Archive for the ‘ B ’ Category


Dates: 1952-

Nationality: French

Yve-Alain Bois is an historian and critic of modern art. Yve-Alain Bois was born on April 16, 1952 in Constantine, Algeria. In a formative early experience, he rejected Michel Seuphor’s mis-characterization of Piet Mondrian as a kind of neo-Platonic monk, upon receiving this book as a confirmation present from his grandfather. He received an M.A. from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris for work on El Lissitzky’s typography, and a Ph.D. from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales for work on Lissitzky’s and Malevich’s conceptions of space. His advisor was Roland Barthes.

He is a Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in the chair inaugurated by Erwin Panofsky and formerly held by Millard Meiss, Irving Lavin, and Kirk Varnedoe. Previously, he served on the faculty at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

He has written books or major articles on canonical artists of European modernism including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and of American postwar art including Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, and Robert Ryman. He is also an influential interpreter of comparatively more obscure artists including Wladyslaw Strzeminski, Katarzyna Kobro, and Sophie Calle. He is an editor of the journal October.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Yve-Alain Bois’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 October 2010, 09:12 UTC, <>


Dates: 1929-2007

Nationality: French

Jean Baudrillard (July 27, 1929 – March 6, 2007) was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism. As he developed his work throughout the 1980s, he moved from economically-based theory to the consideration of mediation and mass communications. Although retaining his interest in Saussurean semiotics and the logic of symbolic exchange (as influenced by anthropologist Marcel Mauss) Baudrillard turned his attention to Marshall McLuhan, developing ideas about how the nature of social relations is determined by the forms of communication that a society employs. In so doing, Baudrillard progressed beyond both Saussure’s and Roland Barthes’ formal semiology to consider the implications of a historically-understood (and thus formless) version of structural semiology. The concept of Simulacra also involves a negation of the concept of reality as we usually understand it. Baudrillard argues that today there is no such thing as reality.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Jean Baudrillard’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 November 2010, 22:22 UTC, <>

French theorist and contemporary critic of society and culture who has had a central role in French postmodern theory. As a prolific author who has written more than twenty books, Baudrillard’s reflections on art and aesthetics are an important, if not central, aspect of his work. Although his writings exhibit many twists, turns, and surprising developments as he moved from synthesizing Marxism and semiotics to a prototypical postmodern theory, interest in art remains a constant of his theoretical investigations and literary experiments.



Dates: 1915-1985

Nationality: American

Monroe Curtis Beardsley (December 10, 1915 – September 18, 1985) was an American philosopher of art. He was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and educated at Yale University (B.A. 1936, Ph.D. 1939). He taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Mt. Holyoke College and Yale University, but most of his career was spent at Swarthmore College (22 years) and Temple University (16 years).

His work in aesthetics is best known for its championing of the instrumentalist theory of art and the concept of aesthetic experience. Beardsley was elected president of the American Society for Aesthetics in 1956. He also wrote an introductory text on aesthetics and edited a well-regarded survey anthology of philosophy. Amongst literary critics, Beardsley is known for two essays written with W.K. Wimsatt, “The Intentional Fallacy” and “The Affective Fallacy,” both key texts of New Criticism. His works also include: Practical Logic (1950), Aesthetics (1958), and Aesthetics: A Short History (1966).

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Monroe Beardsley’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 October 2010, 01:51 UTC, <>

Beardsley is best known for his work in aesthetics—and this article will deal exclusively with his work in that area—but he was an extremely intellectually curious man, and published articles in a number of areas, including the philosophy of history, action theory, and the history of modern philosophy.

Three books and a number of articles form the core of Beardsley’s work in aesthetics. Of the books, the first, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (1958; reissued with a postscript, 1981), is by far the most substantial, comprehensive, and influential. More than that, it’s also the first systematic, well-argued, and critically informed philosophy of art in the analytic tradition. Given the wide range of topics covered in Aesthetics, the intelligent and philosophically informed treatment accorded them, the historically unprecedented nature of the work, and its effect on subsequent developments in the field, a number of philosophers, including some of Beardsley’s critics, have argued that Aesthetics is the most impressive and important book of 20th century analytic aesthetics.

The Possibility of Criticism, the second of the three books, is more modest in scope and less groundbreaking. Exclusively concerned with literary criticism, it limits itself to four problems: the ‘self-sufficiency’ of a literary text, the nature of literary interpretation, judging literary texts, and bad poetry.

The last of the books, The Aesthetic Point of View, is a collection of papers, most old, some new. Fourteen papers, largely on the nature of the aesthetic and art criticism, are reprinted, and six new pieces are added. The new pieces are of special interest, because they constitute Beardsley’s final word on the topics covered, and the topics are themselves central ones: aesthetic experience, the definition of art, judgments of value, reasons in art criticism, artists’ intentions and interpretation, and art and culture.

Wreen, Michael, “Beardsley’s Aesthetics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>


Dates: 1915-1980

Nationality: French

Roland Barthes (November 12, 1915 – March 25, 1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes’s work extended over many fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism and post-structuralism.

Throughout his career, Barthes had an interest in photography and its potential to communicate actual events. Many of his monthly myth articles in the 50s had attempted to show how a photographic image could represent implied meanings and thus be used by bourgeois culture to infer ‘naturalistic truths’. But he still considered the photograph to have a unique potential for presenting a completely real representation of the world. When his mother, Henriette Barthes, died in 1977 he began writing Camera Lucida as an attempt to explain the unique significance a picture of her as a child carried for him. Reflecting on the relationship between the obvious symbolic meaning of a photograph (which he called the studium) and that which is purely personal and dependent on the individual, that which ‘pierces the viewer’ (which he called the punctum), Barthes was troubled by the fact that such distinctions collapse when personal significance is communicated to others and can have its symbolic logic rationalized. Barthes found the solution to this fine line of personal meaning in the form of his mother’s picture.

