Tate Modern Course

Anguish, Absurdity, Death Existential themes in modern and contemporary art

Richard Wentworth, ‘Siege’ 1983–4
Richard Wentworth, Siege 1983–4. Tate. © Richard Wentworth

The philosophy of existentialism had its roots in the work of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and came to fruition in the philosophies, novels and plays of Sartre, De Beauvoir and Camus.

This five-session course approaches modern and contemporary art through some key themes of existentialism, including the notions of anguish, absurdity, nothingness, abandonment, shame, despair, and the idea that at death we become 'prey to the other'.

You will have the opportunity to explore and discuss these ideas in relation to works in Tate Modern by artists as varied as Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst, artists who, whether or not explicitly influenced by existentialism or its forerunners, echo its concerns in their art. No prior knowledge of philosophy or art history is needed. Notes from each session will be posted online.

Led by Nigel Warburton, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and interviewer for the Philosophy Bites podcast.

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


Every Monday at 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15 and 18.45–20.15

11 June – 9 July 2012

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