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On Pictorial Representation

Author(s): Richard Wollheim


Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 56, No. 3 (Summer, 1998), pp. 217-226
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/432361
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Symposium:
Wollheimon PictorialRepresentation

Richard Wollheim
On Pictorial Representation

Philosophicaltheoriesof representationabound. I startwith the following: (One) if a picturerep-


This tells us something; in fact, it tells us two resentssomething,then therewill be a visual ex-
things, two philosophical things, about repre- perience of that picture that determines that it
sentation.The first thing is that, when we set out does so. This experience I call the "appropriate
to ascertain the extension of the concept repre- experience"of the picture,and (two),if a suitable
sentation, armed with the resources we should spectatorlooks at the picture,he will, otherthings
expect to be adequate that is, such intuitions being equal,have the appropriateexperience.
as we have, plus the careful considerationof ex- Some explanations:
amples-we encounter many hard cases. Are A suitablespectatoris a spectatorwho is suit-
maps representations?Are traffic signs repre- ably sensitive, suitably informed, and, if neces-
sentations?The second thing is that these hard sary, suitably prompted.The sensibility and in-
cases are totally resistantto stipulation.No-one formationmust include a recognitionalskill for
(I find) will take it on trust from me that, say, what is represented, and "other things being
trompe l'oeil paintings are not representations, equal"means that, in additionto viewing condi-
but that most abstract paintings are. The cen- tions being good enough, the spectatormust re-
tralityof representationwithin the pictorialarts cruit all these qualificationsto the task to hand.
means that any answer that is not supportedby As to "suitablyprompted,"that is intended to
a theory,moreovera theory that meshes at once forestall a possible oversight and to neutralize
with a general account of perception and with an all too commonprejudice.Whatmay be over-
broadculturalpractices, will not do. looked is that sometimes, even if a spectatorhas
Hence the abundanceof theories of represen- the relevantrecognitionalskills, he may not be
tation. suitably informed unless he is told, thing by
thing, what the picture before him represents.
II Without this information, he will not have the
appropriateexperience. And the prejudiceis to
Howevermany such theories fall short of a cer- assume that, if, without this information, the
tain minimal requirement,which has as its aim spectatoris unableto experiencethe pictureap-
to safeguardour strongestintuition aboutrepre- propriately,then, with this information,he will
sentation, this time about, not its extension, but still not be able to. The informationmay affect
its nature.And that is that pictorial representa- what he says, but how could it affect what he
tion is a perceptual, more narrowly a visual, sees?
phenomenon.Imperilthe visual status of repre- Elsewhere I have argued that to dispel this
sentation, and the visual status of the pictorial prejudicewe should recall those childhood days
arts is in jeopardy. And for the durationof this when we were given a line-drawing and asked
lecture, I shall take what is nowadays called the to say what was in the foliage, and we said noth-
"opticality"of pictorialart as given. ing, because, turn it this way, turn it that way,
But how is the minimal requirementupon a we saw nothing, and then we were prompted.
theory of pictorialrepresentationto be framed? we were shown the key, and we said "Boy,"
The Journalof Aesthetics and Art Criticism56:3 Summer 1998

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218 The Journalof Aesthetics and Art Criticism

"Camel,""Fish,""Rabbit,""Deer,"and whathad the best ways of finding out what a picturerep-


