Foreign Universities

Academic Appointments

The European university system, through which many art historians rose, contains ranks and degree programs not found in American universities.

  • Privatdozent (Germany) - after obtaining a doctorate, the Ph.D. holder was generally qualified to be a private lecturer, nominally attached to a university but unpaid by the institution. Scholars at this level usually worked on their habilitation (Habilitationschrift). The Privatdozent is not allowed to supervise dissertations.
  • Außerordentlicher Professor - associate professor or a professor without a chair
  • Extraordinarius (Germany) - closest to Associate Professor in the United States, an adjunct position in many European universities. 
  • Ordinarius (Germany) - full Professor, belonging to the ordo, or list of regular faculty.


Other Academic Definitions

  • Abitur (Germany) - equivalent to a high school diploma given from a Gymnasium.
  • Brevet d'Art (France) - degree issued by French universities, including the University of Paris, Sorbonne, akin to a master's degree.
  • Gymnasium (Germany) - high school
  • Habilitation (Germany) - a second dissertation or qualifying scholarly paper written after the Ph.D., dissertation allowing the candidate to formally teach at a German university, a Habilitationschrift (literally, "appointment work"). Usually substantially longer than a dissertation
  • lycée - (France) Francophone high school, usually associated with the humanities.
  • Hochschule (Germany) - although literally "high school", it is a form of German college, often more technically based.
  • Ph.D. (Germany) - a short document, more akin to an American M.A. thesis, which allowed the holder to teach in a Gymnasium or be a civil servant or archivist. (Cantor, Inventing the Middle Ages, 81). The dissertation of Heinrich Wölfflin, one of the most famous art historians to graduate from a German university, was only 35 pages.
  • rigorosum (Austria) - an oral comprehensive examination, typical of the university in Vienna (Gombrich, Tributes, 238).


Art-Historical Concepts

Altertumswissenschaft - A debate ensued during the nineteenth century within the classical-studies community whether "classics" as a discipline should encompass a total study of ancient cultures and embracing all that remains of them: literature, art, artifacts, and documents or only the classical texts. Altertumswissenschaft is the concept of the former, encompassing generally a more scientific approach. It was critical for art historians in that Altertumswissenschaft allowed them entre into the classical studies circles and academic departments, which were much older than fledgling art history departments.

Connoisseurship - a form of art history and appreciation based upon quality judgments and rankings of the work of art. Connoisseurship frequently attempts to discern the degree of participation of one or a group of artists in the work, known as the "hand" of the artist. It was most effectively employed by Giovanni Morelli and Bernard Berenson. At its best, connoisseurship establishes observable distinctions, frequently called "scientific" that historians can compare and discuss. Particularly for museums and collectors, connoisseurship is an important criteria for art presentation because of its ranking of quality. It was the predominant approach to art history for much of the 19th and early 20th century. Where practiced in isolation, it was guilty of ignoring other important factors in art understanding, such as the social context in which the work of art was created. It is allied closely with formalism (see below), both are the antithesis of Marxist, post-structuralist and feminist methodologies.

Formalism (Formalismus) - the theory that an analysis of the compositional aspects of a work of art (line, brushstroke, etc.) is the key to understanding the work of art. The term was developed from literary history; its most famous art-historical exponent was Heinrich Wölfflin, although in practice he was never a single-minded as his detractors accused him. Formalism is a key tool in style analysis and the periodization of art history based upon appearance. This rather coarse over-practicing in the mid-twentieth century led to a split within methodological camps (see Style, Marxism). Formal analysis is still a basic tenet of art history and art criticism, but today seldom viewed as an endpoint.

Formgeschichte - A term developed from Biblical exegesis which was concerned with the underlying history and traditions from which the Gospels were written (i.e., the historical Jesus). In art history, Formgeschichte came to mean the study of individual form (for example, the characteristic position of a figure in a painting) and its historical precedents in order to determine the inspiration of that art work. The practice is a component of all historic art analysis, but its isolation from other methodologies was criticized by social art historians, among others. It is distinct, or perhaps only a subset, of Formalism. Other notable admirers of the approach included Henk Schulte Nordholt.

Geistesgeschichte - a concept used in cultural history that assumes a specific spirit (Geist) is the underlying principle for the certain group of people and age that creates the art (or cultural product). The concept is heavily indebted to the philosophy of Georg Hegel. In general history, it was most notably employed by Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911). Within art history, the approach was early used by Anton Springer. In the twentieth century, Max Dvořák and his Vienna School colleagues, including Otto Benesch, Wilhelm Köhler/Koehler, and Willi Drost, were principal Geistesgeschichte practitioners. Other notable admirers of the approach included Hans Jaffé and Henk Schulte Nordholt. Its broader meaning can be applied to the history of ideas in general. Denying material or social forces as motovational to history, this form of German philosophical idealism was most practiced between 1890 and 1933. Its critics included some connoisseurship-style art historians, for example, Max Friedländer, who emphasized the study of the physical object (Körpergeschichte) over intellectual theory.

