Philosophy at the Virtual Art Museum

Using art to prompt philosophical discussions in the high school classroom.

Teacher Guide

Victory Boogie Woogie

Piet Mondrian, 1942
FILTERS: Abstract Art

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Questions for Philisophical Discussion

  1. What features of this painting strike you right away?
  2. Does the painting remind you of anything?
  3. If it does, do you think the painting is not really abstract?
  4. How does the title of the painting affect your viewing of it? Do you know what “victory” and “boogie woogie” refer to?
  5. Why is this image called “abstract”? Are there specific feature(s) of the painting that the term refers to? Are there other ways of describing the works that you think are more appropriate?
  6. What are some of the similarities between music and abstract art?
  7. Besides certain works of art, what sorts of things are called abstract? (Hint: Think about the different subjects you study in school. Are some of them more abstract than others? Which ones? What makes those subjects abstract?)
  8. How does the term “abstract” describe those things? Does it evaluate them, say in a positive or negative way? Does it refer to certain properties of those things?
  9. What makes something abstract? What is the opposite of abstract? Does the word “abstract” have a definite meaning? Can you define it?
  10. Philosophy is sometimes described as abstract. Do abstract art and philosophy share something that makes them both abstract?

Additional Resources

Museum of Modern Art information on the related painting Broadway Boogie Woogie

Early paintings by Piet Mondrian at the Gemeentemuseum Den Hag

Abstract Art Overview and Resources

Abstract art, also known as non-representational art, is imagery that does not make visual reference to people, places or things in the real world. The paintings in this unit are all examples of Western abstract art from the twentieth century.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art: Abstract Art
 is an excellent resource for further information on abstraction and abstract art.

The topic of the meaning of the term “abstract” introduces themes from the philosophy of language, in particular the difference between description and evaluation. Here are some more resources for exploring the concepts introduced by abstract art.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on abstract objects

There is an interesting controversy between John Locke and George Berkeley on whether there can be abstract ideas. The Introduction to Berkeley’s The Principles of Human Knowledge contains a nice presentation of the theory and Berkeley’s criticisms of it.

Episode of Philosophy Talk about the nature of art

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Piet Mondrian, Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942
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Piet Mondrian, Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942
Download & Print Send Via Email
Piet Mondrian, Victory Boogie Woogie, 1942

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