Portraiture and Critical REFLECTIONS on Being
This book examines how artists have dealt with Being and its representations through portraiture by tracing this history through key philosophical concepts. As a product of artistic introjection and client negotiation, the portrait, is a complex and conflictual ideological vehicle for claims about the representation of the ‘self’. The key argument of the work is that the relationship between portraiture and philosophy is not causally linked in any direct sense, since such a position would presuppose the subordination of art to philosophy. Yet, the relationship between dualism and artistic practice, is seen as an epistemologically active domain for artists. This enables us to understand portraiture’s active contribution to the question of Being through an analysis of the dualist and anti-dualist portrait (Rembrandt, Picasso, Warhol, and Conceptual Art).
The majority of literature on portraiture lacks a thorough philosophical analysis of the relations between the problems of identity, representation, the artist-as-representor and the construction of the self. In particular, there is a failure to identify the pictorial, cultural and theoretical complexities of the traditional honorific aspects of the portrait and different artistic methodologies. Indeed, scholars have a propensity to romanticize the humanist individualism inherent in this long history of the honorific (derived from dualism), particularly in canonic portrait practices such as those by Rembrandt and Picasso.
The history of portraiture is examined, firstly by looking at the philosophical presuppositions that underlie the claims for ‘expressiveness’ - Platonic and Cartesian dualist thinking – and then secondly, by assessing various anti-dualist positions proposed by philosophers, Derek Parfit, Gilbert Ryle, Charles Taylor, John Searle, W. Teed Rockwell, in order to define the possibility of a non-dualist portraiture. The following chapters focus on the way key artists (such as Andy Warhol, Mary Kelly, Gerhard Richter and Art & Language) have questioned dualist portraiture’s humanist emphasis on the honorific and the face/self.