changedwas notjust whatwe said. Whathadalso resents is by looking at the label. However,for
changedwas whatwe saw.Henceprompting,and any theory of representation,there is a way of
the need for referenceto it in even so skeletal a assigning meaning to pictures that tracks how
versionof the minimalrequirement. thattheorysays thatpicturescome by theirmean-
What makes this version skeletal is that, ing, and my current strategy is to see whether
though it insists that, for each representational the way associated with the most plausiblekind
picture,thereis an appropriateexperience,it says of Semiotic theory allows sufficient room for
nothing aboutwhat this experienceis like. Later perception.Does it allow room for an appropri-
we shall have to make good this deficiency. ate experience?
Meanwhile, are there any theories that fail the The answerwill turnout to be No. No, in that,
minimal requirementeven in this version? though the most plausible Semiotic theory lets
perception in at two distinct points in the
III process of assigning representationalmeaning
to pictures, at a third, and what is the crucial,
Suspicion falls first on the theory,or ratherfam- point it excludes perception.
ily of theories, that I have called Semiotic, Any Semiotic theory, linguistically oriented
which have in common that they ground repre- or plausible, lets perceptionin at point one: the
sentationin a system of rules or conventionsthat spectatormust be visually aware of the surface
link the pictorial surface, or parts of it, with to which he then applies the rules of representa-
things in the world. tion. Any plausible,as opposed to linguistically
If, in our day, the most vociferous of these oriented, Semiotic theory lets perception in at
theories are those which model the rules of rep- point two: for the spectatormust have the rele-
resentationupon the rules of language, they are vant recognitional skills if he is to apply the
also the most vulnerablesince, true to the anal- rules of representation.However,Semiotic the-
ogy that inspires them, they hold that represen- ory of all kinds is debarredfrom finding any
tational meaning depends upon pictorial struc- furtherneed for perception.And thatis because,
ture.But, in the relevant,or combinatory,sense, from this point onwards,all the spectatorhas to
pictures lack structure. There is no nontrivial do is to apply the rules to the surface, and the
way of segmenting pictures without remainder rules will take him, without any help from per-
into parts than can be categorized functionally, ception, to the thought of what is represented,
or according to the contributionthey make to which is his destination.
the meaning of the whole. A way of putting the point is to say that, on
Accordingly,what is specifically wrong with any Semiotic theory, the grasp of representa-
linguistically oriented Semiotic theories of rep- tional meaning is fundamentallyan interpreta-
resentationcan come to obscure what is essen- tive, not a perceptual,activity. In consequence
tially wrong with Semiotic theory.To bringthis no appropriateexperienceis postulated,and it is
out I propose (one) to concentrateon the most thus that the Semiotic theory fails the minimal
plausible version of the Semiotic theory, which requirement.
is one that not merely drops the commitmentto
pictorial structure,but insists that the rules of IV
representationcannotbe applied,eitherby artist
or spectator,without recognitionalskills for the If it shows how wide of the mark Semiotic the-
things represented,and (two)to considerwhether ory is that it fails the minimal requirementeven
such a theory meets the minimalrequirementby in this skeletal version,this also suggests that, if
seeing what it makes of the process by which further theories of representation are to be
representationalmeaning is assigned to pictures tested, the minimal requirementneeds to be am-
by a spectator.Of course, on the face of it, there plified. It will have to say, for every representa-
is no smooth transition from what representa- tion, what the appropriateexperienceis like.
tional meaning is to how representationalmean- At this point help comes from anotherstrong
ing is assigned, or vice versa. No theory of rep- intuitionthat we have, again aboutthe natureof
resentation should neglect the fact that one of representation.For, if, before an otherwise suit-

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Symposium: Wollheimon PictorialRepresentation Wollheim,On Pictorial Representation 219

able spectator,looking at a representation,can that they ask for is that the two things are expe-
have the appropriateexperience, he must have riencedas resembling,which is compatiblewith
the relevantrecognitionalskills, the corollary is a very wide range of actual resemblanceor ac-
that, if he lacks these skills, he can, through tual dissimilarity. Clearly it is only the latter
looking at the representationand being suitably kind of Resemblancetheory that will satisfy the
prompted, acquire them. Other things being minimal requirement,indeed, that will satisfy it
equal, he will simultaneouslyhave the appropri- even in its skeletal version. For it is only it that
ate experience and acquire the recognitional finds room for an appropriateexperience.
skill. It is thus that children acquirea very large Secondly, Resemblance theories may be di-
numberof their recognitionalskills from look- vided up accordingto the terms between which
ing at illustratedbooks. My daughter,on seeing the resemblance relation holds. (And, since,
herfirst elephantat age two, exclaimed, "Babar." from now onwards,I shall confine myself to the-
This being so, if we want to know what the ories of experiencedresemblance,and since ex-
appropriateexperience is like, we have only to perienced resemblance, unlike resemblance it-
ask, Through what kind of experience do we self, is nonsymmetrical,I shall be able to talk
gain a recognitionalskill? and the answerto that aboutthe right-hand,or resembled,termand the
question is surely this: We gain a recognitional left-hand, or resembling,term.) Now, disagree-
skill throughan experience in which we are vi- ments about the resembled term are, in effect,
sually aware of the thing, or the kind of thing, disagreements about the scope of representa-
that we are therebyable to recognize. Arguably tion, and I shall returnto that topic later. As to
therecouldbe degeneratecases in which we learn disagreements about the resembling term, the
to recognize one thing on the basis of being crucial issue is whether it is, at any rate in the
shown something very like it and then getting first instance, somethingon the pictorialsurface
ourselves to see the look-alike as the thing in or some part of the spectator's experience on
question. But this method could as readilyleave looking at the pictorialsurface.
us with a merely inferential, as with a truly Finally, and still on the issue of the resem-
recognitional,skill. If all this is so, then we can bling term, let us be on our guardagainst those
fold this conclusion into our minimal require- versions of the Resemblancetheory which rely
ment as clause three so thatthe whole thing now upon generalizing remarksof a sort that we in-
runs as follows: (One) if a picture represents disputablymake in frontof representationalpic-
something, there will be an experience of it, tures,and which are of the.form "Thatlooks like
called the appropriateexperience, that deter- a Saint Bernard,""Thatlooks like Henry VIII."
mines thatit does so; (two) if a suitablespectator For note that, when we make such remarks,the
looks at the picture, he will, other things being demonstrativepicks out, not some part of the
equal, have this experience;and (three) this ex- pictorial surface, not some part of the specta-
perience will be, or include, a visual awareness tor's experience, but the representedthing: the
of the thing represented.I call this the ampli- very breedof dog, the very royalperson,thatthe
fied, as opposed to the skeletal, version of the picturerepresents.In other words, in each such
minimal requirement. remark,the resemblingterm is an artifactof, or
Thus re-armed, I turn to the next theory on has been broughtinto existence by, representa-
which suspicion falls, though it is also that on tion. In consequence,any generalizationof such
which common wisdom settles: that is, the Re- remarkswill not be a theory thatexplains repre-
semblance theory. It too is a family of theories, sentationby referenceto resemblance.It will be
membersof which may be divided up two ways. a theory within, not of, representation,Whichit
The first way of dividing up such theories is presupposes.
between those which do not, versusthose which It was received opinion that the Resemblance
do, insist that the resemblance,which holds, of theory was dead, and then in the last few years
course, between something pictorial and some- two singularly subtle versions of it have ap-
thing extra-pictorial,is experienced. However, peared, raising second thoughts:one advanced
what these latter theories insist upon is not that categoricallyby ChristopherPeacocke,' but re-
there is a resemblancebetween two such things, nouncingthe label, the other,coming from Mal-
and that this resemblance is experienced. All colm Budd,2 accepting the label, indeed, ex-

