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Sendakian Portraits of Philosophers Created by AI


I’ve recently been playing around with MidJourney, a new AI image generator currently in beta. You can instruct it to “imagine” anything, and so I had it imagine portraits of philosophers drawn by the late, great, children’s author-illustrator, Maurice Sendak.

Sendak created so many of the books that featured prominently on the cultural landscape of kids who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, and beyond. Most people know Where The Wild Things Are. My favorite was Pierre and the rest of the 4-book miniature Nutshell Library. I even had the Carole King record of her song versions of these stories (here’s Pierre).

The results of my little experiment were mixed. Some of the images are more Sendakian than others. And you might at first wonder whether some of the portraits really look like who they’re supposed to be portraits of; it may help to imagine what those philosophers would look like as professors and other folks in the 1960s or 70s.

If you scroll slowly, you can try to guess who is who before glimpsing the captions beneath each row of portraits. Here’s one hint: there are no living philosophers among the group.

I may add more philosophers to this collection at some point. Any in particular you’d care to see?

Related: Sendak tells a story about one of his fans.

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Jason
Jason
1 month ago

The Wittgenstein is pleasantly Gollum-like. I also like Bentham’s cobblestone head.
It’s disappointing (but not surprising, given AI) that Alain Locke reads as White.
Maybe do Simone De Beauvoir?Report

Jason
Jason
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
1 month ago

Nice! Elf ears are a fun touch.Report

David HH
David HH
1 month ago

Absent fang or claw and outfitted as a teddy bear, Martin Heidegger is too far reduced from reality. But then Sendak’s characters often reflected reality through a funhouse mirror – the gentle as frightening giants, or the small and smiling actually mean, violent or foolish.Report

Scott
Scott
1 month ago

Featuring Sting as Schoepenhauer. These are fun!Report

Athos Rache
1 month ago

Heidegger is such a freak with his four hands.Report

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