Geisteswissenschaften - "cultural sciences" a term developed by Dilthey (see above) as the counter to the hard sciences. Dilthey believed psychology would be the key to the new cultural discipline. Gesteswissenschaft was a developing concept during the formation of modern art history and was employed by Heinrich Wölfflin. see [unpublished dissertation:] Hart, Joan Goldhammer. Heinrich Wölfflin: An Intellectual Biography. University of California, Berkeley, 1981, p. 3.

Iconography/Iconology - "That branch of the history of art which concerns itself with the subject-matter or meaning of works of art, as opposed to their form" (Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, 1939). In modern times, iconography has come to mean the syntactic understanding of symbols within a work of art: how the combination of symbols creates a new or specific meaning. While studies of symbolism and iconography have existed since the nineteenth century, the practice was most systematically laid out by German art historians connected with Aby Warburg, including Erwin Panofsky and Edgar Wind. Ernst Gombrich discusses its ramifications in his article "Aims and Limits of Iconology," in Symbolic Images. 3rd ed., 1985. In France, the work of Émile Mâle employed this methodology. In the later twentieth century, iconographical studies suffered a backlash by art historians who accused the practice as ignoring the social context and subject matter of the work, articulated in particular by Svetlana Alpers.

Linear History of Art - the representation of the history of as a series of events one following another in a single progression. Common in survey textbooks and introductory presentations on art. Though a common way to conceive any historic series of events, this approach was much chided by social, feminist and other art-historical movements as ignoring the range of events influencing art

New Art History - Revisionist art history methodologies appearing in the 1970s. A loosely grouped set of principles including structuralism, feminism and Marxist-social history.

Strukturforschung - Theoretical base popular among archaeologists before World War II positing that a hidden structure for objects of a certain period existed. It was developed as a counter to a simple stylistic-continuum approach to art, an outgrowth of the principles of Kunstwollen (above) developed by Alois Riegl. Ancient art (in particular) was grouped according to the principles that determined the work of art. The Strukturforschung historians analyzed the elements of an object's formal structure postulating what caused its particular stylistic appearance. The movement was most vividly employed by Guido Kaschnitz von Weinberg; others included the (younger) Friedrich Matz, Bernard Schweitzer, Gerhard Krahmer, and to some degree Ernst Langlotz.

Style - the manner in which a work of art is executed, distinct from its subject matter and intellectual meaning.

Totalitätsideal - Literally, the idea that one must know everything to interpret anything. Most notably espoused by the classical art historians Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, Karl Ottfried Müller and the classicist Barthold Niebuhr (1776-1831).

Wissenschaft - literally, the German word for "knowledge," usually meant as "science." Generally a scientific approach to a discipline. It was applied to a number of humanistic disciplines where a new, rigorous reliance on the facts and data was the major impetus for conclusion. It was frequently less scientific than its perpetrators intended. See also, Kunstwissenschaft.

Wissenschaftslehre - the theory of a structure of knowledge which makes no assumptions.


Art-Historical Institutions

All Souls College, Oxford - automonous scholarly research center at Oxford university. Designed to support senior scholars with few (if any) teaching responsibilities.

Bollingen Foundation/Bollingen Series - founded in 1948, the Bollingen Foundation was created by Mary C. Mellon, the art philanthropist Paul Mellon's first wife, to encourage the arts, including writing, philosophy and art history. The Foundation's name had been Mrs. Mellon's oblique way of honoring the psychologist Carl G. Jung, who had a country retreat near a Swiss village called Bollingen. A Bollingen Prize in Poetry caused controversy when it was awarded to Ezra Pound, a consistent supporter of the fascists. The Foundation began issuing a book series, initially the works of Jung, called The Bollingen Series. During the years 1943-1960, the Series was published by Pantheon Books, Inc. of New York City and then Random House, 1961-1969. In 1969 the Series was given to Princeton University Press to continue. The Foundation became inactive. The Bollingen Series has issued many volumes on art history and the Foundation sponsors art historians as Fellows.

Centrum voor Voortgezet Kunsthistorisch Onderzoek - part of Utrecht of University, but separate from the Kunsthistorisch Instituut. Its directors included J. G. van Gelder.

College Art Association, New York - professional association in the United States for academic art historians and artists. Founded 1913 pirmarily on pedagogical lines, today it is the major scholarly professional society for the history of art. Publishes the Art Bulletin.