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220 The Journalof Aesthetics and Art Criticism

pressly looking to see the best that can be done pictures gives rise, and then asking of each,
underit, andhence advancedonly hypothetically. Which of the myriadvisual fields to which look-
Both theories are theories of experiencedre- ing at two grainstacksin naturegives rise would
semblance, and both introduce the visual field a suitablespectatorexperienceit as resembling?
of a spectatorso as to obtain the left-handor re- So, if one of these pictures represents a large
sembling term. However,the two theories con- grainstack, and it representsthis as in full sun-
ceive of the visual field somewhat differently. light, it does so because the visual field gener-
Peacocke conceives of it as having both repre- ated by looking at it pairs itself off with the vi-
sentationaland sensationalproperties butonly sual field that would arise when looking at a
the sensationalpropertiesprovidethe resembling large grainstackand seeing it as in full sunlight.
term in the case of pictorialrepresentation.For The furtherdetails of both theories are more
Budd the visual field has only representational complex than I have need to take accountof, but
properties, and therefore these provide the re- let me, at this stage, express a preference be-
sembling term. Indeed, for Budd my visual field tween the two theories. Peacocke's theory spec-
is nothing but how the world, as I look out on it, ifies that the experiencedresemblancebetween
is representedby vision, with one proviso. that the two visual fields is specifically in respect of
we have abstractedaway all properties involv- shape. In doing so, it gratuitouslycomes down
ing distance, or outwardness.(Whethersuch an on one side rather than the other of Heinrich
abstractionis possible, or whetherthe most that W6lfflin's famous distinction between the lin-
we can do in this direction is to conceive of the ear and the painterly modes of representation,
differentthings we see as representedto us as all between the art of stressed, and the art of un-
equidistantfrom us, is an importantmatter,but stressed, edges.3 Peacocke's theory aligns itself
not to be pursued here.) It follows from there with the linear mode. Budd professes to avoid
being these differing conceptions of the visual this partiality by substituting experienced re-
field that, for Budd, when something in the vi- semblance in structurefor experienced resem-
sual field is experienced as resembling some- blance in shape. If and I repeat"if" there is
thing else, something nonpictorial,so too is the a real difference that correlates with this dis-
correspondingpart of the pictorial surface. But tinction, then Budd surely improves on Pea-
not so for Peacocke, who introducesanotherre- cocke in substantiveadequacy.
lation holding between the picture and what it So now to the question whether the Resem-
represents,and this relationgoes through,and is blance theory thus refinedcan meet the minimal
defined partly in terms of, experienced resem- requirement.So long as the minimal require-
blance. ment remains skeletal, the answer is Yes. The
And just a word on what both theoriestake to Resemblancetheory clearly insists on an appro-
be the resembledterm. It is anothervisual field, priateexperience. What each picturerepresents
a possible visual field: more precisely, it is that is determined by some experienced resem-
visual field which the spectatorof the represen- blance. But amplify the minimal requirement
tation would have, were he, instead of looking at along the lines suggested, and the answeris, just
it, to look at what it represents.But, for any rep- as surely, No. And that is because the experi-
resentedthing, thereis a myriadof ways in which enced resemblance,which is betweentwo visual
it can be seen, and to each of these ways there fields, does not include a visual awarenessof the
corresponds a different possible visual field. second field, let alone of what the second field
Accordingly, the second visual field, or the re- is of, or what the picture represents.4True: in
sembled term, fixes, not only what is repre- order to experience the resemblance, we must
sented, but how it is represented:that is to say, have dispositionally a recognitional skill' for
whatpropertiesit is representedas having. Take what the second field is of, or what the picture
two of Monet's Grainstacksthat representthe represents.But it is no more requiredby the Re-
same two stacks. Evidently they representthem semblancetheory than it is by the Semiotic the-
differently,or as having differentproperties,but ory that this skill is manifested in an actual or
how are we to accountfor these differences?On nondispositional awareness of the represented
the presenttheory we are to do so by first taking thing. And that, if I am right in characterizing
the visual fields to which looking at these two the appropriateexperience,is what is called for.

