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by Nicola Glover

| Introduction | Chapter: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Conclusion | Bibliography |

Chapter Seven

Painting as the Body: the aesthetics of Fuller and Wollheim 

There is a sense in which all art is of the body, particularly so in the eyes of those who accept that the painted surface and other media of art represent as a general form, which their employment particularises, the actualities of the hidden psychic structures made up of evaluations and phantasies with corporeal content.1.

This chapter will examine how a number of important British psychoanalytical concepts, discussed in the chapters above, have been deployed in the aesthetic theory and art criticism of two significant contributors to contemporary aesthetics. I shall be focusing on the writings of art critic, Peter Fuller, and the philosopher and aesthetician, Richard Wollheim to explore their respective contribution to a 'British psychoanalytic aesthetic', one that is, I shall argue, essentially grounded on a corporeal theory of pictorial meaning and aesthetic value.

Section one is devoted to Fuller's account of the work of two 'colour field' painters, Robert Natkin and Mark Rothko, elaborated in the final chapter of his Art and Psychoanalysis (1980). In particular, Fuller's contribution demonstrates how Winnicott's 'potential space' and Bion's account of mental space have effectively illuminated the affective meaning of pictorial space together with the dynamics of the aesthetic encounter.

Section two will be devoted to exploring the final chapter of Wollheim's Painting as an Art (1987) 'Painting, Metaphor and the Body', for as its title suggests, Wollheim is also concerned with extrapolating the corporeal basis to visual art, but where Fuller focuses on Bion and Winnicott, Wollheim's allegiance lies with the aesthetic criticism of Adrian Stokes and, through these, to the psychoanalytical insights of Kleinian theory.

The chapter will conclude with a summary of their respective theoretical positions, and the nature of their relationship to psychoanalysis. This will help to prepare us for the discussion of some of the wider themes and implications arising what can be identified as a 'British psychoanalytic aesthetic'.

However, although Fuller and Wollheim are both considered here as being contributors to a 'British Psychoanalytic aesthetic', it must be emphasised that in no sense did they work as a team - there was no collaboration between the two writers. Indeed, there are important fundamental differences between them, regarding age and profession, which should be appreciated from the start.

Wollheim, being some twenty-four years Fuller's senior, enriches his understanding and love of painting with some fifty years of philosophical experience, and nearly forty years of involvement with British psychoanalytic thinking. (Indeed, as we shall see in section two, his close friendship with Adrian Stokes profoundly shaped his thinking on art.) Where Wollheim is a philosopher and aesthetician of considerable academic stature, Fuller was primarily a journalist and popular art critic. His involvement with psychoanalysis, albeit intense, was somewhat transient, and seems to have been related more to the vicissitudes of his own psychoanalytic therapy than with any long-standing commitment to psychoanalysis. (I shall explore the implications of their differences further at the end of this Chapter.)



1. Evocative space: the work of Natkin and Rothko

Fuller's Art and Psychoanalysis arose out of a dissatisfaction with Marxist and ideological approaches to art and culture, and was also shaped significantly by his own analytic experience. Indeed, it was in many ways an 'autobiographical journey' and the four chapters parallel the course of Fuller's own 'self-discovery through psychoanalysis': the book begins with a critique of the mechanistic world-view of Freud and Marx, moves on to Klein's account of the mother-child relationship, and eventually breaks-through 'into the warmth and light of Winnicott's "potential space"' (1988, p. x ).2.

Fuller's Art and Psychoanalysis was written primarily as an argument from the political left, it was preoccupied with establishing a material basis for painting which reduced art to neither ideology nor to a product of historical circumstance. Fuller felt that because psychoanalysis is devoted to exploring certain biologically constant, unchanging aspects of human nature (for example, the mother-child relationship and the oedipal drama), it could therefore help to ground his search for material (biological) basis of aesthetics.

The background to his political and theoretical position was this: during the mid-seventies he became increasingly uncomfortable about left-wing aesthetics, which, in his view, did not really deal with what mattered about the experience of painting and sculpture as art qua art at all.3. He was highly dissatisfied with the kinds of theory that reduced artworks to products of ideology, to social conditions and circumstance, theories which treated artworks merely as historical documents, or analysed them in terms of linguistic structures, leaving 'art-shaped holes' (p. x).

This discomfort with such 'ideological' approaches was not entirely academic, as Fuller's 1988 preface to Art and Psychoanalysis makes clear. For it was largely through his acquaintance with the work of Robert Natkin that he was forced into rethinking his own aesthetic beliefs. It seems that work of this artist profoundly disrupted his preconceptions about the nature of aesthetic encounter and this compelled him to focus on his growing dissatisfaction with much orthodox left aesthetics - and to write Art and Psychoanalysis.

It was largely through his encounter with Natkin's art that Fuller drew close to some of the reasons why aesthetic experience and artistic quality within the terrain of visual cannot be reduced to ideology tout court. He admits that Natkin was very much acquainted with the conventions of his time - his style is certainly that of the 'colour field' - but Natkin


tears through that ideology ... not by a flight into a supra-historical domain of 'timeless' spiritual essences, but rather a penetration metaphorically downwards, into the region of psycho-biological being, into that great reservoir of potentiality upon which our hopes of a better personal and social future ultimately rest.4.

In addition, the overwhelming feeling of 'goodness' evoked by Natkin's work could not be explained by appealing to formalist and socialist explanations of artistic practice, but (as we shall see below) it was concepts such as Winnicott's "potential space" which enabled Fuller to make sense of his aesthetic experience.

There is yet another dimension to this account of Fuller's development, which seems important. Not only did Fuller's dissatisfaction with orthodox aesthetics coincide with the time he encountered Natkin, it seems that this was 'potentially responsive phase', when his own analysis was 'moving backwards ... from preoccupations surrounding my relationship with the father onwards an analysis of feelings involved in the prior relationship with the mother' (p. 208). Clearly, Winnicott's theories must have featured prominently in his analysis, and perhaps helps to explain why Fuller found Natkin's work so profoundly moving. The paintings evidently resonated with aspects of his own inner life, for apparently he would often refer to them in his analytic sessions. [Plates 1 and 2 below.]


The profound impact of Winnicottian ideas on the understanding of his aesthetic experiences is certainly evident in the following extract from his introduction to a catalogue for an exhibition of Natkin's work in 1974. He writes that



... the dynamic of our interaction with (Natkin's) canvases took the form of a seduction into an experience where the distinction between the 'outside' and the 'inside' of the picture became ambiguous. The realisation of this simultaneously involved a sense of fear, of horror, and tragedy. It may be possible to interpret these events by saying that Natkin evokes a stage in our development when it was difficult to differentiate between 'self' and 'not-self'; when the skin of our bodies did not provide an absolute, concrete limitation to our sense of our physical being; a stage in which we also lacked the sense of time. The reconstruction of that phase turns out to be fascinating, alluring and satisfying - though simultaneously frightening and tragic. By now it should be self-evident that the stage to which I am referring is that before separation from the mother and her breast. Natkin's painting may, in part, be seen as an act of reparation for that universally experienced tragedy, an interpretation which is supported by its paradoxically 'epic' and 'intimate' aspirations. Thus it may be true to say that Natkin' painting recaptures aspects of infantile experience about the nature of time, space, and ourselves which, in adult life, we have been compelled to renounce, defensively, and sometimes to the impoverishment of our perceptions.5.

As the extract above makes clear (and I have quoted at some length for this reason) , Winnicott's concept of the potential space certainly helped Fuller to identify powerful aspects of the aesthetic encounter: it helped him to clarify what this 'aesthetic' emotion might be, its material grounding, and why this emotion can often seem relatively unrelated to most other kinds of adult emotions about the world.

The "goodness" of Natkin's work seemed to be related specifically to its capacity to re-evoke the oscillating relationship between inner and outer reality: the formal mechanics of the painting seemed to be rooted in an immediate fashion in the emotions and paradoxes of the potential space. It is as if (and again I feel it necessary to quote Fuller at some length)


Natkin began by enticing you with an illusion [...] But no sooner have you recognised the facticity of the materials than you become aware of yet another way of reading the painting ... the uniform skin of light evaporates in part because its tenuous existence came about only through the mixing of colours and the organisation of forms into a shimmering, illusory film on the retina. But as this film disintegrates, it gives way to billowing and boundless hazes of colour, to seemingly limitless vistas of illusionary space [...] The eye is compelled to penetrate deeper and deeper inside the painting. You may even experience anxiety as you realise that there is no fixed viewpoint which you can continue to adopt outside the work which will allow you to perpetuate a detached observation of its skin. [...] Only by denying the illusion, by moving reassuringly back one step ... can you find an anchored raft.6.

Fuller argues that the only way to describe this illusionary space is to say that 'it is contained within the painting' itself. Far from being an external viewpoint, it becomes a 'deep plummeting illusion' evoked through the building-up of many thin layers of paint on the canvas surface. This contradiction between the 'skin of paint, as a limiting membrane' (one which effectively defines the boundary between the self and other) and that 'plummeting illusory space' which 'sucks you into itself', can be explained (so Fuller suggests) by the interplay between separateness and fusion which described by both Winnicott and Milner in chapter six above.

