Malraux, Literature and Art

'On this earth of ours where everything is subject to the passing of time, one thing only is both subject to time and yet victorious over it: the work of art.'

André Malraux, TV program: Promenades imaginaires dans Florence, 1975.

Essays on
  • André Malraux
  • the theory of art and literature
by Derek Allan
Australian National University
    André Malraux in a television program about art (1975)

Malraux and the theory of art

André Malraux's Theory of Art - Challenges to Traditional Aesthetics (avec version française - e ora anche in italiano)

"Reckless Inaccuracies Abounding": André Malraux and the Birth of a Myth.  Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Vol. 67, Issue 2: pp 147-158. Debunks the persistent myth, fostered by E.H. Gombrich and others, that Malraux's use of art history is unreliable. Abstract

André Malraux and the Challenge to Aesthetics Journal of European Studies. March 2003, 33: pp 23-40. Concerns two of Malraux's major works on the visual arts, The Voices of Silence and The Metamorphosis of the Gods. Argues that these works present aesthetics as traditionally conceived with a fundamental challenge and invite us to think about art in a radically different way.

André Malraux, the Art Museum, and the digital Musée Imaginaire.  A brief paper on this topic.

An entry on André Malraux's theory of art in the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics published by OUP.

The Death of Beauty : Goya’s Etchings and Black Paintings through the Eyes of André Malraux

Art and Time

The general relationship between art and the passing of time is a crucial aspect of the nature of art but one that is neglected in contemporary aesthetics. These items address key aspects of the question:

Analytic Aesthetics and the Dilemma of Timelessness A paper presented to a seminar in the ANU School of Philosophy, 11 November 2014.

Time: The Forgotten Dimension of Art. Discusses key questions to be asked about the temporal nature of art. 

An intellectual revolution: André Malraux and the temporal nature of art. Journal of European Studies. 2009, 39: 198-224. Explains Malraux's revolutionary understanding of the relationship between art and time - the notion of metamorphosis. 

Art and History: Taking the Past Seriously  Examines arguments in contemporary aesthetics that marginalize historical and anthropological evidence concerning art.

André Malraux, l’art et le temps. A paper delivered at a seminar on Malraux at the Sorbonne.

What the question of art and time is not about. Comments on some potentially misleading ideas.

Malraux, l’art et le temps : Un défi à l’esthétique traditionnelle" in Malraux et le temps, La Revue des lettres modernes. Série: André Malraux, n° 14, Classiques Garnier , 2018.


This book explores ideas I have outlined in various articles and conference papers, and in my book on Malraux. It traces the important history of the topic of art and time in Western culture and considers the positions, express or implied, of a number of modern theorists such as Adorno, Sartre, Benjamin and writers in 'analytic' aesthetics. 

The publisher's page gives a link to a pdf of the Contents and early pages. The book includes 9 illustrations.
  (avec version française)

For the first time, a comprehensive, step by step exposition of Malraux’s theory of art as presented in The Voices of Silence and The Metamorphosis of the Gods. 

30 illustrations, 23 in colour.

Extracts from a review of Art and the Human Adventure*:

  • 'Cogently argued, elegantly written and painstakingly researched...'
  • '... a brillant example of what could be described as critique engagée'.
  • 'The author's main objective is to retrieve Malraux's philosophy from generations of critics and academics who ... are often content to substitute invective for reasoned debate'.
  • '... should spark a radical reassessment of Malraux’s stature as a theorist of art'.
  • an 'outstanding book'.
A review in The Burlington Magazine (June 2011): "a commendable analysis of Malraux's texts ... [examines] his notions of artistic creativity, time, history and cultural exchange in relation to art... a thorough and illuminating exposition of the thought of this unjustly neglected figure".


My publications, conference papers etc
My ANU researcher's page
My page
My PhilPapers page

Comments on Art and Time in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy

"Derek Allan’s accomplished and insightful book tackles a philosophical problem that has been neglected in contemporary aesthetics: the relationship between art and time… One admirable feature of Allan’s book is that it is well versed in art history and the history of aesthetics…
Art and Time is a well-researched, elegantly written, and lucidly argued book. It explores a problem that has been neglected within contemporary aesthetics, offering a suggestive theoretical response to the problem of art’s relationship to time... [It makes] a welcome contribution to broadening the often parochial, ahistorical character of contemporary aesthetic debates."


Malraux's first three novels La Condition Humaine - Cover


Why art is never representation (even when it represents).  

Art and "the real world".  A conference paper. 

“Goya and the Dark Side of the Enlightenment”, a paper delivered at a conference entitled Rethinking the Enlightenment at Deakin University, Melbourne

A logical redeemer: Kirillov in Dostoevsky’s Demons

The Power of an Idea: Raskolnikov in 'Crime and Punishment'. Literary Imagination (2016)

Les Liaisons dangereuses through the eyes of André Malraux. Journal of European Studies. June 2012.

Myths about Malraux's Theory of Art
André Malraux wrote to a friend in 1973: "Of all my books, those I’ve written about art are certainly the ones that have been most seriously misunderstood." This page comments on some common misundertandings.
Is aesthetics based on a mistake?
Argues that aesthetics remains straightjacketed in a conception of art inherited from the eighteenth century that now hinders our understanding of art.

Art and Freedom  Is there an intrinsic relationship between art and freedom – and if so what kind of freedom might that be?

Letter to Quadrant concerning an article on Malraux in their May 2007 issue.

Another letter to Quadrant.

Art and the Metaphysical - A Challenge to Aesthetic Orthodoxy  A conference paper.

Creation ex nihilo: Andr
é Malraux and the Concept of Artistic Creation
NEW: "Beauty, Art and the Western Tradition"  (download)

NEW: Has André Malraux’s imaginary museum come into its own?


Goya. Old People Eating

If the words art and beauty had the same meaning, Goya would not be an artist.” André Malraux.





Some painting and sculpture I like:

Page 7

Page 8


Updated: 8/4/2020

* Review by Emeritus Professor Robert Thornberry

University of Alberta
in Revue André Malraux Review