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Symposium:Woliheimon PictorialRepresentation Wollheim,On Pictorial Representation 221

At the beginning of Philosophical Investiga- self. Looking at a suitably marked surface, we


tions II, xij pages which cast alternatingbeams are visually awareat once of the markedsurface
of light and darknesson the topic of this lecture, and of something in front of or behind some-
Wittgenstein distinguishes between two situa- thing else. I call this featureof the phenomenol-
tions in which I can experience or observe a re- ogy "twofoldness."Originallyconcerned to de-
semblance. The first is this: Two faces confront fine my position in opposition to Gombrich's
me, and I observe a resemblancebetween them. account,7which postulates two alternatingper-
The second is this: One face confronts me, and ceptions, Now canvas,Now nature,conceivedof
I observe its resemblanceto anotherface, which on the misleading analogy of Now duck, Now
is absent. Now, it is only if representationsgive rabbit,I identified twofoldness with two simul-
rise to experiencedresemblanceof the first sort taneousperceptions:one of the pictorialsurface,
that a Resemblancetheory could be constructed the other of what it represents.
that satisfied the minimal requirementfor a the- More recently I have reconceived twofold-
ory of representation.But it is only the second ness, and now I understandit in terms of a sin-
sort of experiencedresemblancethat it is plausi- gle experience with two aspects, which I call
ble to think of in connectionwith representation. configurationaland recognitional.Of these two
At this point it might be objected thatthe am- aspects I have claimed that they are phenome-
plification I have laid upon the minimalrequire- nologically incommensurate with the experi-
ment, or thattheremust be a visual awarenessof ences or perceptions that is, of the surface,or
what is represented,is excessive, and thatI have of nature from which they derive, and what I
done this by reading too much into the condi- had in mind was something of this order:Some-
tions in which a recognitionalskill is acquired. times we experiencea pain in the knee. This is a
I shall not follow this line of reasoning. In- complex experience, but it is not to be under-
stead I shall turnto the theory of representation stood by seeing how one part of it compares
that I have long advocated, for this theory ap- with having a pain, but nowhere in particular,
pears to meet the amplified requirement,and and how the other part compares with being
the question that I shall address is whether it awareof one's knee and whereit is. WhatI never
does so at a cost in cogency or (some would add) wanted to deny was that each aspect of seeing-
intelligibility. in might be, through its phenomenology,func-
tionally equivalentto the experiencefrom which
V it derives.The fact that we can acquirerecogni-
tional skills throughlooking at representations,
Central to this theory is a special perceptual a point on whose theoreticalsignificance I have
skill, called "seeing-in,"which we, and perhaps always insisted,conclusivelyprovesthis to be so.
the members of some other species, possess.6 Criticismof my theory of representationhas
Seeing-in is prior, both logically and histori- largely taken the form of asking for more:
cally, to representation.Logically,in thatwe can specifically, more about the phenomenologyof
see things in surfaces that neither are nor are seeing-in.8
taken by us to be representations,say, a torso in On this request, some methodological re-
a cloud, or a boy carrying a mysteriousbox in a marks:
stained, urban wall. And historically, in that First, we must not respond to such a request
doubtless our remote ancestors did such things as though there were a canonical mode of de-
before they thoughtof decoratingthe caves they scribing phenomenology so that we could, tak-
lived in with images of the animals they hunted. ing some experience, and proceeding region by
However, once representation appears on the region, finish up with a tolerablycomprehensive
scene, it is seeing-in thatfurnishes,for each rep- accountof what it is overall like.
resentation,its appropriateexperience. For that Secondly, we must not expect from ourselves,
is the experience of seeing in the pictorial sur- or allow anyoneelse to do so, a descriptionfrom
face that which the pictureis of. which someone who had never had the experi-
What is distinctive of seeing-in, and thus of ence could learn what it would be like to do so.
my theory of representation,is the phenomenol- In fact, the demandfor such a descriptionis im-
ogy of the experiences in which it manifests it- plicitly a denial thatthe experienceexists. For it

