Edgar Wind ( // ; 14 May 1900 – 12 September 1971) was a German-born British interdisciplinary art historian, specializing in iconology in the Renaissance era. He was a member of the school of art historians associated with Aby Warburg and the Warburg Institute as well as the first Professor of art history at Oxford University.
Wind is best remembered for his research in allegory and the use of pagan mythology during the 15th and 16th centuries, and for his book on the subject, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance.
Wind was born in Berlin, Germany, one of the two children of Maurice Delmar Wind, an Argentinian merchant of Russian Jewish ancestry, and his Romanian wife Laura Szilard.
He received a thorough training in mathematics and philosophical studies,both at his Gymnasium in Charlottenburg, and then at university in Berlin, Freiburg, and Vienna. He completed his dissertation in Hamburg, where he was Erwin Panofsky's first student.
Wind left to teach briefly in the United States for financial reasons (he had a two-year appointment at the University of North Carolina from 1925–27), but then returned to Hamburg as a research assistant. It was there that he got to know Aby Warburg, and was instrumental in moving the Warburg Library out of Germany to London during the Nazi period. Warburg's influence on Wind's own methods was significant.
Once in London, Wind taught and became involved with the Warburg Institute, helping found the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute in 1937. During the war he returned to the US and held several teaching positions, at New York University, University of Chicago, and Smith College. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1950.
Finally, in 1955 Wind returned to England and became Oxford University's first professor of art history, a position he maintained until his retirement in 1967. He died in London. There is now a reading room in Oxford's new Sackler Library dedicated to him, where his works are stored. Wind, although considered a classicist and Renaissance expert, staunchly defended modern art, unlike many of his colleagues: "If modern art is sometimes shrill," he said, "it is not the fault of artist alone. We all incline to raise our voices when we speak to people who are getting deaf."
Oxford University's student art and art history society is named after him.
Wind was an enthusiastic and respected lecturer at many institutions. He was a key example of the phenomenon of the "Warburgian scholar" in the American academic scene,equally at home in art, literature, history, and philosophy, and giving "pyrotechnical lectures." Says one student of Wind's at Smith, "his Hamburg accent and his puckish smile ... remain the most delightful memories...his...charisma...is the quality that made the greatest impression... [His] utterly charming European manner, urbane, intellectual must have been stimulating and encouraging to [his colleagues.]" Wind was a crucial influence on the young R.B. Kitaj, who enrolled at the Ruskin School, Oxford in early 1957, introducing him to the work and legacy of Aby Warburg. He personally encouraged Kitaj, inviting him to tea with him and his wife, Margaret, at his flat in Belsyre Court. Someone who in 1967 attended his Oxford lectures on the Sistine ceiling recalls the packed house at the Sheldonian Theatre, the vast erudition behind the tracing of the "theology" of Michelangelo's figures, and simply the excitement of learning about the order of one Renaissance world picture.
Wind's two most famous works are Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance and Art and Anarchy.
Mysteries' chief aim was to "elucidate a number of great Renaissance works of art".He maintained that "ideas forcefully expressed in art were alive in other areas of human endeavor". His thesis was that "the presence of unresolved residues of meaning is an obstacle to the enjoyment of art", and he attempted to "help remove the veil of obscurity which not only distance in time...but a deliberate obliqueness in the use of metaphor has spread over some of the greatest Renaissance paintings."
Wind's book has been heavily criticised (by André Chastel, Carlo Ginzburg, E.H. Gombrich, and others) for frequent misreadings of sources and a "one-sided" fixation on the Neoplatonic perspective.
In 1960, the BBC invited Wind to present the annual Reith Lectures. In this series of six radio talks, titled Art and Anarchy , he examined why, and how, great art is often produced in turbulent circumstances.
These lectures were later compiled into a book, also entitled Art and Anarchy. In it he notes that, over time, public audiences have lost their capacity for an immediate and visceral response to art. The production and appreciation of art, he observes, has become marginalized and domesticated to a point where it can no longer significantly and lastingly move its addressees. Wind's impulse in the piece is apparently restorative; he seeks to impede the observed tendency toward apathy and recover some of art's latent anarchic quality.
