Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1831) by Jakob SchlesingerAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Class reunions can be exciting: whatever became of that cool guy who used to sit in the back row? What does the most beautiful girl in the school look like now ...?
If Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) had gone to a class reunion – his former schoolmates would have been pretty amazed.
The young Hegel was a hard-working student at school and university, who didn’t stick out at all. He was neither particularly clever nor a good speaker. There was nothing that suggested that Hegel was going to become one of the world’s foremost philosophers.
But that’s exactly what he did become. His book ‘The Phenomenology of Mind ’ was one of the major works of the millennium and put him at the forefront of German Idealism.
His thinking had a huge influence on cultural and intellectual life. His most famous student was a certain Karl Marx – without Hegel there’d be no Marxism!
This portrait was painted shortly before Hegel’s death. Critics have been surprised by its startlingly vital expressiveness.
It is not entirely a thing of beauty. Or maybe it is? To quote Hegel, Beauty is “the sensuous appearance of the Idea”.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz