The other side of the canvas : George Mueller : his life and work through the aesthetic lens of John Dewey.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


In this dissertation, I review Mueller's life and work within the comparative aesthetic contexts of John Dewey and the analytical framework of Immanuel Kant. Kant's philosophy of aesthetics was the foundation for establishing the aesthetic standards used by critics during the Abstract Expressionist movement; Dewey's philosophy of aesthetics was not. I combine interviews with George Mueller and my own thirty-year expertise as a painter and professor of art with scholarly research to utilize John Dewey's Pragmatism in relation to Mueller's work. I include an appendix of interviews with the artist and a separate reference section that lists and catalogues much of his work. Most important, the dissertation encourages readers to approach not only Mueller's work but all art through a pragmatist point of view, to assume responsibility for renewed critical thought, to pull art back into the sphere of human necessity, and to balance its relationship to critical theory. Dewey tells us of what art is capable, of what viewers are capable. Art is not an intellectual or political exercise prescribed by culture, politicians, art markets, or ambitious writers, or if it is, it shouldn't be. Authentic art is a re-enactment of real experiences and that has nothing to do with abstract or representational imagery, philosophical pondering, or the making of careers. It does afford viewers the ability to relate and build an individual aesthetic from experience: An aesthetic life, as the pragmatist philosopher, Richard Rorty would have us create for ourselves. "[He] urges the conclusion that we must create ourselves and must do so by self-enriching aesthetic re-description" (Schustermann 246), as artists are supposed to do in every work.