DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M017-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

1. The question posed

How do pictures represent? Like many other things, they represent in a variety of ways. Consider Picasso’s Guernica. It pictures a certain scene – horses, mutilated people, a light bulb, an explosion. It expresses the horror of war, and exemplifies that art which is engaged with the moral and political world. In all these respects the picture may be said to represent something, but the forms of representation involved are not the same. Only one of these is distinctively pictorial, a form that may be dubbed ‘depiction’. What is this form of representation?

One way to focus this question is to contrast depiction with other ways of representing. The most useful comparison is with words. Words and pictures may perform many of the same tasks, and may represent many of the same things; yet, at least at first glance, they seem fundamentally different. A description of the scene depicted in Guernica would differ considerably from the painting, and it is tempting to think that this reflects differences in the forms of representation involved. Perhaps exploring the contrast with linguistic representation will illuminate depiction itself.

Citing this article:
Hopkins, Robert. The question posed. Depiction, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M017-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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