Fuller's experience also concurs with the dynamics of Ehrenzweig's 'enveloping pictorial space' where, he argues, we may feel trapped and lost in the infinite at the same time. For according to Ehrenzweig, these contradictory yet compatible experiences of pictorial space mirror 'the undifferentiated substructure of art [where there] is a womb being prepared to receive, nurse, and ultimately return the artist's projections, an inner space that both contains and repels the spectator'.7.

However, as the quotation above reveals, not only did Natkin's work evoke in Fuller a the powerful sense of their 'goodness', they also aroused a fear, unease, even a 'sense of tragedy'. So how does Fuller explain this complex blend of feeling in Winnicottian terms?

We should recall Winnicott's view that, in order for the infant to acquire a sense of an external reality, the mother first has to 'disillusion' her child. In practical terms, this may mean that she (for example) no longer satisfies his hunger immediately on demand, so he experiences a temporary gap between his needs and their satisfaction. This is all quite normal and necessary, but if the length of this 'gap' is unduly prolonged, then the infant may feel persecuted by what Winnicott termed an disruption of 'going on being' - a threat of chaos and displacement. Winnicott adds that this can be exacerbated by congenital defects such as acute astigmatism - a condition from which Natkin apparently suffered.

Fuller contends that the sense of fear and 'tragedy' aroused by the (seemingly benign) paintings, is akin to these primitive anxieties, this disruption of existence itself felt when the separation from the mother once posed an overwhelming threat to the infant's fragile ego. But how exactly do the paintings evoke this response. Fuller believes it is to do with how they question the viewer's sense of autonomy, setting the viewer 'loose and drifting in a boundless, unstructured illusion of space' because they challenge one's sense of being separate from the painting itself (p. 208). Interestingly, Milner talks about something very similar, for as we have seen above, she saw painting being intimately concerned with the feelings conveyed by boundary and space; the problem of being a separate body in a world of other bodies which occupy different bits of space - the negotiation of self and other.

Fuller believes that an interesting correspondence can be traced between Natkin's 'struggle to give his paintings form and aesthetic integrity, and his personal struggle to structure his psychic space' (pp. 209-10). To develop this, he draws once again on Winnicott's theory of the mother-child relation in order to understand the way in which Natkin's emotional need for containment and integration is implicated in the material transformation of the canvas. It would appear from Fuller's analysis that, for Natkin, the activity of painting was partly a search to find a 'container' which to integrate the split-off aspects of his psyche. (In Ehrenzweig's (1967) terms, the painting functioned for Natkin as s 'containing womb'.)

Natkin's abstract work in the fifties was 'characterised by a search for limiting membrane, a skin that can contain the fragmented elements out of which the painting was made' (p. 210). But after Natkin moved to New York in the early sixties, he started painting the Apollo series which were all are marked by a strong vertical organisation [plate 1 above]. In Winnicott's terms they could represent the 'split-off male' parts of Natkin's psyche. In the seventies, however, the Apollo paintings were supplemented by the distinctly more feminine Intimate Lighting and Colour Bath series, with their alluring seductiveness [plate 2 above]. Yet another characteristic in many of the paintings is Natkin's frequent use grid structure, which could be seen as the equivalent of the integrated and organised ego, binding parts of the self in what would otherwise be (vide Bion) the self-annihilating limitlessness of infinite internal space.

However, it is in the best works of the seventies that we see Natkin 'constructing artificially, through visual forms, that potential space which [he] was largely ... denied'. Their space (inspired by his encounter with post-Impressionism in the fifties) promised the possibility of 'becoming something other than that which he was - a fractured and dissociated individual, in his own self-estimation, monstrous' (p. 210).

Natkin remarked that everything he painted from the time of his early portraits onwards represented for him a face. Indeed, it was when he moved to Redding, Connecticut in the mid-seventies, the first place he felt he could truly call home (he was born into an immigrant family), that Natkin began a series of Face paintings which Fuller considers are his best. This theme of "the face" in Natkin's work is highly significant and Fuller relates this to yet another central idea of Winnicott, the highly important mirroring process that takes place between mother and child.

Winnicott suggests that 'when the baby in his mother's arms gazes into her face, he sees himself or herself'. In other words, 'the mother is looking at the baby and what she looks like is related to what she sees there'.8. Thus the mother acts like a mirror through which the baby comes to integrate himself. But if she fails (through depression, or too many defences) the baby cannot see himself. Instead


perception takes the place of apperception, perception takes the place of that which might have been the beginning if a significant exchange with the world, a two-way process in which self-enrichment alternates with the discovery of meaning in the world of seen things.9.


Fuller notes that in his early portraits, Natkin depicts 'the masked, maternal grimace' which is usually accompanied by 'acute pictorial disorganisation'. Indeed, a photograph of Natkin's mother shows her 'locked artificiality of expression' - inimical to 'good-enough' mirroring - and one that Natkin seems to have been recreating in his paintings. However, later, when he turned to more 'expressive' portraits, the artist found that he had to release and then let go of the fixed facial features altogether. According to Fuller, these Face paintings (of 1975) 'touch intimately, directly, and convincingly upon, and also ... transform these earliest pre-verbal experiences' (p. 212).

Thus, for Natkin, the paint surface facilitated a reciprocal exchange, taking on the role of the responsive mother's face. The paint sur-face was able to respond to his movements and gestures, so that he could begin to constitute his own reality, whilst at the same time retaining its autonomy. It constituted 'a face which can transform itself infinitely in response to our gaze, which certainly has a skin which separates it from us but which, in the next moment, can engulf and enfold us into itself' (p. 231). Thus through this reciprocal exchange with the medium, Natkin was able to explore his own identity, face and gradually discover his artistic style. In addition, Fuller claims that the spectator, too, experiences the same kind of self-enhancing mirroring through the experience of looking at the painting. This we as viewers experience a similar constellation of affects to that of artist, expressed through Natkin's physical encounter with the medium which we apprehend through our own bodily experience.

This account of Natkin's bodily relationship to his materials, and the mirroring role his canvases provided for him, finds an echo in Milner's patient, Susan, and her use of drawings which Milner believes helped her to explore not only the sense of her own body-boundary but also her growing sense of self. For Susan, the paper and pencil could respond to her inner needs, yet still remain external to her (cf. Simon's play with the toys, and Winnicott's transitional object). Milner writes that, for Susan


the paper became ... a substitute for the responsive, ideal mother, receiving the slightest movement of her hand and giving it back into her eyes, a hand-and-eye co-ordinated interchange, a reciprocal give-and-take on a primitive, non-verbal level; in fact a relation to an ideal mother-me. [Through her drawings she was] constantly creating a bridge between me and herself for communication ... they did seem to have provided some sort of substitute for the mirror that her mother had never been able to be to her ... they gave her back to herself.10.

Continuing with his exploration of the affective dynamics of pictorial space, Fuller also looks the work of Rothko but this time draws on the post-Kleinian analyst, Wilfred Bion's account of the vicissitudes of mental space, and its potentially persecutory aspects (see Chapter four, section three above). Fuller explores the relation between spatial dynamics of the haunting works of the late sixties and Rothko's increasing psychic turbulence, arguing that regards Rothko's mental and artistic development followed a very different trajectory to that of Natkin. Where the latter travelled back into, and found a way of recreating, the 'potential space' of 'going on being', Rothko encountered the 'absolute primary narcissism' of non-being.11.

At this point, then, let us briefly recall Bion's (1970) account of the persecutory, pathological experience of inner space. It is hypothesised to be an expanse which is felt to be so infinite, so vast, that it threatens to completely engulf the individual. No visual images can be found to represent and therefore 'contain' this unfathomable expanse of mental space, and the person concerned is in a state akin to that of 'surgical shock': his capillaries dilate to the extent that the patient literally bleeds to death in his own tissues (Bion, 1970, p. 12) Drawing on these insights, Fuller constructs a narrative which links Rothko's troubled personal history to a corresponding change in the spatial dynamics of his paintings: the struggle to negotiate against space which 'appears empty at first' and then becomes 'limitless, infinite, flat and without depth'. As Rothko's psychotic breakdown encroaches, the pictures 'lose their capacity to move us ... they speak of only the grey, monochromatic silence of an impending grave' (p. 229).

His paintings indeed evoke awe, reverence, tranquillity, rapture, sadness - with a hint of something sinister there, too. It is not unusual to see people sit and gaze for an extra long while at these paintings, with their compelling and mesmerising, undulating clouds of colour beckoning like gateways to another world. According to Fuller, we are witnessing in these paintings nothing less than Rothko's 'struggle against a state beyond even depression and despair'. The boundaries of his canvasses contain 'deep black spaces of beckoning nothingness which seems to invite you, the viewer, to annihilate yourself in them'; they are 'sinister clouds of emptiness' which are the artist's attempt to 'construct a viable ground to his being over the imminent terror of empty, black space, through a realisation of sensuous, affirmative planes of colour' (p. 222). In Two Openings In Black over Wine [plate 3 below] Fuller sees 'the night encroaching':


... you cannot be certain whether the blackness or the 'wine' constitutes the ground or the figure. Although the title suggests that you are looking at two gateways or windows into a vanishing vista which is rapidly being dissolved into the void, you could also read the 'openings' as flimsy sentinels, or vestiges of the affirmatively real, holding you back from being swallowed up within that nothingness. But either way, there is no escape.12.


