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Friday, June 5, 2020

Heidegger, Schapiro, and Derrida on Van Gogh’s Painting

Heidegger meditates on three works of art in his essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art”; one of these works of art is Van Gogh’s painting Old Shoes With Laces—he asserts that the shoes belong to a peasant woman. But the art critic Meyer Schapiro rejects Heidegger’s analysis of the painting; he is certain that the shoes belong to a city dweller, possibly to Van Gogh himself. Schapiro accuses Heidegger of injecting his own philosophical and cultural biases (possibly related to Nazism) into his analysis of Van Gogh’s painting. In his essay, “Restitution of the truth in pointing,” Derrida deconstructs Heidegger’s and Schapiro’s analysis—he points out that neither analysis is free of bias: Heidegger looks at Van Gogh’s painting from a rustic and traditional perspective, while Schapiro looks at it from an urban liberal perspective. Derrida notes that both Heidegger and Schapiro assume that the shoes are a pair and that there is a wearer, but the painting’s title does not mention a pair, and if the shoes are not a pair, there is no question of there being a wearer (like an old peasant woman, as surmised by Heidegger; and a city dweller, as surmised by Schapiro). According to Derrida, the shoes in the painting are phallically pointed to create the feeling of hollowness, which is obviously a depiction of feminine sexuality.

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