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Philosophy at the Virtual Art Museum

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

Teacher Guide

Woman V

Willem de Kooning, 1952-53
FILTERS: Expressionism

Artwork Module Navigation

Questions for Philisophical Discussion

  1. What is the subject of this painting?
  2. Why do you think it is painted in this odd way?
  3. What about this painting makes it a work of abstract expressionism, in your opinion?
  4. Does this painting convey an emotion? Which one(s) and how?
  5. Name some emotions including the ones that you thought the paintings conveyed.
  6. Do emotions have a specific feeling associated with them? Are they identical with those feelings?
  7. Where do you experience emotions, in your body or your mind? Do your associate specific emotions with different parts of your body?
  8. When you experience an emotion, is it “directed” at a particular person or thing? Give an example of an emotion and how it relates to something outside of you. Are there, on the other hand, some emotions that are not so directed to something external to you? Give an example. [Hint: Consider happiness. Can you just be happy or do you have to be happy about something? If the latter, then happiness has what philosophers call “an object,” whatever you are happy about. What about anxiety, an emotion that many philosophers think is especially significant?]
  9. Is there a difference between an emotion and a mood? How would you describe that difference, if any?
  10. Can you tell what emotions another person is experiencing? How do you know?
  11. How important are emotions in your life? How important do you think they should be?

Additional Resources

More on Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” series

Expressionism Overview and Resources

Expressionist art focuses on the expression of emotions rather than the accurate depiction of objects or people. Artists use color and visual distortions as a means of communicating emotional states.

Expressionism at Tate


What Is Expressionism?

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on emotion

Philosophy Talk episode on “indispensable emotions

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Willem de Kooning, Woman V, 1952-53
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Willem de Kooning, Woman V, 1952-53
Download & Print Send Via Email
Willem de Kooning, Woman V, 1952-53

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