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: