Defending ‘the Artist’s Theory’: Wollheim’s lost idea regained?

Graham McFee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper considers an argument of Richard Wollheim’s, originally presented in a 1976 symposium with Goodman and Wiggins, which disappeared when the symposium contribution was ‘reprinted’ in the supplementary essays to the expanded edition of Art and Its Objects (Wollheim, 1980). It lays out the argument’s original context, locating its objectives by means of a comparison with Goodman’s autographic/allographic distinction, with its attendant discussion of the ‘history of production’, and presents Wollheim’s defence of ‘the artist’s theory’. This defence coheres in interesting ways with Wollheim’s aesthetics emphasis on the importance of the artist’s intention (suitably understood) as part of a specification of what the work itself is. This conception reinforces the importance Wollheim grants both to the fulfilled intentions of the artist and to a suitably positioned, suitably informed, and suitably sensitive spectator. Both should be modelled as operating under the aegis of the artist’s theory, a notion this ‘missing’ argument serves to emphasize.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2010


  • autographic
  • allographic
  • intention
  • artist’s intention
  • intentionalism
  • history of production


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