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.

Simone Weil 1909-1943

“Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.

Simone Weil was a French mystic and social philosopher, whose posthumously published works had particular influence on French and English social thought. Intellectually precocious, Weil also expressed social awareness at an early age. At five she refused sugar because the French soldiers at the front during World War I had none and aged 10 she declared herself a Bolshevik. After completing her studies in philosophy, classical philology, and science, Weil taught philosophy in several girls’ schools from 1931 to 1938 and often became embroiled in conflicts with school boards as a result of her social activism.

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Canvas 200x170 cm (Available for Sale)

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Canvas 200x170 cm (Available for Sale)

To learn the psychological effects of heavy industrial labour, she took a job in 1934–35 in a Renault car factory, where she observed the spiritually deadening effect of machines on her fellow workers. In 1936 she joined an anarchist unit called the Durriti Column near Zaragoza, Spain, training for action in the Spanish Civil War, but after an accident in which she was badly scalded by boiling oil, she went to Portugal to recuperate. Soon thereafter Weil had the first of several mystical experiences, and she subsequently came to view her social concerns as “ersatz Divinity.” On returning to Paris, Weil continued to write essays on War, Peace, Labour and Management.  She was one of the first to identify a new form of oppression not anticipated by Marx, where élite bureaucrats could make life just as miserable for ordinary people as did the most exploitative capitalists

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Canvas 85x70 cm (Available for Sale)

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Canvas 85x70 cm (Available for Sale)

After the German occupation of Paris during World War II, Weil moved to the south of France, where she worked as a farm servant. She escaped with her parents to the United States in 1942 but then went to London to work with the French Resistance. The exact cause of her death remains a subject of debate. Malnutrition and overwork led to a physical collapse, and during her hospitalization she was found to have tuberculosis. She died after a few months spent in a sanatorium.

Some claim that her refusal to eat came from her desire to express some form of solidarity toward the victims of the war. Others think that Weil's self-starvation occurred after her study of Schopenhauer who in his chapters on Christian saintly asceticism and salvation, had described self-starvation as a preferred method of self-denial.

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28 cm (Available for Sale)

Simone Weil, 2018 Oil on Paper 28x28 cm (Available for Sale)

Weil’s writings, which were collected and published after her death, fill about 20 volumes. Though born of Jewish parents, Weil eventually adopted a mystical theology that came very close to Roman Catholicism. A moral idealist committed to a vision of social justice, Weil in her writings explored her own religious life while also analysing the individual’s relation with the state and God, the spiritual shortcomings of modern industrial society, and the horrors of totalitarianism.