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222 The Journalof Aesthetics and Art Criticism

implies that no-one will have had such an expe- priorityof seeing-in is maintained,no necessity
nence. for an antecedent principle of exclusion. And
Thirdly,we must neverlose sight of the philo- this, as I see it, is fortunate, since none seems
sophical point of phenomenologicaldescription. available.
It is not to teach us the range of human experi- The second consideration is this: If experi-
ence. It is for us to see how some particularex- enced resemblanceis basic, then what we must
periencecan, in virtue of what it is like, do what be expected to do is to attendto each pictorially
it does. It pursues phenomenology only to the significant element that we can identify and be
point wherefunction follows from it. In the case visually aware of it at least to this degree: that
of seeing-in, we need to know how it can pro- we experience it as resembling something or
vide an appropriateexperience for each and other. Perhaps additionally we need to experi-
every representation,or how (the same thing) ence it as having that property in respect of
the scope of seeing-in can coincide with that of which the resemblancestrikesus. And this is be-
representation. cause, since, on this view, the only way in which
I shall pursuethis last line of inquiry,but first anything can be represented in the picture is
I want to considera proposalwhich many might through some part of the picture being experi-
find plausible. This is that, grantedthat seeing- enced as resembling it, neglect one pictorially
in grounds representation,experienced resem- significant element, and we shall lose some part
blance groundsseeing-in. In otherwords, when- of what the picturerepresents.
ever we see something in a surface, this is in At this point the question arises whether a
part because of a resemblance that we experi- theory of experienced resemblance, like a lin-
ence between it and the something else. guistically oriented Semiotic theory, requires
There are, I believe, three considerationsthat thatpicturesbe capableof systematicsegmenta-
militate against such a view. tion. If the answer is No, which seems, on gen-
eral grounds, more plausible, and pictorialele-
VI ments can in principleswell so as to engulf both
small groups of marks and the circumambient
The first considerationis this: The surfaceof any surfacebetween them, a dangerlurks.Consider,
picture can contain elements that, though indi- by way of example, "the small black circle" of
viduallyvisible, makeno contributionto whatthe which Roger Fry9made so much in his formal-
picture represents.In Budd's phrase, they lack ist onslaught upon Breughel'sgreat Procession
"pictorialsignificance." Consider,for instance, to Calvary-how are we to say for certain that
the punchmarksin a Gothic painting,or the dabs we experience such elements as resembling
of complementarycolor, red, say, in a field of something in the world that the picture repre-
green, thatMonetused to enhancevivacity. sents, ratherthan as resemblinga representation
Now, if seeing-in rested on experienced re- of those things? In other words, can we prevent
semblance,we would need an antecedentway of the theory of experiencedresemblancefrom de-
filtering out such elements, otherwise we shall clining into what I have called a theory within,
think of a picture as representinganything and as opposed to a theory of, representation?
everything that we can experience these ele- By contrast, when seeing-in is given priority,
ments as resembling.We shall think thatDuccio all that is requiredis that we are visually aware
representsthe Madonna'shalo as embroidered, of the surface, and how detailed this awareness
or that Monet has scattered tiny scarlet blos- must be is an open matter.And this is because
soms throughthe reeds. there is no perceptiblefeatureof the surfacecor-
If, however,we retain seeing-in as prior,then responding to every feature of what is repre-
we shall be encouragedto look at the picture,to sented.The representational contentof a painting
see in it whatever we are inclined to, and it is by Gainsboroughor Turneris not constrained
only if we have reason to suspect what we have by what I have called "localization."
seen that we shall start to check the surface for The thirdconsiderationagainstthe priorityof
elements thatmight have led us astray.However, experiencedresemblanceis this: That this view
since elements thatare indubitablyinsignificant requiresus not only to be awareof what proper-
need not lead us astray,there is, so long as the ties the pictoriallysignificant elementshave, but

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Symposium: Wollheimon PictorialRepresentation Wollheim,On Pictorial Representation 223

