Conference Paper

Cubism and Kant


Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1920), Picasso’s dealer and early authority on cubism, interpreted Picasso, Braque and Gris as Kantian in their approach. In §1 I provide an introduction to cubism and to Kahnweiler’s use of Kantian terminology to distinguish analytic and synthetic cubism. §2 concerns the ‘idealist’ interpretation of cubism in which the works are seen as attempting to depict Kantian things-in-themselves. I argue that this interpretation betrays a misunderstanding of Kant and it is at odds with Picasso’s pluralism. In §3 I suggest an alternative Kantian interpretation of cubism, one that draws on Kant’s empirical realism and the cognitive input that is necessary for experience. In §4 this is contrasted with the two-aspect reading of transcendental idealism. Lastly, in §5, I acknowledge that the major cubists had limited or no knowledge of Kant, but nevertheless argue that it is illuminating to see their works in terms of Kantian realism.

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O'Brien, Dan

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Culture


Year of publication: 2018
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-10-09

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This RADAR resource is Part of Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics. Volume 10, 2018 / edited by Connell Vaughan and Iris Vidmar.


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