Philosopher Portraits: Famous Philosophers Painted in the Style of Influential Artists

Lud­wig Wittgenstein/Piet Mon­dri­an:

Ludwig Wittgenstein & Piet Mondrian

What do the Aus­tri­an-British philoso­pher Lud­wig Wittgen­stein and the Dutch painter Piet Mon­dri­an have in com­mon? For philoso­pher and artist Renée Jor­gensen Bolinger, the two have sim­i­lar beliefs about the log­ic of space.

“Many of Mon­dri­an’s pieces explore the rela­tion­ships between adja­cent spaces,” says Bolinger “and in par­tic­u­lar the for­ma­tive role of each on the bound­aries and pos­si­bil­i­ties of the oth­er. I based this paint­ing [see above] off of Wittgen­stein’s Trac­ta­tus, in which he devel­ops a the­o­ry of mean­ing ground­ed in the idea that propo­si­tions have mean­ing only inso­far as they con­strain the ways the world could be; a mean­ing­ful propo­si­tion is thus very like one of Mon­dri­an’s col­or squares, form­ing a bound­ary and lim­it­ing the pos­si­ble con­fig­u­ra­tions of the adja­cent spaces.”

A sec­ond-year PhD stu­dent in the phi­los­o­phy pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Bolinger stud­ied paint­ing a Bio­la Uni­ver­si­ty before mak­ing phi­los­o­phy her sec­ond major. “I actu­al­ly came to phi­los­o­phy quite late in my col­lege career,” Bolinger says, “only adding the major in my junior year. I was for­tu­nate to have two par­tic­u­lar­ly excel­lent and philo­soph­ic art teach­ers, Jonathan Puls and Jonathan Ander­son, who con­vinced me that my two pas­sions were not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive, and encour­aged me to pur­sue both as I began my grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion.”

Bolinger now works pri­mar­i­ly on the phi­los­o­phy of lan­guage, with side inter­ests in log­ic, epis­te­mol­o­gy, mind and polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. She con­tin­ues to paint. We asked her how she rec­on­ciles her two pas­sions, which seem to occu­py oppo­site sides of the mind. “I do work in ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy,” she says, “but it’s only half true that phi­los­o­phy and paint­ing engage oppo­site sides of the mind. The sort of real­ist draw­ing and paint­ing that I do is all about ana­lyz­ing the rela­tion­ships between the lines, shapes and col­or tones, and so still very left-brain. Nev­er­the­less, it engages the mind in a dif­fer­ent way than do the syl­lo­gisms of ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy. I find that the two types of men­tal exer­tion com­ple­ment each oth­er well, each serv­ing as a pro­duc­tive break from the oth­er.”

Bolinger has cre­at­ed a series of philoso­pher por­traits, each one pair­ing a philoso­pher with an artist, or art style, in an intrigu­ing way. In addi­tion to Wittgen­stein, she paint­ed ten philoso­phers in her first series, many of them by request. They can all be seen on her Web site, where high qual­i­ty prints can be ordered.

G.E.M. Anscombe/Jackson Pol­lock:

G.E.M. Anscombe & Jackson Pollock

Bolinger says she paired the British ana­lyt­ic philoso­pher Eliz­a­beth Anscombe with the Amer­i­can abstract painter Jack­son Pol­lock for two rea­sons: “First, the loose style of Pol­lock­’s action paint­ing fits the argu­men­ta­tive (and orga­ni­za­tion­al) style of Wittgen­stein’s Philo­soph­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions, which Anscombe helped to edit and was instru­men­tal in pub­lish­ing. Sec­ond, her pri­ma­ry field of work, in which she wrote a sem­i­nal text, is phi­los­o­phy of action, which has obvi­ous con­nec­tions to the themes present in any of Pol­lock­’s action paint­ings.”

Got­t­lob Frege/Vincent Van Gogh:

Gottlob Frege & Van Gogh

Bolinger paired the Ger­man logi­cian, math­e­mati­cian and philoso­pher Got­t­lob Frege with the Dutch painter Vin­cent Van Gogh as a tongue-in-cheek ref­er­ence to Van Gogh’s famous paint­ing The Star­ry Night and Frege’s puz­zle con­cern­ing iden­ti­ty state­ments such as “Hes­pe­rus is Phos­pho­rus,” or “the evening star is iden­ti­cal to the morn­ing star.”

Bertrand Russell/Art Deco:

Bertrand Russell & Art Deco

Bolinger paint­ed the British logi­cian and philoso­pher Bertrand Rus­sell in the Art Deco style. “This pair­ing is a bit more about the gestalt, and a bit hard­er to artic­u­late,” says Bolinger. “The sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of form and reduc­tion to angled planes that takes place in the back­ground of this Art Deco piece are meant to cohere with Rus­sel­l’s locial atom­ism (the reduc­tion of com­plex log­i­cal propo­si­tions to their fun­da­men­tal log­i­cal ‘atoms’).”

Kurt Gödel/Art Nou­veau:

Kurt Godel & Art Nouveau

Bolinger paired the Aus­tri­an logi­cian Kurt Gödel with Art Nou­veau. “The Art Nou­veau move­ment devel­oped around the theme of mech­a­niza­tion and the rep­e­ti­tion of forms,” says Bolinger, “and cen­tral­ly involves a del­i­cate bal­ance between organ­ic shapes — typ­i­cal­ly a fig­ure that dom­i­nates the por­trait — and schema­tized or abstract­ed pat­terns, often derived from organ­ic shapes, but made uni­form and repet­i­tive (often seen in the flower motifs that orna­ment most Art Nou­veau por­traits). I paired this style with Kurt Gödel because his work was ded­i­cat­ed to defin­ing com­putabil­i­ty in terms of recur­sive func­tions, and using the notion to prove the Com­plete­ness and Incom­plete­ness the­o­rems.”

To see more of Renée Jor­gensen Bolinger’s philoso­pher por­traits, click here to vis­it her site. And if you like them all, the PhilPor­traits Cal­en­dar might be per­fect for you.

via Leit­er Reports

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10 Famous Philoso­phers in Words and Images

Pho­tog­ra­phy of Lud­wig Wittgen­stein Released by Archives at Cam­bridge

Phi­los­o­phy: Free Cours­es

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.