to infer from these properties how the corre- dusk, on level terrain, between sides evenly
sponding object is represented, or (the same matched, muskets reinforcing sabers-but no
thing) what properties it is representedas hav- particularskirmish(event merely of a particular
ing. But such inferences can be wild. Parmi- kind). Representationsthat are of things merely
gianino's Madonnais not representedas having of some particular kind, whether objects or
a long neck, nor did Ingres, who despised anat- events, are, I believe, best identified through
omy, show his odalisques-that is, the women their intrinsic failure to sustain answers to the
themselves-with, as contemporarycriticsmain- question,Which object?Whichevent?or, Which
tained, one vertebratoo many. woman? Which battle?
A final observation:Those who find a place Nelson Goodman10 has pointed to another
for experienced resemblance in an account of variety of representation:that is, a representa-
representationthink it in their favorthat such an tion of all things of a certain kind. These are to
account readily yields a criterionof naturalism be found in dictionariesor manuals,but seldom
in representation.If it does, I, on the contrary, in pictorialart.
see that as a mark against their account. For, However, in considering the scope of repre-
once we start to survey the very differentkinds sentation, I believe that the betterstarting-point
of representationthatwe think of as naturalistic, is with the second part of the account: the con-
it seems crude to believe that there is a single, straint upon representation,or visibility. It gives
let alone a simple, criterion,least of all one in us more immediateinsight into how the scope of
which experiencedresemblanceplays a primary representationand the scope of seeing-in coin-
role, of naturalism,ahistoricallyconceived. cide. And that is because of what this constraint
asks for. Representationdoes not have to limit
VII itself to what can be seen face-to-face: what it
has to limit itself to is what can be seen in a
I returnto the question how the scope of seeing- markedsurface.
in and the scope of representationcan be identi- But what is the difference? For is there any-
cal, and I start by asking, What is the scope of thing thatcan be seen in a surfacethatcannotbe
representation? seen face-to-face?
The answer falls into two parts.The first part The answer is Yes, and we already know at
is ontological, and it gives us the various kinds least part of the reason. For we can see in pic-
of things that can be represented,or what I call tures things merely of a particular kind, and
the varieties of representation.The second part these we cannot see face-to-face. We cannot see
consists in an overarchingconstraint,and this is face-to face women and battles of which we
imposed by the limits of visibility. As Alberti may not ask, Which woman?Which battle?
put it, "Thepainteris concernedsolely with rep- But some might insist that, though we can see
resenting what can be seen." in pictures kinds of things that we cannot see
The varieties of representationare given by a face-to-face, we cannot see them as having
cross-classification. Along one axis, we have properties that we cannot see, or cannot see
representationsof objects versusrepresentations things as having, face-to-face. It was in elabora-
of events. Women (objects) can be represented, tion of this doctrine that Lessing famously de-
and so can battles (events). Along the other axis nied thatpicturescan representevents unfolding
we have representationsof particularobjects or in time; that is, that they can representevents as
events versusrepresentationsof objects or events unfolding in time.
merely of a particularkind. So we can have a It is arguablethat where Lessing was really at
representation of Madame Moitessier (par- fault was in the limits he attributedto what can
ticular object), or a representationof a young be seen face-to-face ratherthan in the limits that
woman behind a bar, perhaps a young woman he consequentially imposed upon what can be
of some specificity but no particular young represented.Without opening up this issue, let
woman (object merely of a particularkind). Al- me simply point out that pictures can represent
ternatively we can have a representationof the things as having properties that lie extremely
Battleof San Romano(particularevent),or a rep- close to the limits of face-to-face visibility, and
resentationof a cavalryskirmish one fought at leave it open on which side they actually lie. So

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224 The Journalof Aesthetics and Art Criticism

pictures can representa man as singing and a The first is this: Justbecause it is true that, on
woman as listening to him; they can represent looking at a picture,we can recruita thoughtto
kings as seeing things that are not given to the our perceptionso that what we see in the picture
human eye; they can represent a man as re- changes, it does not follow from this that we
nouncing all earthly goods but one, and why; have any way of indicating where the change
and they can representa woman as hearingnews occurs, or what it amountsto apart,of course,
the greatness, the terribleness, of which she from repeating the thought that has brought
struggles to take in. about the change. Secondly, in insisting that
thought, conceptual thought, can bring about
VIII changes in what we see in a surface, I am not
taking sides on the issue whetherthe experience
If we now ask, How is this so? we are asking for of seeing-in has a conceptual or nonconceptual
a general account of what it is for something to content. Tasting soup has a nonconceptualcon-
be visible in a surface. tent, but, if we are promptedconceptuallyabout
Considerthe following experiment:I look at a what is in the soup, the soup can taste different.
picture that includes a classical landscape with
ruins. And now imagine the following dialogue: Ix
"Canyou see the columns?""Yes.""Canyou see
the columns as coming from a temple?""Yes." Another psychological phenomenon that is
"Can you see the columns that come from the highly permeable by thought is imagination,
temple as having been thrown down?" "Yes." and it is tempting to think that imagination,
"Canyou see them as having been throwndown specifically in its more perceptualmode, or vi-
some hundredsof years ago?" "Yes.""Canyou sualizing, grounds seeing-in.
see them as having been thrown down some A simple version of this proposal is that,
hundreds of years ago by barbarians?""Yes." when I see a face in a picture, I am led, by the
"Canyou see them as having been throwndown marks on the surface, to imagine seeing a face.
some hundredsof years ago by barbarianswear- However,imagining seeing a face, which is now
ing the skins of wild asses?" (Pause.) "No." assigned the role of the appropriateexperience,
At each exchange, what "Yes"means is that floats free of the representation.Though it de-
the prompt has made a difference to what has termines what the picture represents,it and the
been seen in the scene, just as the "No"signifies seeing of the pictorial surface are only exter-
that, for at least this spectatorhere and now,the nally related.
limits of visibility in this surface have been A more complex, and a far superior,version
reached. Now, let us assume that this spectator of this proposal,which has been championedby
is the suitable spectatorfor this picture.In that Kendall Walton," I is this: I see the pictorialsur-
case we can understandthe "No"as a refusal on face, I imagine seeing a face, and of my seeing
his part to be forced beyond the appropriateex- the surface I imagine it to be an experience of
perience, hence a refusal to force upon the pic- seeing a face. Furthermore,the veridicalexperi-
ture something that it does not represent. ence of the surface and the imaginary experi-
What this thought-experiment primarily ence of the face, both perceptual,form, in Wal-
shows is the central phenomenological feature ton's phrase,"a single experience":twofoldness
of seeing-in, which is its permeability to again.
thought, whetherthe thought is directly caused My difficulty with this second proposal is
by the markedsurface or is partly promptedby how to understandthe core project, or imagin-
another. And it is this feature that in turn ac- ing one perceptualexperienceto be another.For,
counts for the wide scope of seeing-in, wider,as if we succeed, in what way does the originalex-
we have seen, than thatof seeing face-to-face. It perience retain its content? For, what is left of
is the permeabilityof seeing-in to thought that the experienceof seeing the surfacewhen I suc-
accountsfor the wide rangeof things thatcan be cessfully imagine it to be some other experi-
representedand for the wide range of properties ence? However, if I do continue to see the sur-
they can be representedas having. face, or this experience retains its content, how
However,two observationsare called for. have I succeededin imagining it, the experience,

