, for example. Art permits no simple repetition‑except as the perpetual repetition of its own history. Even for a theory of society, there is ultimately no history independent of the continual reactualization of that history.
This is why the text presented here can offer neither a structuralist description of the system of modern art, nor a structured evolutionary history of the differentiation of the art system. The reader will find both perspectives interwoven. Each chapter is conceived in terms of its factual theme. We draw on historical retrospectives, as we need them, especially in Chapter 4, in which we discuss the differentiation and self‑description of the art system. Repetitions are inevitable. One should not expect a linear order, progressing from important to less important issues or from prior to subsequent events. I hope that the reader's understanding will benefit from the recognition that conceptual or historical materials reappear in different contexts. An extensive index should facilitate such a nonlinear reading.
ART FOR ARTS SAKE AND LITERARY LIFE: How Politics and Markets Helped Shape the Ideology and Culture of Aestheticism, 1790-1990 by Gene H. Bell-Villada ($18.95 paperback, 352 pages University of Nebraska Press, ISBN: 0803261438) HARDCOVER
ART FOR ARTS SAKE AND LITERARY LIFE is a history of literary aestheticism from the eighteenth century to modern deconstruction. Gene H. Bell-Villada examines writings by critics, philosophers, and other writers from Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Uniting all is his conviction that "there are concrete social, economic, political, and cultural reasons for the emergence, growth, diffusion, and triumph of Part pour Part over the past two centuries."
Gene H. Bell-Villada is a professor and chair in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Williams College. He is the author of Borges and His Fiction, Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work (North Carolina) and The Carlos Chadwick Mystery: A Novel of College Life and Political Terror (Amador Publications).
Introduction The Idea, the Phrase, the Problem
Chapter 1 The Enlightenment Origins and the Theory of the Mental Faculties
Chapter 2 The New Economy, Poetry Displaced, and the Birth of the Doctrine
Chapter 3 The Diffusion of the Doctrine I: England
Chapter 4 The Diffusion of the Doctrine II: Poe (U.S.), Modemismo (Latin America)
Chapter 5 The Modernist Internationale and the Market
Chapter 6 The Diffusion of the Doctrine m: Literary Modernism and After
Chapter 7 The Changing Politics of Art for Arts Sake
Conclusion The Enduring Dilemma, the Academy, the Media
STONE by John Sallis ($12.95, paper, 146 pages, notes, photos,Studies in Continental Thought, John Sallis, general editor, Indiana University Press, 0-253-20888-2 )
In an elegant and provocative text enhanced by photographs, Sallis offers an important new theory of philosophy and art. He takes up the various guises and settings in which stone appears and what philosophers have said about the beauty of stone.
STONE challenges the simple opposition of philosophy and art. It is written in a style that has the fullness of sculpture.
"I would have liked this discourse to be inscribed by a very skillful stonemason, by one who knew just the right slant at which to hold the chisel so as to cut obliquely into the stone and produce well-formed, clearly legible letters, chipping away the stone so as to leave the inscription both in place of stone and yet still in stone, practicing thus a kind of lithography. I would have liked the well-measured strokes of his hammer to be audible, as he practiced his venerable craft of making stone, in its silence, nonetheless speak.
". . . The stone fences that were once used to mark the boundaries of fields and that one still sees in England and in certain parts of the United States. Here and there they even serve still to partition and to mark the partitioning of the land, even if in such cases one cannot but sense that they belong properly to a world that has today withdrawn. . .
"Stone can mark not only a boundary but also a former presence, as in those self-images that nature prints in stone. In fossils one senses a kind of natural history, unassimilable to what philosophy delimits as history and sets in opposition to nature. . .
"In the presence of the mountain peak one senses a gathering of the elements. The mountain is earth itself, thrusting upward toward the sky, upward through mist and clouds, upward into that pure and shining upper air that the ancients call upon and frequently regarded, in its brilliance, as the region of the fire of heaven. Up there in the aethereal region the icy peak is exposed to the fire of heaven, whitened stone shining brilliantly in the intense sunlight, earth extended and exposed to the sky. In the mountain peak, fire and ice are gathered in (as we say) their elemental opposition. And yet, the mountain is stone...." From Chapter One of STONE
The relation of our vision of stone's beauty to what we say, think, and write about stone, about the way in which such vision can both empower and interrupt language, is radiantly revealed in Stone. In an elegant and provocative text enhanced by photographs, Sallis takes up the various guises and settings in which stone appears: in wild nature, in shelter against the elements, in the tombstones of the Jewish cemetery in Prague, in Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals, and in sculpture and drama. STONE is critically attentive not only to what certain philosophers such as Hegel and Heidegger have said of beauty and of stone, but also to what they have written on their travels to the Alps, to the great cathedrals of Europe, or to the temples of Greece. Oriented throughout to various sites where the terrestrial beauty of stone shines forth, STONE draws increasingly toward theatrical presentation, toward theater of stone.
JOHN SALLIS is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. His previous books include Echoes: After Heidegger, Crossings, Being and Logos, The Gathering of Reason, Delimitations, and Spacings. Sallis is editor of Reading Heidegger: Commemorations and founding editor of the journal Research in Phenomenology.
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