Three Pairs of Shoes has elements of still life paintings - the six boots are arranged intentionally on a white display cloth often seen in that genre - and also elements of portraiture. Each shoe, which would have been immediately recognizable to Parisians as a laborer's workboot, exudes its own personality. For any doubting that an inanimate object can convey personality, look no further than Three Pairs of Shoes . As in so much of van Gogh's artwork, the heavy paint application, or impasto, enhances details like the nail heads.
Neither Marx nor Engels wrote systematically on aesthetics, although Marx planned to do so in 1841–1842 and again in 1857. As with their ideas on a whole range of topics, their thinking on the arts must be extrapolated mainly from statements made in texts addressing other matters from across their diverse literary remains. It was not until the period of the Third International that an extensive compilation of these statements was made under the direction of Mikhail Lifshitz. (For Lifshitz, see Third International and Official Marxism .) The fruits of this labor were a sequence of Soviet bloc publications that include Marx and Engels 1953 and Marx and Engels 1976 . These remain useful, but Marx and Engels 1974 —which was not produced under the shadow of Stalinism—is a more balanced presentation. Prawer 1976 exhaustively traces Marx’s readings in literature and his literary opinions throughout his life; it also restores to them the historical dimension largely absent from the Soviet anthologies. Marx’s statements on the visual arts are far less extensive than those on literature, but his judgments on the relative value of different style epochs were linked in important ways with his larger historical perspective, as Rose 1984 shows. Solomon 1973 remains impressive in its nonjudgmental presentation of a wide array of thinkers associated with the Second and Third Internationals as well as with the Western Marxist tradition. It also has a useful bibliography. To date the only book-length presentation of the history of Marxist art history is Hemingway 2006 , which includes essays on five of the most important and influential Marxist art historians, together with three on Marxist thinkers whose work has had a particularly profound influence within the discipline (Benjamin, Lefebvre, and Morris), and a further three evaluating the contributions of the art-historical New Left.