Portraits and Philosophy: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Portraits and Philosophy

1st Edition

Edited by Hans Maes


328 pages | 48 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367189402
pub: 2019-12-05
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Despite its huge popularity, portraiture hasn’t received much philosophical attention. While there are countless art historical studies of portraiture, including self-portraiture and group-portraiture, contemporary philosophy has largely remained silent on the subject. This book brings together philosophers and philosophically minded art historians with different areas of expertise to discuss this enduring and continuously fascinating genre.

The essays in this volume are grouped into thematic sections, each of which is guided by numerous research questions relevant to the genre of portraiture. Part I explores the boundaries of portraiture. What makes something a portrait? In what way is it similar to and different from other genres? How have artists pushed the limits and conventions of the portraiture? How does the recent vogue of selfies relate to the tradition of self-portraiture? Part II responds to questions about empathy and emotion in portraiture. How do artists express attitudes and emotions towards sitters of their portraits? Why are we moved by certain portraits and not so much by others? In Part III, the contributors address questions about fiction and depiction. Do portraits fall within the domain of non-fiction? Can authenticity in portraiture be achieved if portraits necessarily involve posing? Finally, Part IV grapples with the following question: What are the moral dimensions of the relation between artist, sitter, patron, and audience?


"This book seems certain to establish the philosophy of portraiture as a new and important topic of debate within philosophy and to demonstrate the centrality of philosophical aesthetics to the issues of self, identity and our understanding of each other, that concern us all."Ian Ground, University of Hertfordshire, UK

"This is an excellent book on the elusive but pervasive genre of portraiture. It provides the reader with conceptual tools to understand the boundaries of the genre, the value of portraits and some ethical issues they give rise to. Also, it invites the reader to consider interesting questions such as whether there can be portraits of absent sitters, how to understand sport cards portraits or fictional portraits appearing in literary works." – Paloma Atencia-Linares, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Table of Contents

Introduction: Portraits and Philosophy

Hans Maes

Part I. The Nature of Portraiture

1. Portraiture Portrayed

Ivan Gaskell

2. Portraiture and Portrait-Seeing: From Caravaggio to Digital Selfies

Alessandro Giovannelli

3. Portraits, Persons, and Poses

Paul Guyer

4. Philosophy of Portraiture: A Programmatic Overview

Matteo Ravasio

Part II. Subgenres and Special Cases

5. Double Portraiture

Eleen M. Deprez and Michael Newall

6. Moving Picture Portraits

Cynthia Freeland

7. Portraits of People Not Present

Bence Nanay

8. Portraits of the Landscape

Erich Hatala Matthes

9. Sport Card Portraiture

Jason Holt

Part III. Portraiture, Empathy, and Emotion

10. Truth and Empathy in the Portraits of Kokoschka

Jenefer Robinson

11. Without Shame? Lee Friedlander’s Late Self-Portraits

Diarmuid Costello

12. ‘And Time Will Have His Fancy…’: On Being Moved by Portraits of Unknown People

Hans Maes

Part IV. Portraiture, Fiction, and Depiction

13. Real Portraits in Literature

Stacie Friend

14. The Power of Picasso: Reconciling Realism and Anti-Realism in the Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Ira Newman

15. Portraiture: Seeing As and Seeing In

Martin Hammer

Part V. The Ethics of Portraiture

16. The Ethics of Portraiture

A.W. Eaton

17. The Sublime Clara Mather

Kenneth Walden

18. Respecting Photographic Subjects

Macalester Bell

Epilogue: Portraits of Philosophers

Hans Maes

About the Editor

Hans Maes is Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent. He is the author of Conversations on Art and Aesthetics (2017) and editor of the essay collections Art and Pornography (2012) and Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography (2013).

About the Series

Routledge Research in Aesthetics

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Subjects & Themes / Portraits
PHILOSOPHY / Aesthetics