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Works of art discussed by philosophers:

  • Vincent Van Gogh, A Pair of Shoes (1885): Discussed by philosopher Martin Heigegger in The Origin of a Work of Art (Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes), prompting one of the most famous debates over a single art object within philosophy. Heidegger adopted a more purely phenomenological interpretation of of the painting, while the marxist art historian Meyer Schapiro emphasized the social and material conditions that allowed the painting to come to be (i.e. dialectical materialism). Schapiro contested that Heidegger based his argument off a flawed premise of who the shoes actually belonged to, but it's doubtful that this fact would shed new light on Heidegger's overall argument. Later the philosopher Jacques Derrida discussed the debate with a more poststructuralist approach which left open the question of any single interpretation of a work of art.
  • Paul Klee, Angelus Novus (1920): Walter Benjamin uses this painting as a peculiar metaphor for historical messianism in his essay On the Concept of History.

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