This is worth comparing with the case of the painter Ruth Kjär (referred to by Melanie Klein in Chapter two above). Unlike Rothko, Ruth was able, through the act of painting, to fill her own inner emptiness, depression and despair (symbolised by the blank space on her wall) by symbolically recreating (making reparation to) the mirror-mother she needed in order to establish a sense of self and wholeness . However, as the above analysis implies, Rothko's trajectory takes almost the reverse direction. In his confrontation with the void, via his painting, the infinity of inner space finally overwhelms and engulfs him. We are told by Fuller that the artist was found dead in a pool of blood on his studio floor; and apparently he had cut his wrists. This is a chillingly image of Bion's analogy between the fear of being annihilated and lost in such infinite spaces, and what happens in 'surgical shock' - the patient quite literally bleeds to death in his own tissues.



2. Painting and corporeality: Wollheim's account of pictorial meaning

The philosopher and aesthetician, Richard Wollheim's Painting as an Art (1987) is an eloquent and profound contribution to a material account of art, enriched by some forty years involvement with British psychoanalytic thinking. Wollheim grounds his aesthetics in the experience of the body, but where Fuller focuses on post-Kleinian theories of intrapsychic space (especially Winnicott's 'potential space') and the aesthetic encounter, Wollheim emphasises the efficacy of Kleinian theory, and in particular, the role of unconscious phantasy in the grounding of pictorial metaphor. He draws much on the writings of Stokes to look more closely at the specific ways in which certain paintings acquire corporeality, that is, the formal means by which the artist transfers his unconscious phantasies to the surface of the actual painting itself. For as we explored in chapter two, section two above, Kleinians conceive unconscious phantasy as the link between bodily experience and its mental (symbolic) representation: this concept has thus proved to be a highly productive conceptual tool in the study of the visual arts. It enabled (for example) Adrian Stokes to link the formal, aesthetic elements of art and artistic production (carving and modelling) with specific psychic mechanisms (the depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions), and it also allowed clinicians such as Hannah Segal to develop an account of aesthetic value which correlates with a specific kind of unconscious phantasy - that of reparation. (However, it could be argued that there is a sense in which all unconscious phantasy is creative, but according to traditional Kleinians, only art which arises from the specific phantasy of reparation is aesthetically profound, mature, and enduring.)


It was largely through his acquaintance with Adrian Stokes, who became a close friend and mentor, that Richard Wollheim's involvement with British psychoanalysis flourished into a deep and personal commitment, an interest which has remained an important influence on his theoretical writings and also his appreciation of the arts.13. It was at about the time he had been asked to review Greek Culture and the Ego (1958) that Wollheim first met in Stokes, and was also introduced to Klein.14. It was not until 1962 that he got to know Stokes really well, and this was also at about the time that Wollheim began his own analysis with the Kleinian, Leslie Sohn.

It is interesting to note some of Wollheim's observations regarding Stokes's relationship with painting, for it will become apparent that Wollheim shares much of the Stokesian sensibility. For instance, he recalls that 'Adrian saw a great deal of art', and 'did not take the dispute between abstraction and figuration seriously ... all he required was that the work should have ... "visual relevance", by which he meant the power to support some image of the human body and therefore of the human psyche'.15. This is particularly relevant, for this view is certainly echoed in the last chapter of Painting as an Art, which will be our main concern here.

Like Stokes, Wollheim hesitates to make too much of the so-called distinction between the 'abstract' and the 'figurative', arguing that (in de Kooning's work, for example) this distinction is not a fundamental one, and actually 'obscures more than it reveals'. What Wollheim considers important is the extent to which figuration mattered to the artist (1987, p. 352). One of the reasons why Wollheim mistrusts this distinction, is largely due to the view of pictorial meaning he develops. As we shall see below, he firmly believes that the most fundamental thing that a picture metaphorises (that is, when it draws on the fullest resources of pictorial metaphor) is the body - and the body can be metaphorised (he argues) without actually being represented at all. Indeed, Wollheim's affinity with Stokes is most profoundly expressed through his valuation of the corporeal in art.16.

Wollheim was also involved in psychoanalysis through the Imago Group. At these meetings, Wollheim encountered psychoanalysts such as Bion, Segal, Money-Kyrle, and Meltzer, as well as non-practitioners such as Stuart Hampshire, J.O. Wisdom, and Eric Rhode; he was thus in close touch with British psychoanalytic ideas and the on-going debates at a time when the dialogue between the analytic community and the wider community of thinkers was flourishing.

In his review of Stokes's Greek Culture and the Ego (1958) - a work which emphasises the deep connections between the body and art - Wollheim found much to commend Kleinian theory and suggests that what makes Kleinian theory a particularly valuable contribution to aesthetics and criticism, is that it 'seeks to interpret works of human creativity in a new and original way'. Indeed, in this review he gives a number of important reasons why a Kleinian aesthetic improves on more orthodox Freudian approaches to art. (A more detailed critique of Freudian aesthetics can be found in 'Freud and the Understanding of Art', in Wollheim, 1974).

However, although Wollheim finds orthodox Freudian aesthetics and criticism unsatisfactory, his debt to certain aspects of Freudian thinking are very apparent, particularly in Chapter V, 'Ingres, the Wolf-Man, Picasso'. Indeed, Stephen Bann praises Wollheim's achievement here and suggests that he has 'added one more example to the genre which began with Freud's essay on Leonardo, and has only rarely produced work which so faithfully reproduces the insight and taste of the founder of the psychoanalytical movement'.17.

Yet Wollheim does not intend to subject paintings to the kind of 'pathographical' interpretation that gave Freudian aesthetics a bad name. He explores, for example, the psychological implications of Ingres's persistent distortions and contortions of pictorial space. Indeed, as Bann also points out, this theme brings his work in line with that of Norman Bryson's study of Ingres in his Tradition and Desire from David to Delacroix (1984). Yet where Bryson is more concerned with Ingres's revolt against the traditional canons of the Renaissance, Wollheim looks specifically at how Ingres oedipal anxieties are implicated and negotiated through the idiosyncrasies of the material aspect of his relationship to painting.

By focusing on the artist's relationship to his medium and the kinds of phantasies he projects into his work and his materials, Wollheim's deployment of traditional Freudian themes (the family romance, oedipal anxieties, rivalry, for example) acquires a distinctly Kleinian perspective. Indeed, when Wollheim suggests that, for Ingres, the act of painting was an attempt at the 'restitution of the father' who 'must melt' (with the suggestion not only of a yielding but also of his destruction) he adds a new dimension to the Kleinian emphasis on art as reparation to the destroyed mother.

There are a number of interlinked Kleinian themes which Wollheim draws upon throughout Painting as an Art: the 'manic defence', 'projective identification', 'unconscious phantasy', together with Klein's theory of envy and gratitude, idealisation and creativity.18. Many of these themes are integral to his general philosophical account of, for example, 'twofoldedness', 'expressive perception' and his fascinating account of the 'embodied spectator' - also referred to as the 'spectator in the picture'. But it is the last chapter 'Painting, Metaphor, and the Body', that he draws most profoundly on the aesthetic criticism of Stokes (and the psychoanalytical insights of Klein) for whom the theme of corporeality was of paramount importance. It is certainly integral to Wollheim's account of pictorial meaning, and yet, as we shall see below, Wollheim shows himself to be strikingly innovative: by extending the link between architectural and corporeal values into the domain of painting, he significantly enlarges the scope of Stokes's project.19.

However, it is evident that Wollheim has thought a great deal about the link between corporeality, mental states and symbolic activity. In an earlier essay, 'The Mind and the Mind's Image of Itself' (1968), he weaves together the insights of Klein, Segal and Bion into a subtle philosophical argument stressing that our notions and reports of mental states themselves presuppose a conception of the mind that is itself 'tinged with spatiality'. Further to this, he adds that


all such conceptions derive ultimately from an assumption of the mind to the body, of mental activity to bodily functioning, of mental contents to parts of the body. So the mysterious union of mind and body occurs also at a stage further back than the traditional philosophers apprehended. It is not merely that we are at home in our body: we are at home in our mind somewhat as in a body. This, we may say, is the mind's image of itself. But if it is, if this is the image that the mind sees when it sees itself, this is, in part at least, because it is this image that the mind draws when it draws itself.20.

Not only does this illustrate the extent to which Kleinian theory informs his philosophical position, a reading of it prepares us well for the important theme of "painting as the body" which he develops in the closing chapter of Painting as an Art. It is interesting to note that Wollheim's paper had reinforced Stokes own belief in the 'strong corporeality-cum-spatiality ... associated with art as a reflection of mental states and their communication'.21. Thus it is not simply that Wollheim absorbed Stokes's ideas and thus deployed Kleinian theory, but rather that he modified their account in terms of his own philosophical views, enabling Stokes himself to think more deeply about the theme of art and the body.

