Friedrich Schiller 1759-1805

“Art is the daughter of freedom”.

Friedrich Schiller was born on 10 November 1759, in Germany, as the only son of military doctor.  As a boy, Schiller was excited by the idea of becoming a cleric and often put on black robes and pretended to preach but he eventually studied medicine. During most of his short life, he suffered from illnesses that he tried to cure himself.

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One of the great German poets and dramatists, Friedrich Schiller studied the philosophy of Kant between 1793 and 1801 whilst recuperating from illness. In his essays he sought to define the character of aesthetic activity, its function in society, and its relation to moral experience. His early tragedies were attacks upon political oppression and his later plays we're concerned with the freedom of the soul - allowing man to rise above his physical conditions. He died of tuberculosis in 1805.

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Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”

Arthur Schopenhauer was among the first 19th century philosophers to contend that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. Inspired by Plato and Immanuel Kant, both of whom regarded the world as being more amenable to reason, Schopenhauer developed their philosophies into an instinct-recognising and ultimately ascetic outlook, emphasising that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation  (expanded in 1844), wherein he characterises the phenomenal world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Proceeding from the transcendental idealism of Kant, Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism, rejecting the contemporaneous post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism.

Arthur Schopenhauer, 2018 Oil on Canvas 140x120cm (Available for Sale)

Arthur Schopenhauer, 2018 Oil on Canvas 140x120cm (Available for Sale)

Although considered to be a thoroughgoing pessimist, Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways — via artistic, moral and ascetic forms of awareness — to overcome a frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. He has been dubbed the artist’s philosopher on account of the inspiration his aesthetics has provided to artists of all stripes.  Schopenhauer’s lack of recognition during most of his lifetime may have been due to the iconoclasm of his thought, but it was probably also partly due to his irascible and stubborn temperament.

Arthur Schopenhauer, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (available for Sale)

Arthur Schopenhauer, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (available for Sale)

Although he never achieved the fame of such post-Kantian philosophers as Johann Gottlieb Fichte and G.W.F. Hegel in his lifetime, his thought informed the work of such luminaries as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and, most famously, Friedrich Nietzsche. He is also known as the first German philosopher to incorporate Eastern thought into his writings.  Since his death in 1860, his philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life’s meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts.

Harriet Martineau 1802-1876

“You better live your best and act your best and think your best today, for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.”

Martineau wrote many books and a multitude of essays from a sociological, holistic, religious, domestic, and perhaps most controversially, feminine perspective; she also translated Auguste Comte’s Cours de philosophie positive as The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, Freely Translated and Condensed, 2 vol. (1853). Martineau said of her own approach to writing: "when one studies a society, one must focus on all its aspects, including key political, religious, and social institutions". She believed a thorough societal analysis was necessary to understand women's status under men.

Harriet Martineau 2018, Oil on Canvas 140x120 cm (Available for Sale)

Harriet Martineau 2018, Oil on Canvas 140x120 cm (Available for Sale)

 

Martineau began losing her senses of taste and smell at a young age, becoming increasingly deaf and having to use an ear trumpet. It was the beginning of many health problems in her life.  In 1839, during a visit to Continental Europe, Martineau was diagnosed with a uterine tumour.  She moves to a house in Tyneside to be near her brother-in-law, Thomas Michael Greenhow, who was a celebrated doctor in Newcastle upon Tyne.  Immobile and confined to a couch, her illness caused her to literally enact the social constraints of women during this time. Whilst there she wrote three works including Life in the Sickroom, considered to be one of Martineau's most under-rated works. It upset evangelical readers as they "thought it dangerous in 'its supposition of self-reliance'".

In 1845 she left Tynemouth for Ambleside in the Lake District, here she designed herself and oversaw the construction of the house called The Knoll, Ambleside, where she spent the greater part of her later life.  Diagnosed with fatal heart disease in 1855, Martineau began her autobiography in 1855 (it was published posthumously in 1877), but she lived another 21 years, producing eight more volumes of serious work, and became England's leading woman of letters, holding a kind of court at her tiny estate in Westmoreland, where she died on June 27, 1876.

