Monday, 28 July 2014

Cars and frocks - artists' legacies

Wittgenstein in New York
This is the second print referring to an episode in Wittgenstein's life.

Norman Malcolm was an American philosopher, (1911-90).  He became a friend of Wittgenstein at Cambridge University in the late 1930s.  After Wittgenstein’s death, Malcolm wrote, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, which was published in 1958.  It was this account of Wittgenstein which so engaged Paolozzi’s interest in the Philosopher’s life and work. 

In July 1949 Wittgenstein, responding to Malcolm’s invitation to stay with him at Ithaca, sailed to America on the Queen Mary.  He had been living in Dublin and had recently been to Vienna to see his eldest sister who has very ill with cancer.  Wittgenstein himself was unwell and had been unable to work since March.  Anaemia was diagnosed, but it is likely that his illness was in fact the prostate cancer that would be the cause of his death in 1951. 

Perhaps the prospect of the trip across the Atlantic, which initially daunted him, revitalized Wittgenstein, as Malcolm recorded in the Memoir: 

He went on to say that if I should not be able to meet him in New York he would 'jolly well' make the eight- or nine-hour train trip to Ithaca alone. 'Maybe, like in the films, I'll find a beautiful girl whom I meet on the boat & who will help me.' 

I went to New York to meet Wittgenstein at the ship. When I first saw him I was surprised at his apparent physical vigour.  He was striding down the ramp with a pack on his back, a heavy suitcase in one hand, cane in the other.  He was in very good spirits and not at all exhausted and he would not allow me to help him with his luggage.  My chief recollection of the long train ride home is that we talked about music and that he whistled for me, with striking accuracy and expressiveness, some parts of Beethoven 7th Symphony.

On a more trivial note, in the same way that some people now will associate the name Picasso primarily with a rather unpleasant looking French motor car . . .  !

Friday, 11 July 2014

I love to go a wondering (sic) . . .

Wittgenstein the Soldier 

This is the first of the three prints in the suite which refer to Wittgenstein’s biography.  Diane Kirkpatrick’ describes it well: 

‘Wittgenstein the Soldier’ bears a text which describes part of Wittgenstein’s service in the Austrian army during the First World War. The composition has four small silhouette soldiers and one huge cloudy ‘soldier’ at the left whose rucksack would identify him as Wittgenstein, complete with unseen manuscript of the ‘Tractatus’.  The poetic blend of sharp and hazy imagery in the finished print is due to the unique collage technique Paolozzi employed for this one work. He pasted one layer of images (which are soft in the final print) on to the main support. Over this he fastened a sheet of tracing paper on which he created the patterns which remain crisply in focus in the print'. 

I am unsure of its veracity, but this notion that Wittgenstein had the draft of the Tractatus with him ‘in the trenches’ is certainly an intriguing one – the contrast between highly innovative philosophical thinking and the blood-and-guts of warfare is salutary.  Perhaps the inclusion of the image of a butterfly – a delicate creature alongside the visual military cues - is an allusion to this incongruity. 

In 1913/14 Wittgenstein was in Norway where he wrote, Logik, this being the basis for much of the Tractatus.  The Tractatus, the only work published (1921) in his lifetime, concerned Wittgenstein’s concept of language as depicting the world in one-to-one pictures of fact.  His other major work, Philosophical Investigations, overturned some of the precepts of the Tractatus and focused on the theory of language games. 

Wittgenstein volunteered to join the Austro-Hungarian Army as soon as war was declared.  It was a distinguished service – fighting on the Russian and Italian fronts, winning several medals, commendations and promotion to the rank of lieutenant. 

As previously noted, Paolozzi used components from Tortured Life to construct the images of the soldiers. 

This is the collage:


And this, the print:


Monday, 7 July 2014


Quoting from Kelpra Studio; The Rose and Chris Prater Gift; Artists’ Prints 1961-1980. Tate Gallery,1980:

‘Collage could be said to be the most characteristic technique of the twentieth century, applied to poetry, film, television, sculpture, music and graphics alike; it has been a way of life for Paolozzi.  Since he was a student, he has had a mania for collecting all manner of printed material.  When different pieces are juxtaposed they suggest a metaphor for the shifting, disordered random quality of everyday life.  Equally, he has enjoyed manipulating ‘the space/time thing . . . so that some of the images are separated by thirty years of yellowing in portfolios waiting for the day . . .’

In Reality we see such juxtaposition in matrix form, with less integration of the component images.  The result is the kind of ‘picture’ (of reality) Wittgenstein proposed in the Tractatus, from which the following quotations are included in the print:

2(06)  The sum total of reality is the world.

2 1     We picture facts to ourselves.

2 11    A picture presents a situation in logical space, the existence and non-existence of states of affairs.

2 12    A picture is a model of reality.

2 13    In a picture objects have the elements of the picture corresponding to them.

2 131  In a picture the elements of the picture are the representatives of objects.

2 14    What constitutes a picture is that its elements are related to one another in a determinate way.

2 141  A picture is a fact.
Paolozzi always wanted to overcome the ephemeral nature his collages had, stating that he was ‘anxious that my works should have a permanent quality . . .’.  Screenprinting, transposing ephemeral source matter from diverse places into a more lasting form, satisfied him on that score.