Robert B. Pippin

After the Beautiful - Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism

Literal translation of the German title: Art as Philosophy. Hegel and the Modern Painting
(German title: Kunst als Philosophie)
ca. 176 pages
Robert B. Pippin
Foto: Robert B. Pippin
© Drew Reynolds

Robert B. Pippin, born in 1948, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago as well as a member of the Committee on Social Thought based there. He also teaches elsewhere, including in San Diego, Amsterdam and Berlin where he was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg. In 2011 he held the Schiller Chair at the University of Jena.

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Robert B. Pippin, one of the most highly regarded researchers worldwide in the field of German Idealism undertakes a journey in this book through time with a philosopher who does not seem an obvious choice at first glance: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The springboard for the journey are the lectures Hegel gave in Berlin in 1820 about aesthetics, in which he famously allocated art its place in his philosophical system: as the unmediated, sensuous expression of the absolute spirit.

With Hegel’s theory in his backpack, Pippin explores the painting of classical modernity, as it was to develop into from the middle of the 19th century, after Hegel’s death. Particularly in the works of Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne, he discovers key witnesses for his central hypothesis, that modern art brings forth philosophical qualities of its own and that Hegel was the theoretician of modern painting, even before it existed.

Pippin defends his contentions impressively and elegantly in direct debate with yardstick works of modern painting and holding them up to the mirror of the famous art-history debate between Timothy J. Clark and Michael Fried – and in passing provides a concise history of philosophical aesthetics from Kant to Adorno and Heidegger.