Lynton, Norbert Caspar Loewenstein

Full Name: 
Lynton, Norbert Caspar Loewenstein
Other Names: 
Norbert Lynton
Year Born: 
1927
Year Died: 
2007
Place Born: 
Berlin, Germany
Place Died: 
Brighton, UK
Home Country: 
UK
Overview: 
Modernist art historian and critic; Professor, University of Sussex, Brighton, 1976-1989. The son of a Jewish father, the Berlin publisher Paul Loewenstein (who took the name Lynton in 1944), and a Roman Catholic mother Amalie, Lynton's family emigrated to London in 1935 as the Nazi's power in Germany consolidated. When his father's attempts at a dressmaking business in London failed, Lynton and his brothers were sent back to Germany to continue their education, but recalled in 1938 just as the Holocaust intensified. Lynton studied at Douai, the Benedictine school near Reading. He entered the University of London, Birkbeck College, the University's night school for mature students, taking courses from Nikolaus Pevsner and assisting him with his Buildings of England series. It was Pevsner, who despite Lynton's interest in music, convinced him to study art history at the Courtauld Institute. He married Janet Irving in 1949 (divorced in 1968). After graduating from the Courtauld, Lynton joined Leeds College of Art in 1951 as a lecturer in the School of Architecture and then the School of Art in 1955. Leeds was directed by Harry Thubron (1915-1985) and assisted by E. J. Victor Pasmore (1908-1998), Terry Frost (1915-2003) and Tom Hudson (1922-1997), all of who were modernizing art education under the principles of Herbert Read. Lynton learned under these revolutionizing educators. He soon moved his courses into teaching 20th-century art at summer school, the artist Bridget Riley was among his early students. In 1961 he was appointed Senior lecturer (and later head of the Department of Art and General Studies) at Chelsea School of Art, London. The same year he became London correspondent for the Art International (through 1966) and separated from his first wife to live with a former student, Sylvia Towning. He reviewed for Art News and Review, replacing Lawrence Alloway at Alloway's suggestion, for Art International. When Patrick Heron (1920-1999) retired from art criticism at The Guardian, Lynton assumed his role in 1965, competing with the substantially methodologically different critics David Sylvester and John Berger (Times) In 1970 he relinquished both positions to become the Director of Exhibition for the Arts Council of Great Britain. There he mounted shows including "Art in Revolution: Soviet Art and Design since 1917" in 1971, "Pioneers of Modern Sculpture," 1973 and, in 1974, "Edvard Munch" as well as a succession of contemporary one-person exhibitions by Lucian Freud, Diane Arbus, Morris Louis and Antoni Tàpies. Lynton invited Tate curator Ann Seymour to create the show "The New Art" for the Hayward, a project impossible at her own institution (Independent). His shows treating photography as an art form, unusual for the time in London, raised the profile of the Hayward. He resigned from the Art Council in 1975 after difficulties with its notoriously difficult chairman of the Art Panel, John Pope-Hennessy. After a year teaching at the Open University, Lynton joined the University of Sussex, Brighton as professor. From 1975 he also lectured as professor at the School for European Studies. Lynton wrote The Story of Modern Art in 1980 as an attempt to update The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich. He acted as School for European Studies' Dean between 1985 and 1988. in 1985 he was appointed a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, London, which he held until 1999. In 1987 he mounted the British Council Henry Moore exhibition in Delhi, India, and for the exhibition "Picturing People in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore" during 1989-1990 year. He retired from both Sussex (emeritus) and lecturing at the School for European Studies in 1989. His second marriage to Towning ended in 1989 when his affair with another woman became known (Telegraph). Another Henry Moore exhibition under his aegis was held between 1991 and 1992 in Leningrad, Moscow and Helsinki. Lynton's book on Vladimir Tatlin was posthumously published in 2009. Lynton was not an infallible eye. He deplored late Picasso (in a famous review of the Grand Palais show in 1966), and later, Francis Bacon. His Story of Modern Art was criticized for ignoring new art historical approaches--social and feminist; he approached art from the point of view of the artist, largely formal values.
Selected Bibliography: 
Ben Nicholson. London : Phaidon Press, 1993; Henry Moore: the Human Dimension. London: HMF Enterprises for the Henry Moore Foundation in association with the British Council/Lund Humphries, 1991; The Story of Modern Art. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980; and Russell, John. William Scott. London : Thames & Hudson, 2004; and Langmuir, Erika. The Yale Dictionary of Art and Artists. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
Sources: 
The Writers Directory 2005. Chicago: St. James Press. vol.1, p. 1051; "Professor Norbert Lynton" [Dept. of Art History hompage, University of Sussex.} http://www.sussex.ac.uk/arthistory/profile1664; [honorary awards announcement, University of Brighton, 17.07.2003] http://www.brighton.ac.uk/news/2003/030717honorarygrads.php?PageId=804; "Professor Norbert Lynton, Prolific art critic who organised major exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery and taught at Sussex University." Daily Telegraph [London] November 13, 2007, p. 27, "Professor Norbert Lynton, Art historian and critic who directed the Hayward Gallery in its heyday and later taught at Sussex." Independent (London), November 7, 2007, p. 44, "Professor Norbert Lynton." Times (London), November 6, 2007, p. 67.
Contributor: 
Lee Sorensen