'I want to say the nude': The Philosophical Contribution of Cubism

Marián Arribas-Tomé, Heikki Kirjavainen

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In this paper we examine the nature of the alleged realism of Cubism. We start by referring to the unsatisfactory characterisations of the so-called analytic and synthetic periods of Cubism. In our view, a fruitful clue for at least philosophically better understanding of Cubism is found in connecting the efforts of the Cubists to the aims of phenomenology and semantics. For the Cubists this implied creating a method of showing the conceptual (intensional) elements of the picture in the picture itself. Philosophically this entailed a close connection to the problems of intensionality and “inner truth” of any representation. Furthermore, we try to show that the efforts of the Cubists can be seen in the light of the Wittgensteinian distinction between “showing” and “saying”. Realising a parallelism in this connection reveals the specific contribution of the Cubists, viz., their explicit assimilation of “saying” by showing visually the conceptual conditions concerning the subject of a painting. Interestingly enough, Picasso too seems to have used the very same words explicitly (as is seen in our title), if not being fully or at all aware of their role in philosophical discussions. Anyway, the clarification of the philosophical contribution of Cubism will be aided by both of our source ideas: noematic conceptualisation, on the one hand, and the distinction between showing – saying for semantics, on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-73
JournalSATS - Northern European Journal of Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


  • Philosophy
  • Semantics
  • Intensionality
  • Cubism
  • Visual language
  • Wittgenstein
  • Picasso

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