Collège de France - automonous scholarly research center in Paris, principally a faculty center with few (if any) students.

Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London - British academic art history department founded in the 1930's on the "German model" of art scholarship, subsequently producing the top scholars of the later 20th century. The school was started by the politician Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868–1947), the wealthy art collector Samuel Courtauld (1876–1947), and the lawyer/image-collector Sir Robert Witt. Courtauld's mansion, Home House, a Robert Adam house at 20 Portman Square, London, became the venue for his collection and the Institute in 1931. In 1933 Lee was instrumental in accommodating a group of émigré art historians, fleeing Nazi Germany, who had been attached to the Warburg Institute in Hamburg (see below). The advent of Warburg scholars to England changed the methodology in England from one strict connoisseurship to one of document-style research and theory. A jointly-published journal with the Warburg Institute began in 1937. After World War II and the death of its founders, Lee and Courtauld both in 1947 and Witt in 1952, the Institute emerged as one of the major English-speaking art history academies. The Courtauld was led through these seminal post-war years by its most famous director, Anthony Blunt. During the 1960s the Institute moved heavily toward twentieth-century art under the leadership of Alan Bowness. A history of dress department became part of the Institute in 1965, followed by a department of wall paintings conservation in 1985. In 1989 the Courtauld moved into the Strand block of Somerset House, designed by William Chambers between 1775-1780, combining art and faculty into a single environ. See Courtauld Institute of Art webpage - A Short History of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Dumbarton Oaks, Georgetown, MD - Study Center for early medieval art and history owned by Harvard University. Located on a 16-acre garden estate in Georgetown (greater Washington, DC). The Center includes two small museums of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. It is primarily a ressearch center for advanced scholars and does not offer courses or degree programs. The gardens and museums are open to the public. The home of and founded by Robert Woods Bliss (1875-1962) and his wife, Mildred Barnes Bliss (1860-1969)—the latter heir to the Fletcher's Castoria patent medicine fortune—the Center was given to Harvard at the start of World War II partially to preserve a heritage feared imperiled by the advent of War in Europe. Bliss lived at the estate until her death, and until 1967 ran it as part of her social life, holding formal teas with the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantinists and—according to the Washington Post—observing their manners. The institution's first director, John S. Thatcher (1947 to 1949) was a close friend of the Blisses and its second, William Royall Tyler (1969 to 1977), son of the art historian Royall Tyler. In 1977, the Harvard scholar Giles Constable became its third director and brought it into line with other rersearch centers. The Center publishes the scholarly journal Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Eminent art historians who researched there included Sirarpie Der Nersessian (before it was under Harvard's auspices), Ernst Kitzinger, Wilhelm Koehler, Elisabeth Blair MacDougall, Kurt Weitzmann, Albert M. Friend, Hebert Kessler, Otto Demus, George M. A. Hanfmann, and staff members such as Robert Van Nice.

École des Chartes, Paris. (often mistranscribed, especially by English-language writers, as "Chartres"). The oldest institution in Europe specializing in the archival sciences, including paleography, bibliography, textual editing, and the history of the book.

Erstes Kunsthistorisches Institut, Vienna- see Wiener Institut (below)

Institut für Österreichischen Geschichtsforschung, Vienna - Associated with the University of Vienna.Many of the University of Vienna scholars (Franz Wickhoff and Julius von Schlosser) trained under the eminent diplomatics scholar Theodor von Sickel (1826-1908). Gombrich, in the obituary for Otto Kurz, notes that this institution was modeled after the École des Chartes (above).

Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ - privately founded think tank for senior scholars, not simply art history, not formally associated with Princeton University. Founded in the years preceding World War II when Princeton did not hire Jewish faculty, it allowed many eminent Jewish thinkers (most famously, Albert Einstein) to work in proximity to the University. After the war its director was the atomic-bomb scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). Permanent-member art historians (there were many temporary appointments) included Erwin Panofsky and Kurt Weitzmann. The historian Ernst H. Kantorowicz wrote his famous iconographic study, The King's Two Bodies there in 1957.

Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York, NY - The gradate program of New York University's fine arts department dedicated to teaching and advanced research in the history of art, archaeology, and the conservation and technology of works of art. An early exponent of advanced art history teaching in the United States, the program was founded in 1931 but emerged in earnest in 1937 when Walter S. Cook redefined the school to build on the art-historical resources (museum, intellectual and financial) of New York city. Renamed the Institute of Fine Arts in 1937, Cook assembled the most prestigious German-refugee art historians into a study center that changed the fact of art history in the United States. See "The Institute of Fine Arts - History," website.

