The Origin of the Work of Art

Origin here means that from which and by which something is what it is and as it is. What something is, as it is, we call its essence. The origin of something is the source of its essence. The question concerning the origin of the work of art asks about its essential source. On the usual view, the work arises out of and by means of the activity of the artist. But by what and whence is the artist what he is? By the work; for to say that the work does credit to the master means that it is the work that first lets the artist emerge as a master of his art. The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other. In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely, that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.

As necessarily as the artist is the origin of the work in a different way than the work is the origin of the artist, so it is equally certain that, in a still different way, art is the origin of both artist and work. But can art be an origin at all? Where and how does art occur? Art—this is nothing more than a word to which nothing actual any longer corresponds. It may pass for a collective idea under which we find a place for that which alone is actual in art: works and

In this second edition of Basic Writings Heidegger's "The Origin of the Work of Art" appears complete, including the later "Epilogue" and the "Addendum" of 1956. The translation is by Albert Hofstadter (in Poetry, Language, Thought, New York: Harper & Row, 1971, pp. 17-87), with minor changes. The German text for the translation is Martin Heidegger, Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, ed. H.G. Gadamer (Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1960). An error on p. 9 of the German text has been silently corrected.