Harriet Martineau 2018, Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

Harriet Martineau 2018, Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

The subsequent works offered fictional tutorials on a range of political economists such as James Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Martineau relied on the works of Thomas Malthus to form her view of the tendency of human population to exceed its means of subsistence. However, in stories such as "Weal and Woe in Garvelock", she promoted the idea of population control through what Malthus referred to as "voluntary checks" such as voluntary chastity and delayed marriages. Historically she is remembered as a tough-minded writer who fought great odds to achieve a distinguished literary career.

Émilie du Châtelet 1706-1749

“If I were king, I would redress an abuse which cuts back, as it were, one half of human kind. I would have women participate in all human rights, especially those of the mind.”

Émilie Du Châtelet was born in Paris and married Marquis Florent-Claude de Châtelet-Lomont in 1725. In 1733, she met Voltaire who became her lover and life-long intellectual companion. They retired to Du Châtelet's husband's estate—Cirey—which was remodeled to include a laboratory with several instruments for their on-going scientific experiments.  Together they spearheaded Newton’s revolution in France and without her contributions, the French Enlightenment of the 1700s would have looked very different.

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Canvas 109x91cm (Available for Sale)

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Canvas 109x91cm (Available for Sale)

In her intellectual work, Du Châtelet focused on natural philosophy, particularly that of Newton, Leibniz and Christian Wolff. Her advanced abilities in physics and mathematics made her especially able to write capably about Newton's physics. She thus contributed to the shift in France away from an acceptance of Cartesian physics and toward the embrace of Newtonian physics. Nonetheless, she was more than just an expositor of others' works, and she was not interested in physics alone. Indeed, still squarely in the tradition of natural philosophy, Du Châtelet sought a metaphysical basis for the Newtonian physics she embraced upon rejecting Cartesianism.

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Canvas 140x100cm (Available for Sale)

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Canvas 140x100cm (Available for Sale)

As a feminist she pulled no punches and wrote of her struggle to educate herself in higher mathematics and physics (because girls were denied access to good schools, let alone universities): “If I were king,” she wrote, “I would reform an abuse which effectively cuts back half of humanity. I would have women participate in all human rights, and above all, those of the mind.”

Emilie died at the age of forty-three but despite her short life, Emilie was a truly unique woman and scholar. Among her greatest achievements were her Institutions du physique and the translation of Newton's Principia, which was published after her death along with a "Preface historique" by Voltaire.

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

Émilie du Châtelet, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

Voltaire 1694-1778

"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."

Voltaire was educated by the Jesuits in Paris and took to satirical writing at an early age.  He had to go into exile in Holland at the age of 19 and was imprisoned in the Bastille for nearly a year in his mid-twenties.  Despite these setbacks he established himself as the best playwright in France and used this as his vehicle to bombard the world non-stop with advanced views on society, religion and politics with humour and intelligence.

Voltaire, 2018 Oil on Canvas 109x91cm (Available for Sale)

Voltaire, 2018 Oil on Canvas 109x91cm (Available for Sale)

After a second term of imprisonment in the Bastille he was forced into exile in England where he enjoyed a level of freedom and respect for the individual lacking in France.  He learned English and immersed himself in the serious study of the new science, with the assistance of Émilie Du Châtelet, as represented by Isaac Newton, and the new liberal philosophy as represented by John Locke.  He didn’t contribute to the body of ideas in these fields but used them as the intellectual content behind his plays, novels, biographies, historical works, pamphlets and critical reviews such that they became known throughout Western Europe.

Voltaire, 2017 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

Voltaire, 2017 Oil on Paper 28x28cm (Available for Sale)

Most significantly he propounded Locke’s idea that the confidence we have in religious beliefs needs to relate to evidence rather than the authority of Church and State.  This insistence on viewing everything in the light of reason became known as the “Enlightenment”and  Liberalism became a revolutionary creed.  In intellectual matters liberals advocated the use of reason and the right of individual dissent as against conformism and obedience to tradition and authority.  Voltaire believed these battles could be won without violence but many of his followers came to the view that revolutionary violence was necessary to sweep away the ancien regime.  Thus Voltaire is seen as the godfather of revolutionary freethinking in 18th century France, the kind of thinking that did so much to bring about the French Revolution of 1789.