Haidt, Johann Valentin
John Valentine Haidt
Danzig, Prussia; [present day Gdańsk, Poland]
Bethlehem, PA, USA
German immigrant painter who wrote an early, unpublished history of art. Haidt descended from a family of goldsmiths in Augsburg, Germany. His grandfather was . When he was two years old his father was appointed royal Prussian goldsmith and the family to Berlin. The younger Haidt trained as a goldsmith at the newly founded Berlin Akademie der Bildenden Künste (academy of fine arts). Beginning in 1714, he spent ten years traveling in Europe, living in Rome around 1720. Devout and Protestant, Haidt joined a group of pietistic Lutherans in the city, eventually moving to England where he set up a studio. He converted to the Mährische Einheit group there, the Jednota Bratrska (Moravians) and began preaching. Haidt returned to Germany and the Moravian communities in Hernhag and then to Herrnhut, Germany where he became a painter. The Moravians, known as the Herrenhutter for their settlement of Herrnhut, Germany, could live only in Saxony where the group's (re-)founder, Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760), ruled. The strict limitations in Germany on the group eventually led to Haidt's return to England and then to the American colonies in 1754. Haidt settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There he proselytize for the sect, becoming the town's Gemeinmaler (chief painter). He taught painting and produced portraiture and landscapes. Haidt studied further Benjamin West in 1755 in Philadelphia. Beginning in 1762 (through 1770) Haidt wrote a treatise on art (in German), including a section on the history of art penned (and extent today) in the hand of an assistant. The 37-page manuscript covered proportion, perspective, and basics. The art history section decries Roman painting's failure to last after antiquity and lauds Italian Renaissance painting as exemplary. Haidt failed to publish or distribute his writing and it remained unknown until the twentieth century. Haidt had no students who worked after him in the United States. Haidt's manuscript is preserved, though unpublished, in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem PA. Haidt's brief account of art history is important as it predates that of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (q.v.). It's closest model might be that of Joachim von Sandrart (q.v.). Like Haidt, Sandrart's section on art history is also just a portion of a larger work (in Sandrart's case, lives of artists). Haidt's remarks on art history common with other writings on art of the time. However, considering the
horizon of understanding that existed before Winckelmann, whose tracts he probably could not have known, Haidt may therefore also be considered to be an art historian. Thus he may be regarded as the first German art historian, also as the first German art historian in exile, who worked in the United States." (Kaufmann).
Fabian, Monroe H. "Haidt, John Valentine." Dictionary of Art 14: 50; Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta. "The American Voice: German Historians of Art and Architecture in Exile in the United States." in International Journal of Architectural Theory 12 no. 1 (August 2007), http://www.tu-cottbus.de/Theo/Wolke/eng/Subjects/071/DaCostaKaufmann/dacosta-kaufmann.htm