In view of Wollheim's long-standing interest in the arts, it is interesting to note in the above extract, his choice of the verb 'to draw'. Not only does it connote the activity of 'describing' or 'representing', it also has an obvious visual, artistic reference - one that bears directly on his thesis concerning the metaphorical relationship between the painting and the body. For if we imagine (as Wollheim does) that the artist expresses, through both the materials as well as the activity of painting, certain mental states, emotions, together with his own thoughts about these, then it seems perfectly natural for Wollheim to argue that these conceptions are communicated by invoking them in terms of their metaphorical relation to the body - via their corporeal associations which (according to the Kleinian theory) are grounded in unconscious phantasy. This view, as we shall see below, is central to his chapter on 'Painting, Metaphor and the Body'.

In Wollheim's aesthetics, pictorial metaphor is held to be one of the most fundamental ways in which a painting acquires content and (primary) meaning.22. Although it is true that there are some paintings which do not metaphorise the body, he argues that it is only when a painting stands for the body in some way that it uses the full resources of pictorial metaphor. Where this occurs 'the painting becomes a metaphor for the body, or ... some part of the body, or for something assimilated to the body' (p. 305). It should be stressed that he is not concerned with paintings that have metaphors as their textual content (for example, Blake's The River of Life or Chardin's House of Cards); he is concerned with paintings that metaphorise the body, and not only through their representational content.

However, it is important to point out that Wollheim does not believe that pictorial metaphor can be reduced to linguistic metaphor, although there are a number of similarities. Firstly, pictorial metaphor (like linguistic metaphor) does not require that the elements that effect the metaphor lose their normal sense. Secondly, both kinds of metaphor do not require that there is a special or pre-existent link between what the elements carrying the metaphor pick out. (For instance, in "Juliet is the sun" there does not have to be a symbolic link between Juliet and the sun.) Similarly, in pictorial metaphor there does not have to be an iconographical link between what a picture expresses and what it metaphorises. Thirdly, the aim of both kinds of metaphor is to set out what is being metaphorised in a new light.

The important difference between the two kinds of metaphor is this: where linguistic metaphor illuminates what it metaphorises by linking it with something other than itself, this is not wholly the case with pictorial metaphor. With the latter, the thing metaphorised is the painting itself. It is not (as with linguistic metaphor) what the picture picks out, although it does have to pick out something in order to be a metaphor. As he says in the 'Conclusion', pictorial meaning is grounded in 'some mental condition' of the artist which is somehow able to induce in the spectator an 'appropriately related' mental condition, and Wollheim thinks that the psychic mechanism which is responsible for the transmission of meaning is that of unconscious phantasy. However, although the spectator must have 'the required sensitivity and the required information' to be able to think, feel as the artist wishes him to do, the viewer (unlike the hearer of a language) does not need to know about rules or conventions which are applied to the picture in order to extract its meaning (p. 357). What is needed is a shared sensibility, which, as Wollheim (and Fuller) argues, is grounded on a common human nature, and the relative constancy of the human body.

According to Wollheim's account, 'when the way of metaphor works what is paired with the object metaphorised is the picture as a whole'. Thus our viewing experience is grounded in a response to the picture as a totality.23. In addition, when the painting metaphorises the body (which, for Wollheim is the 'most fundamental case of pictorial metaphor') we assign to the picture the global property of corporeality. The metaphorical content of the painting is 'given by what the emotions, sentiments, phantasies, which the response mobilises, are normally directed on to' (p. 306).

As we noted a few paragraphs above, this view expressed above is strongly grounded in the Kleinian concept of unconscious phantasy, for as Susan Isaacs emphasises, 'phantasies are primarily about bodily aims, pains and pleasures, directed to objects of some kind'.24. Thus we can appreciate how, through the concept of unconscious phantasy, Wollheim is able to forge a link between 'metaphorising' and the kind of affective experience which is set in motion by perception. In addition, it is through this corporeal response to the painting (grounded in the rich reservoir of unconscious phantasy life) that our attitudes to the body are themselves modified, deepened, and intensified.

Wollheim is also very close to Stokes's thinking here. For the observations noted above concur directly with the view expressed in his essay on 'Art and Embodiment', that


... we learn to see the spirit, the animation, in terms of art's inoffensive material. That material stands for the body whether or not it has been used to represent the body. Art, truly seen ... does not so much educate us about animation, about the mind or spirit, about the intentions of others good or bad in which we find a source of persecutory feeling or of trust, as about the resulting body-person, about the embodiment that is much more than an embodiment because bodily attributes have always been identified with those intentions.25.

Yet although Wollheim is emphasising a global as opposed to a piecemeal response to a painting, this is far from advocating a 'global' conception of pictorial response, in the spirit of (say) Ehrenzweig's 'hidden order of art' and the account of unconscious, 'depth' perception.26. Because such a global response privileges a preferential response prior to other kinds of perception - specifically to that of representational seeing - Wollheim argues that it is therefore 'irrelevant to our understanding of pictorial metaphor'. The nature of the experience that underlies metaphor cannot be like this, for it is one that comes after, and can therefore benefit from, other modes of perception: metaphor capitalises on this other (unconscious or 'depth') mode of perception, using it as part of the 'cognitive stock' which infuses greater meaning into representational seeing (p. 306).

However, one could take issue with this argument and suggest that Ehrenzweig's 'depth' perception is not 'prior' to representational seeing, as Wollheim claims it is. In Ehrenzweig's account of creative perception (see chapter 5, section 2 above) 'unconscious scanning' works in conjunction with 'surface', conscious (representational) seeing. As we have noted, Ehrenzweig's view is supported by revised accounts of the relationship between the primary and secondary processes that have been developed by a number of British School analysts (Rycroft, 1962, Milner, 1956) who see them as more homogenous, working together, rather than one supervening on the other. (Some of the implications of this 'revision' will be discussed further in our Conclusion.)


As the subtitle of this chapter suggests, Wollheim directs his study to the work of artists taken from different traditions. Although the work of these artists is linked by the theme of 'painting as the body', they achieve their effects in a number of different ways. In addition, Wollheim also shows us that a variety of conceptions (phantasies) about the body are metaphorised by the artist through his use of the medium as well as the way he represents the body itself, and he suggests how these, in turn, inform the spectator's affective responses and phantasies about the body. (However, as we shall see below, there are also paintings that can metaphorise the body without representing it, that is, without making it the central object of representation.)

To extrapolate precisely how the artist achieves the sense of corporeality, Wollheim studies the work of a number of artists, including Titian, whose work evokes (for him) very powerful feelings about the body - its vitality, yet also its vulnerability and mortality. Titian's central device at achieving corporeality exploits what Wollheim calls 'twofoldedness', a property allows us to 'see [things] in' the painted surface.27. There are, he argues, two distinct yet inseparable aspects to this experience. There is the recognition of something absent (the body) and an awareness of the marked surface. We sense in Titian's paintings 'a body poised for action', and we are also aware of 'the coloured expanse in which we see the body as something spreading or pushing outwards' (p. 310, my italics). Wollheim claims that we attend to these aspects simultaneously- that they are twin aspects of a single, complex experience. This could perhaps be seen in terms of Stokes's view that the aesthetic encounter combines 'the sense of fusion with the sense of object-otherness'.28.

Corporeality is also achieved by connecting the represented body with action, and this 'action' must be understood in its broadest sense. For not only does it concern muscular energy and movement , it also concerns 'the relaxation of the body, the sudden sagging of limbs, in which the body also reveals its vitality', evident in both Concert Champêtre and the Three Ages of Man [plates 4 and 5 below]. In these paintings it is apparent that the gaze is yet another active element: seeking knowledge, expressing adoration, arousing desire. However, it is not the 'secret weapon' deployed by Ingres and Picasso (as Wollheim argues in Chapter V) but more the 'outpouring of the mind ... a second, naïve, voice' (p. 312).

Another way that Titian establishes the sense of the body in these two paintings, is by setting up a number of pictorial equivalences: for example, between body and nature, flesh and stone, young skin and sky. This is enhanced by the use of near-complementaries which has a 'special binding effect'. Here Wollheim is indebted to the insights of Stokes's Colour and Form (1937, revised 1950) where he emphasises that 'a picture should be like an open concertina capable of being packed in harmoniously'. It is interesting to note that he, too, uses the Concert Champêtre as an example of this 'colour-binding' effect, suggesting that 'far the most striking colour ... is a segment of crimson hat belonging to the central seated musician [...] the colour and form of the rest of the picture could be folded up in that hat'. Stokes also insisted that this use of near-complementary colour is an expression of the carving mode in painting, for the artist creates (quite literally) a 'family tree' of resemblance using colour combinations which are related more as 'brothers' than as 'rivals'.29.

In addition to this, the painting acquires corporeality is through the production of 'what demands to be though of as a paint skin' (p. 312). In the Three Ages of Man, for example, here are many deliberate alterations of texture which produce the effect of swelling and mass, the brushstrokes suggest the abundance of foliage in the meadow. Another device operates through Titian's ordering of the picture plane, and in particular, his 'benign neglect of perspective'. This, like the effect of colour-binding, encourages a global response to the picture - it is taken in at a glance. (Indeed, Vasari felt that the capacity to be taken within una sola occhiata was a significant characteristic of all Venetian painting, and Stokes thought that when 'a good picture is observed in a fraction of a second' it is an expression of the 'carving' element in painting.)30.