Barthes explained that a picture creates a falseness in the illusion of ‘what is’, where ‘what was’ would be a more accurate description. As had been made physical through Henriette Barthes’s death, her childhood photograph is evidence of ‘what has ceased to be’. Instead of making reality solid, it reminds us of the world’s ever changing nature. Because of this there is something uniquely personal contained in the photograph of Barthes’ mother that cannot be removed from his subjective state: the recurrent feeling of loss experienced whenever he looks at it. As one of his final works before his death, Camera Lucida was both an ongoing reflection on the complicated relations between subjectivity, meaning and cultural society as well as a touching dedication to his mother and description of the depth of his grief.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Roland Barthes’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 November 2010, 17:05 UTC, <>


Dates: 1897-1962

Nationality: French

Georges Bataille (September 10, 1897 – July 8, 1962) was a French writer. Although several philosophers have been significantly influenced by his thought, Bataille tended not to refer to himself as a philosopher.

In the 1920s Bataille was involved with the Surrealist movement, but he called himself the “enemy from within.” He was officially excommunicated from its inner circles by André Breton, who accused him of splintering the group. In the same decade, after a liberating period of psychoanalysis, Bataille started to write. He founded and edited many journals and was the first to publish such thinkers as Barthes, Foucault and Derrida. Between 1929 and 1931 Bataille edited the journal Documents (1929-31), which was devoted to cultural phenomena. With Pierre Klossowski, the brother of the painter Balthus, Bataille befriended in 1934; they shared a similar interest in psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and Marquis de Sade. In 1935 Bataille co-founded with André Breton the anti-Fascist group Contre-Attaque. To explore the manifestation of the sacred in society he, in 1939, co-founded with Michel Leiris and Roger Caillois the short-lived Collège de Sociologie. It was closely associated with a secret society which published the Acéphale review.



Dates: 1892-1940

Nationality: German

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (July 15, 1892 – September 27, 1940) was a German-Jewish philosopher, sociologist, literary critic, translator and essayist. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. His turn to Marxism in the 1930s was influenced by his friend Bertolt Brecht, who had developed his own critical aesthetics, which asked for the emotional distancing of the spectator (Verfremdungseffekt). An important earlier influence and friend was Gershom Scholem, who founded the modern, academic study of the Kabbalah and of Jewish mysticism. Over the last half-century the regard for his work and its influence have risen dramatically, making Benjamin one of the most important twentieth century thinkers about literature and about modern aesthetic experience.

As a sociological and cultural critic, Benjamin combined ideas drawn from historical materialism, German idealism, and Jewish mysticism in a body of work which was a novel contribution to Western Marxism and aesthetic theory. As a literary scholar, he wrote his most famous essays on Charles Baudelaire, he translated the Tableaux Parisiens edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal as well as Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. His work is widely cited in academic and literary studies, in particular his essays The Task of the Translator and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Influenced by Bachofen, Benjamin gave the name “auratic perception” to the aesthetic faculty through which civilization would recover a lost appreciation of myth.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Walter Benjamin’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 December 2010, 23:04 UTC, <>

In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new. Historically, it advanced intermittently and in leaps at long intervals, but with accelerated intensity. The Greeks knew only two procedures of technically reproducing works of art: founding and stamping. Bronzes, terra cottas, and coins were the only art works which they could produce in quantity. All others were unique and could not be mechanically reproduced. With the woodcut graphic art became mechanically reproducible for the first time, long before script became reproducible by print. The enormous changes which printing, the mechanical reproduction of writing, has brought about in literature are a familiar story. However, within the phenomenon which we are here examining from the perspective of world history, print is merely a special, though particularly important, case. During the Middle Ages engraving and etching were added to the woodcut; at the beginning of the nineteenth century lithography made its appearance. With lithography the technique of reproduction reached an essentially new stage. This much more direct process was distinguished by the tracing of the design on a stone rather than its incision on a block of wood or its etching on a copperplate and permitted graphic art for the first time to put its products on the market, not only in large numbers as hitherto, but also in daily changing forms. Lithography enabled graphic art to illustrate everyday life, and it began to keep pace with printing. But only a few decades after its invention, lithography was surpassed by photography. For the first time in the process of pictorial reproduction, photography freed the hand of the most important artistic functions which henceforth devolved only upon the eye looking into a lens. Since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was accelerated so enormously that it could keep pace with speech. A film operator shooting a scene in the studio captures the images at the speed of an actor’s speech. Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film. The technical reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last century. These convergent endeavors made predictable a situation which Paul Valery pointed up in this sentence:

“Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.”

Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes. For the study of this standard nothing is more revealing than the nature of the repercussions that these two different manifestations – the reproduction of works of art and the art of the film – have had on art in its traditional form.



Dates: 1884-1962

Nationality: French

Gaston Bachelard (June 27, 1884 – October 16, 1962) was a French philosopher. His most important work is on poetics and on the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break (obstacle épistémologique et rupture épistémologique). He rose to some of the most prestigious positions in the French academy and influenced many subsequent French philosophers, among them Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser and Jacques Derrida.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Gaston Bachelard’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 December 2010, 18:26 UTC, <>