Aesthetics Seminar (Monday - Week 7, HT23)

aesthetics seminar

The relationship between time and the aesthetic attributes of visual artworks remains under-examined. Twenty years have passed since Le Poidevin discussed a vindication of Gombrich’s challenge to the doctrine that static images can represent change or an instant of time. His central move relies on the link he identifies as implicit in Gombrich’s view between depiction and perception. In this paper, I critique Le Poidevin’s defence of instant-depicting pictures, arguing that it ultimately rests on a spatial notion of time (i.e., the distance between two points). For this reason, I consider a further way in which we may develop and defend Gombrich’s explicit claim that instants cannot be depicted, which echoes his claim that a notion of an instant is absurd, while pursuing his intuition that pictures can represent duration. However, this does not provide us with a way of understanding how pictures can represent duration, or the psychological notion of time Gombrich was alluding to. Aiming to articulate that idea, I turn next to examine and recalibrate Richard Wollheim’s perceptual model of pictorial seeing. I argue that with sufficient revision, the notion of twofoldness implicated in pictorial seeing can accommodate the twin notions of (a) a temporal perspective and (b) mental time-travel, and that these are jointly necessary to explain certain aesthetic attributes of paintings qua static picture. In the concluding section, I apply this revised model to an appreciation of two paintings: a portrait and a family scene.

Aesthetics Seminar Convenors: Catharine Abell and David Collins