Finally, Wollheim draws our attention to an element also featured in other paintings of the same period, one that is a characteristic of the great High Renaissance structures of Leonardo and Raphael, but 'self-consciously torn out of its context' in Titian's work. He refers to the 'diminutive profiles cut totally in conformity with linear perspective by figures in the middle distance or the background'. ( Look at the shepherd's silhouette in the Concert Champêtre, or that of the old man in the Three Ages of Man, for example.) In a High Renaissance painting these figures 'would add to the monumental effect', but apparently this is not the case here. Titian gives us no orthogonals, with no vanishing point and no indicated point of origin. This lack of projection makes the delicate profiles appear as 'tiny decorative fragments which have been scattered across the picture' (p. 314).

How does this create the sense of corporeality? Wollheim suggests it does so not immediately, but mediately. The picture endowed with corporeality can also (although it does not have to) get itself thought of (metaphorically) as something which the body also is - a container. (He is, of course, drawing on a fundamental Kleinian theme here, for as we saw in chapter two below, Klein regarded the mother's body as the primary 'container' into which the infant projects his phantasies.) In the case of these examples from Titian, the tiny profiles, like delicate 'odds and ends' are assimilated into the picture which acts like a container, gathering the fragments together as if they were trinkets in a jewellery box. (As we shall see in the example of de Kooning below, the artist's special use of the medium can also encourage us to think of the painting in terms of a container.)

However, Wollheim suggests that there is another, even more specific and active way whereby the painting can get itself though of as a body. This relates to its capacity to evoke imagined sound, and such a picture is the Concert Champêtre. Wollheim is, of course, drawing on the beautiful passage by Walter Pater which dwells on the significance of listening in the paintings of Giorgione and his school. Pater thought that 'all art constantly aspires to the condition of music', especially early Cinquecento Venetian painting, where


... music or musical intervals in our existence, life itself, is conceived as a sort of listening - listening to music, to the reading of Bandello's novels, to the sound of water, to time as it flies. [...] The presence of water - the well, or marble-rimmed pool, the drawing or pouring of water, as the woman pours it from a pitcher with her jewelled hand in the [sic] Fête Champêter listening, perhaps to the cool sound as it falls, blent with the music of the pipes - is characteristic, and almost as suggestive, as that of music itself.31.

However, Wollheim adds a distinctly Kleinian perspective to Pater's analysis, by suggesting that the sound 'in' the picture encourages us to engage with the painting as if it were a container (and therefore a body). But we might ask, in what sense does a painting 'contain' sound? Wollheim admits that he cannot appeal to any systematic theory of representation or expression to adequately explain this property, but he does suggests that the picture gives rise to the thought that sound is 'in' the painting in the same way that we might imagine 'the notes lie around inside the music box when the tune has stopped ... or that the hum lies around inside the fridge' (p. 315).

Another dimension is added to his theme when Wollheim raises the question of whether a painting can suggest the body without actually representing it - that is, when it is not depicted as the central feature of representation. He believes that specific kinds of pictures can do this, particularly those that incorporate architecture or depict building scapes. As we shall see, Wollheim is especially indebted to Stokes here, particularly his writings on Renaissance architecture, and on the Venetian townscape, where the apertures of buildings - particularly through their way of negotiating inner and outer space - are metaphorically equated with the apertures of the human body.32. Stokes was highly sensitive to the connections between architecture, painting and the body, and in one of his later writings, he observes that


Viewed as an image of mind and body the painting shows the flesh, with the forces that animate and those to which it is subject, as divided, as mingled in new combinations. [...] Building has figured in nearly all our landscape painting up to the middle of the last century when architecture for the first time ceased to epitomise the co-ordination of the body and thereby the integration of the ego, of the person or the mind. Yet the old theme was notably exploited by Corot at times, he and those who accompanied and followed him have continued to provide through the texture of their paint, or through other insistence on the picture plane, many of those surface values that an environment of architecture once had lavished.33.


As we shall now explore, Wollheim's achievement is to deploy Stokes's insights in a fascinating and innovative way - by equating bodies with buildings via their representation through their painted surface. For in becoming a surface, Wollheim argues that the paint takes on the metaphorical value of being a skin, 'not in its localised character, but in its overall effect' (p. 341). Indeed, as Stokes himself observes in the above quotation, it is 'through the texture of their paint', the artist's engagement with the medium, that the corporeality is infused into the painting. Wollheim also looks more closely at what this 'other insistence on the picture plane' (alluded to by Stokes) might involve as far as theme of painting as the body is concerned.

Wollheim explores the work of two lesser known artists whose work features architecture to a prominent degree: Bernardo Bellotto (a follower of Canalletto), and the Welsh eighteenth-century artist, Thomas Jones. Firstly, Bellotto: Wollheim looks at his Views of Schloss Königstein (late 1750's: plates 6 and 7 below). He suggests that, just like the bodies in Titian's paintings, the buildings seem to 'swell under our eyes ... they promise to take over the total picture' (p. 340). This is accomplished by a mixture of three main elements.

Firstly, he draws upon a notion that Stokes first described in the Quattro Cento (1932) - the affective and spatial differences evoked by the sense of mass and massiveness in architecture.34. Wollheim suggests that Bellotto's buildings


strike us as solid. They are not gimcrack. But they do not just lie on the grass in the way we would expect their constituents, or the building materials out of which they are constructed, to do so if they were taken apart: that would be massiveness. They reach upwards: reach, not soar. They seem capable of upward gentle movement.35.

Wollheim makes another Stokesian point when he refers to Bellotto's 'carving' of the wall surface depicted by the painting, where the material of the wall is not presented 'as some stuff, some chance stuff, out of which these free-standing buildings and their attachments have been modelled or given shape'. Wollheim suggests that the material performs the same role for these buildings 'as the block of marble does for the carved sculpture when the sculpture gives the impression of having been retrieved from the stone by the chisel' (p. 340). Thus Bellotto achieves corporeal effects by way of the correspondence that he establishes between the paint surface and the wall surface, between the texture of what he represents with and the texture of what it is he represents (see plate 7).36.

This latter point is obviously indebted to Stokes's account of the difference between the 'carver' and 'modeller', where the former respects his medium as if it were an independent object with a life of its own; one feels that 'not the figure, but the stone through the medium, has come to life' (see Chapter three, section two below). The modeller, however, omnipotently moulds his medium to suit his phantasies; 'it appears no more than as so much suitable stuff for this creation'. Indeed, Stokes emphasised that fine building (and particularly that of the Mediterranean) invoked those carving (whole-object) values, for it 'exemplifies the reparative function of art' and 'draws upon the origin of all sense of wholeness'.37.

In addition, Wollheim suggests that there is something special about the way that apertures are represented in Bellotto's pictures: his 'windows and doors ... are not treated as mere modifications upon the wall surface: black patches upon lighter ground. Nor are they represented as places where the wall surface has been cut into, a part of it excised and thrown away, and something else behind it revealed to exist'. What is so special about them, according to Wollheim, is that these apertures appear integral to the wall surface, which gives the impression that the wall has not been perpetrated or damaged. Yet we are not shut out from the inside of the buildings, for there is also the sense in which these apertures allow us imaginative 'access to, and exit from, and above all, knowledge of, what lies beyond the wall' (p. 340). (This concerns the Kleinian theme of the child's phantasies about the mother's body and what it contains. According to Klein all symbolic experience, and thus all psychic growth, is grounded in infantile phantasies about the mother's body and its contents.)

If we now turn to look at Stokes account of architecture in Smooth and Rough, we can see here that is undoubtedly a major source for Wollheim's insights. Stokes writes that in 'fine architecture'



we partake of an inexhaustible feeding mother ... though we have bitten, torn and dirtied and pinched her, though we thought to have lost her utterly, to have destroyed her utterly in fantasy and act. We are grateful to the stone buildings for their stubborn material, hacked and hewed but put together carefully, restored in better shape than those pieces the infant imagined he had chewed or scattered. Much crude rock stands rearranged; now in the form of apertures, of suffusion at the sides of apertures, the bites, the tears, the pinches are miraculously identified with the recipient passages of the body, with sense organs, with features; as well as with the good mother which we would eat more mercifully for preservation and safety within, and for our own.38.

This reparative aspect of architecture is also significant feature in the building scapes of a comparatively unknown eighteenth-century artist, Thomas Jones, whose 'simple, unaffected pictures' radiate primitive feeling with 'an immediacy that is absent from the statelier, more grown up pictures of Bellotto'. Jones gets 'timeless discoloured buildings of great dignity and humble materials to revive the infant's perception of the body ... stretched out, close-up, palpable, taken in through the eyes of desire and destruction' (p. 345).

This is achieved primarily through his use of perspective. The buildings are greatly elevated by a wide-angled vision, encouraged by the horizontal format together with a slippage from linear to orthogonal perspective in which the orthogonals are drawn as parallel lines, giving the optical effect of a series of close-up views on to the object, up and down its length. Thus the buildings appear 'near and prone', reviving the infant's earliest vision of the mother's body. This is especially evident in Buildings in Naples and Rooftops in Naples. [Plates 8 and 9 below.]