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Symposium:Wollheimon PictorialRepresentation Wollheim,On Pictorial Representation 225

to be an experience of seeing a face? And note figure, male perhaps or perhaps indeterminate
two things: First, that imagining one experience as to sex, who stands in the representedspace
to be another is something more experiential somewherejust this side of the picture plane. I
than simply imagining thatone experienceis the then startcentrallyimagining this figure trying,
other. And, secondly, note that this problem trying hard,trying in vain, to make contactwith
arises exclusively where (one) what we imagine the representedfigure. The tedium, the frustra-
to be something different from what it is is tion, the despairthatI come to imagine,to imag-
something perceptualand (two) what we imag- ine from the inside, the Spectator in the Pic-
ine it to be is also something perceptual.There ture'sexperiencingwill trickleback into me and
is clearly no fundamentaldifficulty in my mov- reinforcehow I see the woman.
ing my hands and arms in a jerky and irregular I recapitulatethis accountof the Spectatorin
fashion and imaginingof it thatI am conducting the Picture, taken from Painting as an Art-
some great orchestra,nor,for that matter,in my though omitting all discussion of what evidence
looking hard at an old enemy and imagining of we might have, in the case of any given picture,
it that I am burninghim up with my gaze. In the for there being such an intervention-in order
first case neitherexperienceis perceptual:in the to emphasize the difference in role, and the di-
second case, only one is perceptual. vision of labor, as I see it, between perception
and imagination in our interaction with repre-
x sentationalpaintings. But, note, none of this is
intelligible unless we acknowledge the exis-
I too find a place for imaginationin my account tence of a form of imaginationthat contempo-
of representationalmeaning, but it is a place that rary philosophy has, implicitly at any rate, re-
is ancillary to seeing-in and is relevantonly to jected. And that is centrallyimagining someone
certain paintings.12 These are paintings in other than oneself. Currently,imaginationfrom
which the suitable spectatoris offered a distinc- the inside is treatedas thoughit must be de se. If
tive form of access throughthe presence in the I imagine anyone from the inside it can only be
representedspace though not in that part of it myself, and, if I seem to imagine another,what I
which is represented-of a figure, whom I call really imagine is either myself in another's
the Spectator in the Picture. The Spectator in shoes, which falls short of the project I am as-
the Picturehas, amongst otherthings, a psycho- suming, or myself being another,which is inco-
logical repertoire: a repertoire of beliefs, de- herent. Much recent discussion of the role of
sires, attitudes,responses. Whatthen happensis imagination,or (as it is currentlycalled) simu-
that the suitable spectator,the suitable external lation, in grounding our knowledge of other
spectator we might say, starts to identify with minds is vitiated by this failure to recognize the
the internal spectator: that is, to imagine him, scope of imagination.
the internal spectator,centrally,or from the in-
side, interacting with the representedscene as XI
the repertoire assigned to him allows or con-
strainshim to. The net resultwill be thatthe ex- Let me, even at this late date, point to a surpris-
ternal spectator will find himself in a residual ing omission in this lecture:surprising,since the
state analogous to that of the internalspectator, phenomenonnot only figures large in many ac-
and this state will in turninfluence whathe sees countsof representation,but it is the keystone of
in the picturewhen he revertsfrom imagination my own account.There has been no mention of
to perception. artist's intention: "intention" being the word
Take as examples of representationsthatcon- that has come to mean those psychological fac-
tain a Spectatorin the Picture some of Manet's tors in the artist which cause him to work as he
single-figure compositions: say, The Woman does.
with a Parrot or The Street-Singer When I look The most schematicway of fitting the artist's
at either of these paintings, I see in its surface a intention into the account that I have given is
woman momentarilybut intensely preoccupied. this: With any representationalpicture there is
She is distracted by a secret. Then I recognize likely to be more than one thing thatcan be seen
from a variety of cues the existence of a second in it: there is more than one experience of see-

