Merleau-Ponty at the Gallery

Questioning Art beyond His Reach

By Véronique M. Fóti

Subjects: Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Art, Aesthetics
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438478029, 164 pages, January 2021
Hardcover : 9781438478036, 164 pages, March 2020

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Table of contents


Introduction: A Plethora of Issues

1. Transcending Profane Vision: The Art of Giorgio Morandi

2. At Vision's Crossroads: Body, Animality, and Cosmos in the Art of Kiki Smith

3. Image and Writ in Cy Twombly's Visual Poetics

4. Resonances of Silence and the Dimension of Color: The Art of Joan Mitchell

5. Plant Drawing, Abstraction, and the Philosophy of Nature: The Art of Ellsworth Kelly

6. Strong Beauty and Structures of Exclusion

Conclusion More Ethereal Bodies

Selected Bibliography
Index of Topics
Index of Persons

A study of the significance of the visual arts in Merleau-Ponty's aesthetics in relation to the work of five artists not known or discussed by him.


Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological ontology engages deeply with visual art, and this aspect of his work remains significant not only to philosophers, but also to artists, art theorists, and critics. Until recently, scholarly attention has been focused on the artists he himself was inspired by and wrote about, chiefly Cézanne, Klee, Matisse, and Rodin. Merleau-Ponty at the Gallery expands and shifts the focus to address a range of artists (Giorgio Morandi, Kiki Smith, Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell, and Ellsworth Kelly) whose work came to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century and thus primarily after the philosopher's death. Véronique M. Fóti does not confine her analyses to Merleau-Ponty's texts (which now importantly include his late lecture courses), but also engages directly with the art. Of particular concern to her is the art's ethical bearing, especially as related to animal and vegetal life. The book's concluding chapter addresses the still-widespread rejection of beauty as an aesthetic value.

Véronique M. Fóti is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of several books, including Tracing Expression in Merleau-Ponty: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Biology, and Ontology and Epochal Discordance: Hölderlin's Philosophy of Tragedy, also published by SUNY Press.


"…Fóti's close descriptions of particular artworks are eloquent and informative, and the details she provides about the lives and practices of the artists whose work she considers are intriguing and show a deep familiarity with the art-historical and critical literature." — Phenomenological Reviews

"The book operates along several lines at once, offering insightful and new critical readings of artists through the lens of Merleau-Ponty's scholarship. Clearly written and engaging, it will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students."— Rajiv Kaushik, Brock University