Another device which draws even more immediately upon our kinaesthetic and visceral responses to Jones's paintings, operates via the texture of the paint surface itself (compare Titian's depiction of human flesh and Bellotto's depiction of the wall surface). Jones 'allows the shadow to convert itself into texture: it smooths the stone, or it roughens the plaster, on which it is cast' (p. 346).

It is interesting to note that Stokes conceived of the relationship between the corporeal and the architectural in the following terms: 'the body is evoked through ... the thematic contrast between two principal textures - smooth and rough'. For him, the 'smooth and rough' dichotomy symbolised all aspects of architectural value, for 'it best marks the 'bite' of architectural pleasure upon the memory [and] preserves both the oral and the tactile notions that underlie the visual'.39. These insights certainly seem to have shaped Wollheim's approach to the possibility of evoking the body through the representation of architectural values in painting.

What Wollheim finds particularly significant in Jones's paintings, is their capacity to evoke the both the destroyed and the repaired body - and therefore its capacity to survive attack (cf. a similar deployment of this theme Fuller's analysis of the Venus de Milo (1988, pp.71-129). This of course, draws upon the central Kleinian theme of reparation. For in capturing the nature of many southern buildings - the uncertainty of whether they are being built or being pulled-down (particularly evident in Rooftops, Naples,1782); Jones transforms and distils this 'visual ambiguity' into a deeply significant emotional condensation: the restoration of the mother's body which survives the infant's envious and greedy attacks. As Wollheim succinctly puts it: 'These buildings, having come down, or once destroyed, are now restored: they go up again' (p. 347).

Wollheim then takes a large leap (art historically speaking) into the genre of American abstract expressionism, and explores the work of Willem de Kooning. For just as Stokes's 'spatial' history of art enabled him to connect artists from a wide variety of traditions and genres, so Wollheim's 'corporeal' account of art allows him to make the surprising (if somewhat controversial) link between the style of de Kooning's work and that of early Cinquecento Venice. What is common to both (he argues) is a tendency to create a sense in which the picture space as a container filled with a variety of objects, and not just those of sight. But where Titian and other Venetians filled their picture space with sounds, Wollheim suggests that de Kooning collects sensations of movement, but 'all experienced in a heavily regressive mode': the paintings are containers crammed with 'infantile experiences of sucking, touching, biting, excreting, retaining, smearing, sniffing, swallowing, gurgling, stroking, wetting'. [Plate 10 below.]

According to Wollheim, we can identify two elements working in dynamic conjunction in the pictures: the sensations themselves, and also the presence of an experiencer. The sensations are conveyed by the 'lusciousness of the paint [and] their archaic character by the fat and gaudy substance into which he works it up', and the experiencer, the fragile, rudimentary ego corresponds to the near-squareness of the 'box-like support' (p. 349). These paintings are 'enormous shallow saucers in which a great deal of primitive glory is held in delicate suspense: it slops around, but is kept back by the rim'.

This regulatory, 'containing' role of the rim is also a very important aspect of the paintings, and recalls Milner's observations concerning the containing and directive role of the frame (see Chapter six, section 2 above). A drama is established between the movement of the massive, furrowed paint marks as they swerve to avoid, or actually collide with, the edge. This creates a tension which sensitises the viewer to the way in which the edge 'holds' the turbulence of sensations conveyed by the paint surface itself. It is this which evokes the sense of control exercised by the infantile self, as it struggles to make sense of the chaotic experiences that threaten to engulf the delicate barriers of the mind. Although as adults we may look with disdain upon such experiences, it must be remembered that they have great significance for the infant, for it is largely through these activities that the child explores the world, gaining knowledge, and experiencing its pleasures. But not only pleasure, for (as Fuller's account of Natkin and Rothko also emphasised) these pictures also remind us of the fragility of the early ego; that the threat of being engulfed and submerged by such a plethora of primitive sensation was very real.

However, it must be said that Wollheim's analysis pictorial meaning and the general thesis put forward in Painting as an Art has received mixed reception. Indeed, one particularly hostile reaction comes from the art-historian, Nicholas Penny, whose review of the book is by no means sympathetic - in fact, it is Wollheim's corporeal analysis of the 'Venetian' characteristics of de Kooning's work which finally causes Penny to break-off into speechlessness (Penny, 1988, p. 20). Yet it is interesting to examine Penny's objections, for they do provide a good example of what happens when traditional art history meets the "shock of the new".

Let us review Wollheim's main thesis, before looking at Penny's criticisms. Wollheim is committed to a view of pictorial meaning which rejects linguistic meaning, and privileges the intention of the artist, combined with the capacity of the spectator to perceive this (via unconscious phantasy, specifically that of projective identification - see Chapter two, section three below for an analysis of this concept). Wollheim urges that it is through his own persistent scrutiny of art works, his laborious attention to the way that the artist has deployed his materials, and the phantasies associated with these, it is by way of these, as well as a Bionian 'purging of memory and desire', that the meaning of a picture gradually discloses itself.

The truth of his interpretation is intimately linked to the time spent in front of the pictures and the evidence given to him by his eyes, his thoughts, and his feelings. Thus the accuracy of his interpretation is not measured against any historical evidence or ideological or semiotic analysis (although such analyses could conceivably accompany and enhance this primary response). Wollheim's approach suggests that his interpretation of painting (albeit in a 'purified' form) is a good indication of what most of us would see, given that we share a number of characteristics as human beings: the most important (in this case) being the fact we all have a body and (according to Kleinian theory) and would also have a rich unconscious phantasy life grounded in this corporeal base. As he stresses in his conclusion, painting would not continue to be practised as an art were it not for the fact that in some way it remains intelligible and accessible to the majority of us who participate in the Western culture. This is the basis of his position, which he links to the psychoanalytic thinking of Freud, Klein, and the aesthetics of Stokes.

Wollheim rejects 'traditional' art-history because it is 'deeply infected with positivism, and central to positivism are the overestimation of fact, the rejection of cause, and the failure to grasp the centrality of explanation' (1987, p. 9). In short, his approach suggests that we can do without art-history - or at least, we should question its privileged status as the art discourse par excellence. He writes that


Standardly we do not call the objective study of an art the history of that art. We call it criticism. We talk of literary criticism, of musical criticism, of dance criticism. What then is a special feature of the visual arts, something which must be over and above the general way in which all the arts are connected with a tradition, and which has allegedly, the consequence that, if we are to understand painting, or sculpture, or graphic art, we must teach an historical understanding of them? I do not know, and, given the small progress that art-history has made in explaining the visual arts, I am inclined to think that the belief that there is such a feature is itself something that needs historical explanation: it is an historical accident.40.


In the light of these remarks, it is not surprising that Wollheim has come under fire from traditional art-historians such as Penny, although the latter does make some valid criticisms. It is true that Wollheim's book is written in that 'jerky, tightly self-observant prose favoured by philosophers' (Penny, 1987, p. 19), making it hard to follow at times. The art-historian also points out that Wollheim's argument that 'it has been the practice for the painter too position himself in front of the support, on that side of it which he marks, facing it, with his eye open and fixed upon it' (Wollheim, 1987, p. 43) is not actually corroborated by visual evidence. For in all of the illustrations, apart from one, the artist seems not to look at his own painting but at his subject, the exception is a photo of Pollock working, and he had no 'subject' in this sense. Thus Penny qualifies Wollheim by saying that 'in their paintings of painting, artists did not, then, always bother to make it clear that they looked at the marks they were making' (Penny, 1987, p. 19).

However, what makes Penny particularly angry is Wollheim's suggestion that the meaning of a painting can disclose itself by looking long and hard at it, rather than by attending to documentary and historical evidence. For what characterises Wollheim's approach is his somewhat idiosyncratic methodology:


I evolved a way of looking at paintings which massively time-consuming but also deeply rewarding, For I came to recognise that it often took the first hour or so in front of a painting for stray associations or motivated misperceptions to settle down, and it was then, and only then, with the same amount of time or more to spend looking at it, that the picture could be relied upon to disclose itself as it was.41.

This certainly testifies to Wollheim's faith that the meaning of an artwork can be apprehended through an encounter with the object on a very deep, almost meditative, level. It is clearly a response that does not require on other kinds of "evidence" in order to grasp art's essential value, or 'message', and like Stokes, Wollheim values the quality of otherness in art, the capacity of the painting to reveal itself slowly, to speak for itself - as if it were a person, with a rich inner life.

Penny's cutting remarks leave us in no doubt as to his view of the matter, and he is certainly not impressed by Wollheim's deployment of Kleinian psychoanalytic ideas. Indeed, it is Wollheim's suggestion that de Kooning's pictures can be though of as body-containers crammed with 'infantile sensations of sucking, touching, biting, excreting, retaining, smearing, sniffing, swallowing, gurgling, stroking, wetting,' that finally renders Penny speechless. He does not even think it necessary to argue: his rhetorical flourish of tailing-off into silence is all that is deemed necessary to make the final point that no one in their right minds could possibly take Wollheim seriously.