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226 The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

ing-in thatit can cause. However,the experience Representation is perceptual.13


of seeing-in that determines what it represents,
or the appropriateexperience, is the experience RICHARD WOLLHEIM
that tallies with the artist's intention. With Departmentof Philosophy
omission of the artist's intention from the argu- Universityof California-Berkeley
ment, I have had to put the point more obliquely Berkeley,California94720
in terms of the suitable spectator,who is identi-
fied as the spectator with suitable sensitivity
and suitableinformationand suitablyprompted. 1. ChristopherPeacocke, "Depiction,"The Philosophical
But it is the same point, for consider what "suit- Review 96 (1987): 383-410.
2. Malcolm Budd, "How Pictures Look," in Virtue and
able" here means. It means the sensitivity, the Taste, eds. Dudley Knowles and John Skorupski (Oxford:
information,the prompting,that are requiredif Basil Blackwell, 1993), pp. 154-175.
the spectatoris to see the pictureas the artistde- 3. HeinrichW6lfflin, The Principles of Art History,trans.
sires him to. M. D. Hottinger(New York:Holt, 1932).
4. Peacocke expressly makes this point when he contends
However,there has also been an advantagein that, in the case of the representationof, e.g., a castle, his
putting the matter as I have had to: that is, in theory demands that the concept castle enter the content of
terms of what the suitable spectator sees rather the appropriateexperiencein a more embeddedfashion than
than of the artist's intentions. For it has made it it would if that experience were an experience as of some-
clear why, for some representations,there will thing falling underthatconcept. He also says that, if the ap-
propriateexperience were an experience as of a castle, that
be no appropriateexperience. Such an experi- would favor an illusionistic accountof representation."De-
ence will elude even the suitable spectator,and piction," p. 403. My thesis of twofoldness is intended to
that is because the artist failed to make a work block that line of reasoning.
thatcan be experiencedin a way thattallies with 5. Ludwig Wittgenstein,PhilosophicalInvestigations,ed.
G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford:Blackwell, 1953).
the intentions that he undoubtedlyhad. In such 6. See Richard Wollheim, Art and its Objects, 2nd ed.
cases the work, we must conclude, represents (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1980), supple-
nothing-though, of course, to put it like this mentaryessay V, "Seeing-as, seeing-in, and pictorialrepre-
obscures the fact that failure, failure to realize sentation";and Painting as an Art (Princeton University
intention, is always a matterof degree. Balzac's Press, 1987), lecture II.
7. E. H. Gombrich,Art and Illusion (London: Phaidon,
Frenhoferapart,can it ever be total? 1960).
Representational meaning, indeed pictorial 8. E.g., Malcolm Budd, "On Looking at a Picture,"and
meaning in general, is, on my view, dependent, KendallL. Walton,"Seeing-Inand Seeing Fictionally,"both
not on intention as such, but on fulfilled inten- in Psychoanalysis, Mind and Art: Perspectiveson Richard
tion. And intention is fulfilled when the picture Wollheim,eds. Jim Hopkins and Anthony Savile (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1992).
can cause, in a suitable spectator,an experience 9. Roger Fry, Transformations:Critical and Speculative
that tallies with the intention. And note that the Essays on Art (London: Chatto and Windus, 1926), pp.
spectator's knowledge of the artist's intention, 15-16. For a discussion of this passage, and of formalist
however acquired, can legitimately mold what criticism, see Richard Wollheim, On Formalism and its
Kinds (Barcelona: Fundacio Antoni Tapies, 1995).
he sees in the picture.However,what this, or in- 10. Nelson Goodman, The Languagesof Art (Indianapo-
deed any other, knowledge cannot legitimately lis: Hackett, 1969), chap. I.
do is to substituteitself for perception.If all the 11. Kendall L. Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe(Har-
suitable spectator can do is to pick up on the vard UniversityPress, 1990).
artist'sintention, and interpretthe work accord- 12. RichardWollheim,Paintingas an Art (PrincetonUni-
versity Press, 1987), lecture III.
ingly, and thereis no registerof this in his expe- 13. This lecture was originally delivered as the Gareth
rience of the picture,the conditions of represen- Evans MemorialLectureat the Universityof Oxford,on No-
tation have not been satisfied. vemberthe 26th, 1996.

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