Wollheim on Pictorial Expression

Regular attendees should note the earlier than usual start time and change of venue - enter St John's by the Kendrew Quad entrance. This seminar is joint with the Richard Wollheim Centenary Project -- see https://wollheimcentenary.org/programme-of-events/. Please register at wollheimcentenary@gmail.com confirming your status as academic (includes students), mental health practitioner, or other (please specify).

One of the reasons we are moved to look at paintings is that they are expressive of deep and often complex emotions. But philosophers have found this puzzling – works of art do not, literally, possess psychologies, so how do they acquire their expressive properties? Richard Wollheim’s answer to this puzzle is to posit that the artist projects her mental states on to her artwork, and we, the spectator, in turn ‘read off’ the projected mental states from the painting. In this talk, I’ll explore Wollheim’s account of expressiveness in art, with a nod to the ways in which physicality can capture some of our deepest feelings that we may struggle to express in language.