The dismissiveness of traditional art-historians to such an approach is not wholly surprising, for most of us are perhaps reluctant to admit that infantile experiences could be implicated in the "respectable" world of art and culture, realms which apparently transcend this realm of primitive psychic functioning. However, precisely how far these experiences are truly 'regressive' is a theme which we will return to in the conclusion. Suffice it to say at this point, that Penny's remarks do hint at what Stephen Bann describes as 'the constraining force of a kind of art-historical norm, which asserts itself whenever certain boundaries are transgressed' (1989, p. 12). However, there are difficulties with Wollheim's approach. As Bann points out, it is not enough to ground a theory of art and pictorial meaning on the psychoanalytic supposition that we share a common human nature: appealing purely to the personal response is not enough. Psychoanalytic aestheticians must bear in mind that the 'subjective' stance needs balancing with 'objective' analyses that take into account the wider historical and structural dimensions that an intrapsychic approach cannot accommodate.



Overview: a comparison of Fuller and Wollheim

As the introduction to this Chapter made clear, there was no collaboration between Wollheim and Fuller. However, in this concluding section, I shall give an overview of the main ways in which their interests converge. It will be appreciated that, when viewed as a whole, their work testifies to the productivity of British psychoanalytic theory for aesthetics and criticism.

Firstly, both thinkers share a radical dissatisfaction with the traditional canons of art history, as well as more recent approaches: structuralism, iconography, hermeneutics and semiotics. According to Fuller, such approaches fail because they cannot address the specifically aesthetic aspects of art. By reducing art to ideology or an historical text they miss out on what makes art so different from other areas of experience, thus leaving 'art-shaped holes'.

In his 'Preface' to Painting as an Art Wollheim makes clear his position clear vis-à-vis the canons of traditional art history, as well as certain linguistically-based approaches to art that have become so popular, particularly in France. Like Fuller, he is deeply dissatisfied with both traditional and 'New Art History'; he is thus somewhat of an interesting and unusual figure.42. As we noted above, he believes that traditional art history is deeply infected with the 'pernicious disease of positivism' (p. 9). Yet neither is he drawn to the kind of sociological explanation of the arts, championed by those such as T.J. Clark or F. Haskell, for although he is very much devoted to the spirit of socialism, he does not believe that an allegiance to social explanation is a necessary concomitant of this. What is fundamentally wrong with such accounts, he argues, is their tendency to reduce art to a set of social and historical functions and conditions.

The other tradition that he passes over is that of structuralism and post-structuralism, although adherents include many of his esteemed friends. In 'Painting, Metaphor and the Body', he points out that one of the most problematic features of such accounts, is their assimilation of pictorial meaning to linguistic meaning. In Wollheim's view, linguistic meaning cannot exhaust all the possibilities regarding the meaning of a picture; neither does it fully explain why works of art exert such a profound impact on us affectively as well as intellectually. As we have seen, corporeality lies at the heart of his account of pictorial meaning: it is a meaning which operates independently of narrative and linguistic structures, and is grounded in unconscious phantasy.

Like Fuller's distaste for the Lacanian-Althusserian approach, Wollheim finds 'somewhat daunting [the post-structuralists's] seeming indifference to the particularity of the works they engage with and the readiness with which they allow their perceptions to become blurred by ... "theory".' One of the main problems with their notion of "theory" is the failure to respect the distinction between description and explanation (p. 10).

Wollheim combines his theory of pictorial meaning with a defence of intentionalism. Like Fuller, he believes that there is a crucial link between what the artist intends (that is, his 'fulfilled' intention) and the affective experience (and phantasies) of the viewer. As the final chapter makes clear, it is largely through the artist's bodily relationship to the canvas (and the viewer's visceral, kinaesthetic response) and the phantasies surrounding these, that the painting acquires corporeality. In such cases, the painting will have greater richness and depth of meaning, and thus can most deservedly be thought of as an 'art'.

Fuller, too, was interested in the relationship between aesthetic value and the artist's physical relationship to his medium. To illustrate this, he compares the work of Natkin and that of Olitski, another colour field painter. Fuller argues that although both artist's evoke the sense of 'a skin, or an illusory suffusing depth', the affective experience of Olitski's spray paintings is of a very different kind. With the latter, there is a sense of 'inauthenticity ... something like milk-shakes, of faked and plastic flavours'. Fuller claims that the difference largely resides in the artist's respective bodily relationship to their paintings, as the observation of Natkin's painting method seems to show, for he


paints like a dancer ... the rhythms of his body inform the way in which he gradually builds up the image. This is both controlled and seemingly instinctive: watching him, it is possible to observe both his informing energy and his technical mastery of the medium working together. There is a real sense in which every painting he makes is imprinted with his touch and movement: it cannot but stand in an intimate close relation to his body, and be expressive of the emotions and sensations which he experiences through his body [...] we feel, and are moved by, the artist's touch pervading every part of the canvas.43.

Thus both Fuller and Wollheim concur with the view that the 'authenticity' of a painting, its aesthetic value, is partly determined by the extent to which the affects of the artist have undergone material transformation (or, in psychoanalytic terms, have been cathected) via the medium: 'we feel, and are moved by, the artist's touch pervading every part of the surface'. This is not so with Olitski's sprayed canvases, for 'the spray gun is mechanical'. It can evoke a sense of space it cannot itself constitute it - the area of negotiation between inner and outer, subjective and objective, can be alluded to through such a technique, but it cannot be materially expressed by it.


However, regarding their respective allegiance to traditions within the British School, there are some important distinctions to be made between the two writers. Fuller essentially moves away from Freud and Klein, and aligns himself with the 'post-Kleinian' insights of Bion, Milner and Winnicott, who are 'much more interesting heirs of Freud than France or America have produced'. In particular, he regarded their ideas concerning the creative role of illusion in human development and cultural life as being 'among the most significant of any post Second World War insights into human nature' (1988, p. xiv).

Fuller's Art and Psychoanalysis was, he admits, largely motivated by the vicissitudes of his own analysis. Indeed, judging by the shift in direction his thinking has taken, it would seem that, in part, the book was also a 'working-through' of his relationship to psychoanalysis, for he has also progressively distanced himself from a psychoanalytic approach, returning to an aesthetic grounded in a theological framework. His Theoria, Art and the Absence of Grace (1988) and Images of God (1991) show the unmistakable influence of Ruskin on his thinking. This later work argues that we should search once again for the 'objective' basis of beauty in the patterns of nature - ostensibly a return to a Ruskinian aesthetic.44.

Wollheim's allegiance, however, is firmly with the Kleinian wing of the British School, as the last section of his book makes clear, for his account of 'Painting, Metaphor, and the Body' is profoundly indebted to the insights of Klein and the aesthetic criticism of Adrian Stokes. Writing both as a philosopher and a lover of painting, Wollheim's account is a tightly-weaved, highly theoretical argument, which he effectively combines with the detailed scrutiny of a wide range of individual paintings - thus making Painting as an Art both challenging and absorbing to read.

As Fuller rightly acknowledges, Wollheim's Painting as an Art is truly a 'magisterial summary of a lifetime's thinking ... truly a great book'. Indeed, he adds (somewhat deprecatingly) that it made his 'own fumbling sorties into this area look feeble and redundant' (ibid., p. x). Perhaps Fuller is being overly humble and self-deprecating, but it is fair to say that in terms of its style and sensibility, Wollheim's contribution is by far the most profound and certainly has more to offer both in terms of breadth and depth.

Psychoanalytically speaking, one could say that the trajectory of Fuller's theoretical development manifests the 'paranoid-schizoid' defences of splitting (from psychoanalysis) and idealisation (of Ruskin). Wollheim, however, has succeeded in integrating a variety of his long-standing interests: philosophy, the love of painting, the insights of psychoanalysis, and a commitment to socialism. By the lights of Kleinian theory, he has come closer to a 'depressive integration' of these varied (and no doubt sometimes competing) elements in his oeuvre. Perhaps this is why his work leaves the impression of integrity and hard-won insight, a reciprocity between art, psychoanalysis and philosophy that has been nourished over many years.

Viewed together, the combined contributions of Fuller and Wollheim demonstrate that British School thinking has a great deal to offer the study of aesthetics and criticism. It is an approach which could be identified as a uniquely British psychoanalytic aesthetic - one that grounds our response to art in corporeality, forges a material link between the formal elements of art, the intrapsychic dynamics of the creative process, and also aesthetic response. Thus it fleshes-out the 'art-shaped holes' left by (for example) Marxist, structuralist, post-structuralist, and post-modern accounts of art. It offers a humanistic account of meaning and value, one which is grounded in the reciprocity between inner and outer worlds (Klein), the interchange between mother and baby (Bion, Meltzer, Winnicott). It goes further than any other psychoanalytic theory of art to explain why the activity of painting itself is meaningful and valuable to us, partly by appealing to our shared humanity and a common cultural base. Most importantly, it is an approach informed by a committed to the love of truth combined with 'negative capability' - the capacity to tolerate mystery and doubt - the burden of 'not knowing'.




