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Svetlana Alpers on Richard Wollheim

Richard Wollheim, London, ca. 1980. Photo: Rupert Wollheim.


RICHARD WOLLHEIM, who died on November 4, 2003, at the age of eighty, was one of the leading philosophers writing on art and on the mind in the twentieth century. Art and Its Objects (1968, expanded 1980), On Art and the Mind (1974), Painting as an Art (1987), The Thread of Life (1984), and On the Emotions (1999) were among the compelling books he wrote. But listing titles hardly does justice to the man or to his work. Wollheim’s friends were at a loss: How does one go on with one’s own work when his sustaining passion for painting and his endless vitality in pursuit of it are gone? His life, like his writing, was a remarkable bid, not without its distress, to pursue matters of the mind while acknowledging that one is also at the mercy of one’s emotions.

Art and Its Objects, in which Wollheim set forth his general aesthetic, is dazzling. Easy to read, it is difficult to take in.

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