Wind begins his argument by presenting the long-standing conceptual correlation between art and forces of chaos or disorder, citing a lineage of thinkers and artists including Plato, Goethe, Baudelaire and Burckhardt. Particular emphasis is placed on Plato's distrustful view of the imagination as fundamentally uncontrollable; Plato explicitly denied the true artist a place in his imagined ideal republic, not for lack of respect for the artist's talent but out of fear for his capacity to upset the social balance. Wind also notes the repeated historical coincidence – in Greece at Plato's time and in Italy during the Renaissance – of peaks in artistic accomplishment with political turmoil and breakdown.
Wind notes, however, that the recent surplus of artwork available to the public eye has to some extent anesthetized the audience to art at large. Wind is quick to acknowledge that society maintains a broad and active concern with art as well as increasingly refined faculties with which to interpret such work. Yet this interest is a significant dilution of the passion with which art was received in the past: “We are much given to art, but it touches us lightly…art is so well-received because it has lost its sting.”
Wind refers frequently to Hegel in isolating the particular change that art has undergone: “when art is removed to a zone of safety, it may still remain very good art indeed, and also very popular art, but its effect on our existence will vanish.” Art has thus, according to Wind, moved to life's periphery. Again, Wind notes that this distance carries with it certain benefits for the scholarly approach to art; “detachment brought freshness and breadth, and a freedom from prejudice, a willingness to explore the unfamiliar, even the repulsive, and to risk new adventures of sensibility.” At the same time, however, art has lost its ability to resonate at levels deeper than the intellect, to incite the passions. Engaging with a work of art has become an act of mere observation as opposed to “vital participation.” Art has, for Wind, gained interest at the expense of potency.
By way of resolution, Wind suggests an intermediate and integrative approach, supplementing the tolerance afforded by aesthetic detachment with an insistence on personal assessment on behalf of the work's audience: “We should react to a work of art on two levels: we should judge it aesthetically in its own terms, but we should also decide whether we find those terms acceptable.” As such, Wind indicates that the intellectual advantages of the contemporary approach to art may be retained without sacrificing the “directly [felt]” quality that is so fundamental to it.
Iconology is a method of interpretation in cultural history and the history of the visual arts used by Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky and their followers that uncovers the cultural, social, and historical background of themes and subjects in the visual arts. Though Panofsky differentiated between iconology and iconography, the distinction is not very widely followed, "and they have never been given definitions accepted by all iconographers and iconologists". Few 21st-century authors continue to use the term "iconology" consistently, and instead use iconography to cover both areas of scholarship.
The Birth of Venus is a painting by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, probably made in the mid 1480s. It depicts the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully-grown. The painting is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
In the visual arts, style is a "...distinctive manner which permits the grouping of works into related categories" or "...any distinctive, and therefore recognizable, way in which an act is performed or an artifact made or ought to be performed and made". It refers to the visual appearance of a work of art that relates it to other works by the same artist or one from the same period, training, location, "school", art movement or archaeological culture: "The notion of style has long been the art historian's principal mode of classifying works of art. By style he selects and shapes the history of art".
Erwin Panofsky was a German-Jewish art historian, whose academic career was pursued mostly in the U.S. after the rise of the Nazi regime.
Ronald Brooks Kitaj was an American artist with Jewish roots who spent much of his life in England.
Jean Seznec was a historian and mythographer whose most influential book, for English-speaking readers, has been La Survivance des dieux antiques, 1940, translated as The Survival of the Pagan Gods: Mythological Tradition in Renaissance Humanism and Art, 1953. Expanding the scope of work by Warburg Institute scholars Fritz Saxl and Erwin Panofsky, Seznec presented a broad view of the transmission of classical representation in Western Art.
Dame Frances Amelia Yates, was an English historian who focused on the study of the Renaissance. In an academic capacity, she taught at the Warburg Institute of the University of London for many years, and also wrote a number of books on the subject of esoteric history.
Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich was an Austrian-born art historian who, after settling in England in 1936, became a naturalised British citizen in 1947 and spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom.