K. K. [kaiserlich-königliche] Central Commission für die Erforschung und Erhaltung der Baudenkmale, later the K. K. Zentrale-Kommission für Kunst- und historische Denkmale (Imperial and royal central commission for researching and preserving of monuments) - Founded in 1850 as the first professional and competent unit to safeguard monuments in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. Work was initially done by honorary conservators, including the Austrian poet Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868). In 1873 it was reorganized into three sections, a) Prehistory and archaeology, b) Architecture, sculpture and painting of the middle ages through the 18th century, and c) Historic monuments. This was the body that Alois Riegl directed, giving him insight for his visionary theories of conservation (and opposing restoration).

Rembrandt Research Project (RRP) - A scholarly foundation begun in 1968 to examine Rembrandt's painted oeuvre and compile a new catalogue raisonné of his paintings based on current scholarship and connoisseurship. The RRP was supported by the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Scientific Research (NWO). Rembrandt's work had been over attributed drastically, even during his lifetime. Catalogs of the last century by scholars such as Hofstede de Groot (q.v.) and others had continued to ascribe his work uncritically. Modern facilities enabled the RRP team to examine over 600 paintings worldwide. The initial team of art historians was composed of professor J. Bruyn; professor J. A. Emmens; professor J. G. van Gelder; Bob Haak; S. H. Levie; and P. J. J. van Tiel. Their research caused the de-attribution of many celebrated Rembrandt works including The Polish Rider (Frick Collection), Man with a Golden Helmet, (Staatliche Museen, Berlin) and Girl at the Half-Opened Door (Art Institute of Chicago).

Warburg Institute (and Library), Hamburg Germany and later London, UK. - Innovative library and research center, library and photographic collection devoted to the study of the classical tradition primarily in art, but also literature and the other humanities, characterized by cross-disciplinary research. The Institute began as the private library of the wealthy eccentric art scholar Aby Warburg. Though Warburg was responsible for the initial establishment, he was indefinitely committed to a mental asylum in 1919 and the library-cum-research center was run by Warburg's disciple, Fritz Saxl, together with is partner Gertrud Bing, as the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg. In 1922 the Institute aligned itself with the newly founded University of Hamburg, instituting a scholarly series, the Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg. The rise of the anti-Semitic Nazi party in Germany forced Saxl to move the Warburg Library "on loan" to the Courtauld Institute at the University of London in 1933, followed by University of Hamburg scholars Hugo Buchthal, Edgar Wind and Ernst Gombrich. The library was housed first at Thames House. It began co-publishing a journal with the Courtauld Institute, University of London (see above), in 1937. When Britain entered the World War II, the Warburg was evacuated to Denham, England, where Buchthal acted as its librarian for most of the 1940s. In 1944 the Warburg Institute was officially made part of the University of London. In 1957 it occupied a new building together with the University's Slade School of Fine Art. Gombrich served as director of the Institute, its most famous, between 1959 and 1976. It became a member-Institute of the University’s School of Advanced Study in 1994. See Warburg Institute webpage - Description and History.

Wiener Institut, Vienna - created by Josef Strzygowski where scholars from various countries and disciplines could study and teach in reaction to a rivalry with University of Vienna faculty. The history of the early years of the Institute is complicated and frought with intrigue. Strzygowski's world-view of history and his broad generalizations created a bitter rift with Franz Wickhoff and others at the University of Vienna. The appointment of Max Dvorák, a Czech, to the University, added xenophobic concerns, perhaps supported by the archduke Ferdinand. At Wickhoff's death in 1909, Strzygowski was manuevered to succeed him over the objections of the other Vienna school scholars. The popularity of Strzygowski's institute heightened the opposing University of Vienna camp, led by Dvorák. Insurmountable differences led to an administrative and physical separation of the Institute into two separate places, Strzygowski's to a rented apartment on Vienna's Ringstrasse opposite the University (Vienna 1, Franzensring 12) and Dvorak's' organization in the old rooms in the main university building. The rivalry between Strzygowski and the traditional Vienna scholars was sealed with Dvorák's successor, Julius von Schlosser in 1922. Stryzgowski claimed his chair was primary due to the length he had now held it. Strzygowski's institute, Erstes Kunsthistorisches Institut, moved to Vienna 9, Hörlgasse 6. When Strzygowski retired in 1933, his institute was dissolved. The term Zweites Kunsthistorisches Institut is confusing because it was, in fact, established by the original chairs in art history occupied by Rudolf Edelberg von Eitelberger and Alois Riegl. See Aurenhammer, Hans. Kunstgeschichte an der Universität Wien (in German).

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich - founded in 1946 in Munich under the direction of Craig Hugh Smith, in the former administration building for the Nazi (NSDAP) party. Directors included Ludwig Heydenreich.

Zweites Kunsthistorisches Institut - see Wiener Institut (above)