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Joseph, B. (2004). Richard Wollheim (1923-2003). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(2):533-534.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(2):533-534

Richard Wollheim (1923-2003)

Betty Joseph

Richard Wollheim, one of the most distinguished philosophers of his generation, died aged 80 on 4 November 2003. His interest in philosophy was primarily a philosophy of mind. This led him to explore the field of ethics and aesthetics and he showed a lifelong and profound interest in art. He found the depth and power of the psychoanalytic model of the mind not only appealing to him personally but also helpful in his understanding of art as well as human motivation. In this he was in advance of, and often in contrast to, many of the other leading philosophers. Wollheim loved art, not just as a theoretical study, but also in his living—looking at paintings, standing before them, examining them over long periods.

Wollheim's interest in and appreciation of art seems to stem from his family background. His mother, before her marriage to his father, was an actress and his father was a theatrical impresario who was particularly attached to Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet. It was his father who introduced him to the work of Freud. As a young child he was unhappy at school but things seem to have changed when he went to Westminster School, and interests which were going to remain throughout his life were fostered and stimulated, particularly painting, socialism and pacifism; though the latter was later abandoned when, after a year at Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the Army. He took part in the landing in Normandy and was subsequently captured by the Germans, but escaped.

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