The Warburg Institute is a research institution associated with the University of London in central London, England. A member of the School of Advanced Study, its focus is the study of cultural history and the role of images in culture – cross-disciplinary and global. It is concerned with the histories of art and science, and their relationship with superstition, magic, and popular beliefs.
Aby Moritz Warburg, was a German art historian and cultural theorist who founded a private Library for Cultural Studies, the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, which was later moved to the Warburg Institute, London. At the heart of his research was the legacy of the Classical World, and the transmission of classical representation, in the most varied areas of western culture through to the Renaissance.
Sir John Knewstub Maurice Rothenstein was a British arts administrator and art historian.
Michael David Kighley Baxandall, FBA was a British art historian and a professor emeritus of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and worked as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. His book Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy was profoundly influential in the social history of art, and is (2018) widely used as a textbook in college courses.
Robert Eisler was an Austrian Jewish polymath who wrote about the topics of mythology, comparative religion, the Gospels, monetary policy, art history, history of science, psychoanalysis, politics, astrology, history of currency, and value theory. He lectured at the Sorbonne and Oxford, served briefly on the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation in Paris after World War I, and spent fifteen months imprisoned in Dachau and Buchenwald, where he developed heart disease. He is best remembered today for advancing a new picture of the historical Jesus based on his interpretation of the Slavonic Josephus manuscript tradition, proposing a dual currency system to control inflation, and arguing for a prehistoric derivation of human violence in Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy. His life and work intersected with those of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alois Riegl, Gilbert Murray, Karl Popper, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, G. R. S. Mead, Aby Warburg, Fritz Saxl, Gershom Scholem, Martin Buber, and Walter Benjamin.
Art and Illusion, A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, is a 1960 book of art theory and history by Ernst Gombrich, derived from the 1956 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. The book had a wide impact in art history, but also in history, aesthetics, semiotics, and music psychology.
Friedrich "Fritz" Saxl was the art historian who was the guiding light of the Warburg Institute, especially during the long mental breakdown of its founder, Aby Warburg, whom he succeeded as director.
Joseph Leo Koerner is an American art historian and filmmaker. He is currently the Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture and, since 2008, Senior Fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. Specializing in Northern Renaissance and 19th-century art, Koerner is perhaps best known for his work on German art. After teaching at Harvard from 1989 to 1999, he moved to Frankfurt, where he was Professor of Modern Art History at the Goethe University, and to London, where he held professorships at University College London and the Courtauld Institute before returning to Harvard in 2007. His feature film The Burning Child, a documentary combining personal and cultural history, was released in 2019.
Sandra Maureen Fisher, an American figure painter based in London and who was born in New York City.
Percy Frederick Horton MA, RBA, ARCA was an English painter and art teacher, and Ruskin Master of Drawing, University of Oxford from 1949 to 1964. During the First World War he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector.
An architectural style is characterized by the features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable. It is a sub-class of style in the visual arts generally, and most styles in architecture related closely to the wider contemporary artistic style. A style may include such elements as form, method of construction, building materials, and regional character. Most architecture can be classified within a chronology of styles which changes over time reflecting changing fashions, beliefs and religions, or the emergence of new ideas, technology, or materials which make new styles possible.
Pathosformel or "pathos formula" is a term coined by the German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg (1866–1929) in his research on the afterlife of antiquity. It is described as "the primitive words of passionate gesture language" and the "emotionally charged visual trope[s] that recur throughout images in Western Europe. While the term is associated with formalism, Warburg restricts the concept to cultural-psychological themes, as he held "an honest disgust of aestheticizing art history". Despite its name, pathosformel does not provide a calculable formula to identify visual links among images. Instead, it calls on collective and individual imagination to find such links apart from those based on age, type, size, or origin. In historian Kurt Forster's words, "it exerts its control over existing figurations in a way that endows them with new, 'sign-giving' qualities." The art historian Ernst Gombrich, described pathosformel as "the primeval reaction of man to the universal hardships of his existence [that] underlies all his attempts at mental orientation".
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