The Art of Empathy: Joel-Peter Witkin and Jerome Witkin

by Lita Barrie

It is the empathy for their subjects that draws the viewer’s imagination inside their work – into a powerful identification with the heroic spirit of people who experience suffering with dignity and courage.

This empathetic quality gives their work both an emotional gravitas and infectiousness rarely seen today.

German philosopher Rudolf Lotze first coined the term “empathetic” (a translation of Einfuhlung) in 1858 to explain “in feeling” – the way we “feel into” works of art. The importance of the empathy we experience in art was derived from the Greek doctrine of empatheria (em “in” + pathos “feeling”). T

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?”

Henry Thoreau.