Richard Arthur Wollheim (5 May 1923 − 4 November 2003) was a British philosopher noted for original work on mind and emotions, especially as related to the visual arts, specifically, painting. Wollheim served as the president of the British Society of Aesthetics from 1992 onwards until his death in 2003.


Richard Wollheim was the son of Eric Wollheim, a theatre impresario, and Constance (Connie) Mary Baker, an actress who used the stage name Constance Luttrell.[1] He attended Westminster School, London, and Balliol College, Oxford (1941–2, 1945–8), interrupted by active military service in World War II.[2] In 1949 he obtained a congratulatory first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and began teaching at University College London, where he became Grote Professor of Mind and Logic and Department Head from 1963 to 1982. He retired from that position to take up professorships, first, at Columbia University (1982–85) and then the University of California at Berkeley (1985–2002). He chaired the Department at UC Berkeley, 1998–2002. On retirement from Berkeley, he served briefly as a guest lecturer at Balliol College. Additionally, he held visiting positions at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, Graduate Center, CUNY, the University of California at Davis, and elsewhere. Wollheim gave several distinguished lecture series, most notably the Andrew M. Mellon lectures in Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1984), published as Painting as an Art.

In 1962, he published an article "A paradox in the theory of democracy",[3] in which Wollheim argued that a supporter of democracy faces a contradiction when he votes. On the one hand he wants a particular party or candidate to win, but on the other hand he wants whoever wins the most votes to win. This has become known as Wollheim's paradox.

His Art and its Objects was one of the twentieth century's most influential texts on philosophical aesthetics in English. In a 1965 essay, 'Minimal Art', he seems to have coined the phrase, although its meaning eventually drifted from his. As well as for his work on the philosophy of art, Wollheim was known for his philosophical treatments of depth psychology, especially Sigmund Freud's.[4] His posthumously-published autobiography of youth, Germs: A Memoir of Childhood,[5] with complementary essays, discloses a good deal about his family background and his life up to early manhood, providing valuable material for understanding his interests and sensibility.

Personal life

Wollheim married Anne Barbara Denise (1920-2004), daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel George Powell, of the Grenadier Guards, after her divorce from her first husband, the literary critic Philip Toynbee.[6][7] They had twin sons, Bruno and Rupert. Their marriage was dissolved in 1967. Wollheim married Mary Day Lanier in 1969; their daughter is Emilia.[8]


For an extensive bibliography of Richard Wollheim's publications by a professional bibliographer, see Eddie Yeghiayan's UC-Irvine site.[9] See also the 'Philweb' listing.[10]

Note: given his unique mind, personality, and distinctive writing styles, along with his curiosity and sociability, many of Richard Wollheim's publications are outside academic categories. Besides books, he published many articles, in journals and edited collections, book reviews, and gallery catalogues for shows. He also left writings in manuscript, letters and recordings of his talks.

Books and separately published works (selected)
Edited books
Selected articles


  1. ^ "Review: Germs by Richard Wollheim". the Guardian. 18 December 2004. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  2. ^ For his own account of his service in Europe during the war, see Wollheim, "Fifty Years On", London Review of Books 23 (23 Je 1994): 3–6.
  3. ^ In "Philosophy, Politics and Society", edited by Peter Laslett and W.G. Runciman, published by Basil Blackwell, 1962. Pp. 71-87.
  4. ^ He was also Ernest Jones Lecturer at the Institute of Psychoanalysis in London in 1968.
  5. ^ For excerpts from eighteen reviews, see Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Obituary: Anne Wollheim". 27 November 2004.
  7. ^ Enlightening: Letters 1946-1960, Isaiah Berlin, ed. Henry Hardy, Random House, 2012, end note no. 361
  8. ^ "Wollheim Papers - Archives Hub".
  9. ^ "Richard Wollheim". 26 August 2014. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  10. ^ "RICHARD WOLLHEIM". 2 May 2008. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2019.