1. A. Stokes, Reflections on the Nude, CWS, III, p. 328.

2. The details of this autobiographical 'journey' are explored more fully in his autobiographical Marches Past (1986). This makes clear the role that both Freud and Marx played his own oedipal drama -it seems that he felt he had to 'overthrow' them in order to move on, intellectually and emotionally. As his analysis progressed, he became aware of the importance of the mother-child relationship and its vicissitudes; this marked growth period in his own personal life, and also made him change his approach to art and aesthetics. It is significant that Art and Psychoanalysis is dedicated to his own analyst, Kenneth Wright, and to the analyst Charles Rycroft, with whom he corresponded.

3. He is especially antipathetic to Terry Eagleton's aesthetics. See Fuller's preface to Images of God which contains a rather personalised attack on his ideas.

4. Fuller (1988), p. 208.

5. Robert Natkin, Andre Emmerich Downtown Gallery (Abrams Books, New York, 1974), pp. 3-5, my italics.

6. Ibid., p. 179.

7. Ehrenzweig (1971), p. 94.

8. Winnicott (1971), p. 131. Although Winnicott acknowledges the influence of Lacan's paper, 'Le Stade du Miroir' (1949) on his thinking, particularly Lacan's reference to the use of the mirror in each individual's ego development, Winnicott stresses that 'Lacan does not think of the mirror in terms of the mother's face in the way that I wish to do here' (1971, p. 130). It is interesting to compare their respective positions for they are based on very different conceptions of the human imagination and, therefore their notions of creativity. Their differences also an index of fundamental differences between the British and French traditions of psychoanalysis. Lacan considers the whole concept of the creative imagination as fundamentally bound up with humanist anthropology. The notion of imagination is deemed synonymous with the idea of a point of origin from which the self produces or reproduces its ideals. Hence Lacan's negative definition of the imaginary (as opposed to the 'symbolic' and the 'real') as an idealised ego formation which it is the business of psychoanalysis to dissolve. Lacan traces the genesis of the imaginary ego back to the 'mirror phase'. The human infant first experiences itself as a 'fragmented' body. To overcome its feeling of dispersion it constructs an imago of unified selfhood - essentially a delusion. The imaginary 'double' takes the form of a mirror reflection. For it is in response to the desire of the other - expressed, for example, in the mother's look - that the infant seeks to become a self-possessed identity. Lacan describes the imaginary accordingly in terms of a 'specular ego' which imitates the look of the other and constructs its imago 'like another'. Thus from the outset, the imago is not an autonomous creation of the child's own desire, as the self would subsequently like to believe, but a simulation of what the mother desires the child to become. This idealised ego is also regarded as the basis of narcissism. For a Winnicottian account of the main differences between their respective positions regarding the concept of the mirror, see A. Phillips (1988), pp.128-130.

9. Winnicott (1971), p. 132.

10. Milner (1969), p. 240-1, my italics.

11. Within the 'object-relations' tradition of the British School, some psychoanalysts, such as André Green (1975), posit that the first state is one of 'primary absolute narcissism', which is to be distinguished from that derived by instinctual auto-eroticism as Freud conceived it. This 'absolute narcissism' is the 'non-existence' out of which the existence of consciousness starts, the void or blankness which is the ground of our psychological being. Bion (1970) as we have mentioned above, advised the psychoanalyst to purge himself from the 'bondage of memory and desire' in order to approach this state of the unknowable, but yet which is the starting point for all knowledge, designated by the symbol 'O'. Particularly with the work of Milner, the later work of Bion, and more recently Meltzer (1988) there are interesting connections to be traced between psychoanalysis and mysticism. Ehrenzweig also makes some interesting remarks about mysticism, the potential space and the enveloping tendency of modern art ( 1971, p. 118-9). See also Milner (1987), chapter 18 for an interesting insight into the possible direction research into this overlap between psychoanalytic and mystical experience might take.

12. Op. cit., p. 222.

13. My account of Wollheim's friendship with Stokes is drawn from : 'Memories of Adrian Stokes', The Listener, vol. 90, no. 2333 (Dec. 13 1973), pp. 821-15; his article 'Adrian Stokes: critic, painter, poet' in 'Adrian Stokes: a supplement', PN Review (1980), pp. 36-37; Adrian Stokes: a retrospective ( Arts Council, 1982), p. 24; the Preface to Wollheim (1973) and also (1987).

14. 'A Critic of Our Time', Encounter (April 1959), pp. 41-44.

15. Wollheim, in PN Review (1980), p. 36. Stokes's writings continually stress the relationship between art and the body . In particular, see Stokes (1958), (1965).

16. For example, see Wollheim (1987), p. 62, p. 101, p. 348, pp. 350-352.

17. Stephen Bann (1989), p. 10.

18. For his understanding of the relationship between idealisation, envy and creativity, Wollheim has drawn upon M. Klein, 'Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant' (1952) in Klein (1988b); H. Segal (1974, 1984) and Stokes (1961, 1963).

19. An extended account of Wollheim's aesthetics and philosophical position is elaborated in his Art and its Objects (1968) and On Art and the Mind (1974).

20. Wollheim, (1974), p. 53. This paper was originally given as the Ernest Jones Lecture delivered to the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1968. Also published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50 (1969), pp. 209-20.

21. 'Primary Process, Thinking, and Art', in Stokes (1973), p. 127.

22. Note that he also makes a distinction between the 'primary meaning' and the 'secondary' meaning of a picture. The former derives from how the painting came about and includes: representational, expressive, textual, and historical, metaphorical meaning. The latter derives from what the act of making it meant to the artist, which, presumably through a process of projective identification, is conveyed to the spectator . See p. 249, p. 304.

23. See Wollheim (1987), pp. 307-308. This echoes Stokes's belief that a painting (predominantly of the 'carving' mode) should be apprehended in 'una sola occhiata' - what Vasari took to be a characteristic of Venetian painting.

24. S. Isaacs (1948), p. 90.

25. CWS, III, p. 328, my italics.

26. Other examples of such 'global' or 'gestalt' accounts are, Wörringer's Abstraction and Empathy ([1908] trans. 1953) and Bell's Art (1914).

27. The concept of twofoldedness is a certainly valuable one, for it avoids the gross dichotomy between 'illusion' and 'realism' characteristic of certain accounts of representation, such as Gombrich's Art and Illusion (1967). It also allows Wollheim to make the crucial point that representation is by no means to be equated with figuration (1987, p. 360, note 6). Where Wollheim had first conceived of twofoldedness as a matter of two distinct experiences occurring simultaneously, he has now altered his view.In the light of comments from M. Budd and M. Podro, he would now argue that they are 'neither two separate experiences, which I sometimes hold in the mind at once, nor two separate alternating experiences, between which I oscillate'. They are 'two aspects of a single experience, and these aspects are distinguishable but are also inseparable.' (For the earlier account see his 'Reflections on Art and Illusion' and 'On drawing an Object', in Wollheim (1974); for the revised version see Wollheim (1987), pp. 46-47, especially p. 360, note 6.).  It is also interesting to compare Wollheim's concept of twofoldedness with Winnicott's account of paradoxical, or 'potential space' - the interface between two (related) aspects of experience (reality/fantasy, subjective/objective, inner/outer) where neither is reduced to the other, and yet ( we must trust the paradox) they cannot be separated - for the experience 'partakes of both' (see chapter six, section two above).

28. 'Form in Art' (1955) in Stokes (1973), p. 110.

29. CWS, II, p. 47, p. 40.

30. Ibid., p. 45.

31. W. Pater, The Renaissance ([1873] Oxford paperback edition, 1986), p. 86; p. 96-7.

32. Stokes major writings on architecture can be found in the following: (1932); (1945); (1947); (1951); (1961); (1965). All are reprinted in CWS, vols. I-III

33. CWS, III, p. 341, my italics.

34. CWS, I, pp. 131-139.

35. Wollheim (1987), p. 340. This is directly consonant with Stokes account of the distinction between mass and massiveness in The Quattro Cento (1932). See CWS, I, pp. 131- 139.

36. See CWS, III, p. 217, p.313, p. 318.

37. CWS, I, p. 230; II, p. 241, p. 244.

38. CWS, II, p. 240.

39. CWS, II, p. 242 -243.

40. (1987), p. 9.

41. Wollheim (1987), p. 8.

42. Indeed, S. Bann argues that, objectively speaking, Wollheim is 'a revolutionary'. For although he declares his allegiance to the tradition of connoisseurship and greatly values the practice of criticism, his way of proceeding is, at the same time, intimately related to those of the New Art Historians (Bryson and Kristeva, for example), and that his ideas gain 'considerable enrichment' from an interchange with theirs (1989, p. 3).

43. Fuller (1988), p. 233.

44. That Fuller called his art journal Modern Painters suggests a close identification with the great Victorian thinker. We recall that the young Stokes (see chapter three) certainly experienced much 'anxiety of influence' regarding his precursors, and particularly Pater and Ruskin. With Stokes, however, one feels that, partly through his analysis and the progressive refining of a career, he is responsive to nuances of associations and feelings within himself - and his readers - and that these insights inform his evocative prose, often shaping the very subject matter he is concerned with at the time. Perhaps one could say that where Fuller writes about psychoanalysis, Stokes writes psychoanalytically.




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