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The Aesthetics of Richard Wollheim (1923–2003)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M063-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Article Summary

Richard Wollheim (1923–2003) had a broad range of philosophical interests. He wrote on Political Philosophy, on the Philosophy of Psychology or Philosophy of Mind, on principal figures in British Philosophy including Locke, Hume, J. S. Mill and F. H. Bradley, and on other philosophical subjects. But his most indelible mark was made in Aesthetics, being by many accounts the leading figure writing in English in that field since the close of World War II (competitors, not counting still-active philosophers, might include Susanne Langer, Arnold Isenberg, Nelson Goodman, Arthur Danto, George Dickie, and Roger Scruton). Most of his aesthetical writing narrowly concerned the art of painting, with Painting as an Art (1987) being his masterpiece, with many articles in trade publications on particular artists testifying to his special interest and engagement with painting. He did produce Art and Its Objects (1968, 1980), his famous general treatise on Aesthetics, with attention to more purely philosophical and logical problems concerning art; but his volumes of essays on art or partially about art – On Art and the Mind (1974), The Mind and Its Depths (1993) – as well as his free standing essays on art, including those appearing since 1993 – are primarily concerned with painting.

The main part of this article focuses primarily on what was undoubtedly at the centre of Wollheim’s questions as an aesthetician, namely the question What is painting?, along with the question What is the value and interest of painting? That painting is a justified form of life was never in question, but to articulate just why we go in for painting as we do, to articulate the nature of our interest in it, calls, it turns out, for not only a framework of Aesthetics but Depth Psychology, in particular for psychoanalytic theory.

Citing this article:
Kemp, Gary. The Aesthetics of Richard Wollheim (1923–2003), 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M063-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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