Osten, Gert von der

Full Name: 
Osten, Gert von der
Year Born: 
1910
Year Died: 
1983
Place Born: 
Otterndorf, Germany
Place Died: 
Brühl, Germany
Home Country: 
Germany
Overview: 
Museum director; specialist on German and Dutch Late-Gothic Renaissance. Between 1919 and 1928, Von der Osten attended the Hannover Kaiserin-Auguste-Victoria-Gymnasium, where his father was Oberstudiendirektor. After graduation, he studied art history, archaeology, and history at the universities of Berlin, Munich, Marburg, and Halle. His work as a student volunteer at the Hannover Landesmuseum in 1930 had a decisive influence on his choice to become an art historian. In 1933, he earned his doctoral degree from Halle University with a dissertation on the iconography of the Man of Sorrows, Der Schmerzensmann: Typengeschichte eines deutschen Andachtsbildwerkes von 1300 bis 1600. His adviser was Paul Frankl (q.v.). After having worked as a volunteer at the Berlin Museums, Von der Osten was appointed, in 1938, a Kustos at the Hannover Landesgalerie. Together with Ferdinand Stuttmann (q.v.), the director of the Landesgalerie (1937-1962), he worked on late mediaeval sculpture of Lower Saxony, and co-authored in 1940 Niedersächsische Bildschnitzerei des späten Mittelalters. Both authors then were on duty in the German army at the outbreak of World War II. Von der Osten's wife, Erika von der Osten-Baare, was involved in the final preparations of the publication. In 1941 Von der Osten completed his Habilitation under Wilhelm Pinder (q.v.) with the study, Manierismus in der deutschen Kunst um 1520. As a soldier during World War II, Von der Osten rose to the officer ranks in the Germany army. After the war he spent more than three years in Russia as a detainee. After that dark period he returned, in 1948, to the Hannover Landesgalerie. In 1951 he obtained a position as Privatdozent at the Technische Hochschule. In 1955 he published a monograph on the German painter Lovis Corinth. Von der Osten also was appointed director of the Städtische Galerie, whose works were on display of the Landesmuseum since 1923. Between 1956 and 1957, he enlarged the collection of the Städtische Galerie with twenty important modern sculptures. The modern sculpture section is included in Von der Osten's 1957 fully-illustrated Katalog der Bildwerke in der Niedersächsischen Landesgalerie Hannover. This critical catalog, which contains 498 works from the Middle Ages up to the contemporary period, was acclaimed in several leading art periodicals, including the Art Bulletin. Von der Osten spent the academic year 1957-58 in Princeton, as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, where he began working on his Pelican History of Art volume, Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands, 1500-1600, and where he had useful discussions on the project with Erwin Panofsky (q.v.). The work on this survey, however, took many years to complete. In 1960 Van der Osten obtained the position of Director-in- chief of the Cologne Museums and, in addition, the directorship of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. He broadened its collection with nineteenth-century and contemporary artworks. An important acquisition, in 1968, was the art collection of Peter and Irene Ludwig, known as the "Sammlung Ludwig". This collection, on display from 1969, gained popularity and attracted many visitors. Van der Osten's artfully crafted catalog, Kunst der Sechziger Jahre; Sammlung Ludwig im Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Köln, shows his real involvement in the present-day art scene. The huge collection was later housed in the new Museum Ludwig. His Pelican volume finally appeared in 1969 as Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands, 1500 to 1600, one-fifth of which was written by Horst Vey (q.v.), then curator of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. In 1970, nine colleagues, including Vey, offered Van der Osten a Festschrift on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. Van der Osten spent the last years of his life on a major critical study on Hans Baldung Grien, Hans Baldung Grien: Gemälde und Dokumente, which appeared in 1983. In Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands Van der Osten highlights the uniqueness of each artwork. The geographically determined sections are set in the framework of their historical and political context. Van der Osten was a critical and many-sided art historian, as well as a gifted writer. Extracts from his reflections and observations on art are quoted by Horst Keller in his Festschrift contribution, "Gert von der Osten schreibend".
Selected Bibliography: 
[complete list:] Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 288-289; Tümmers, Horst-Johs "Bibliographie Gert von der Osten" in Festschrift für Gert von der Osten. (Gert von der Osten zum 60. Geburtstag am 17. Mai 1970 überreicht von seinen Mitarbeitern am Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, 1970, pp. 281-291; [Dissertation Halle:] Der Schmerzensmann: Typengeschichte eines deutschen Andachtsbildwerkes von 1300 bis 1600. Leipzig, 1933, Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1935; and Stuttmann, Ferdinand. Niedersächsische Bildschnitzerei des späten Mittelalters. Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1940; Lovis Corinth. Munich: Verlag F. Bruckmann, 1955; Katalog der Bildwerke in der Niedersächsischen Landesgalerie Hannover. Munich: Bruckmann Verlag, 1957; Kunst der Sechziger Jahre; Sammlung Ludwig im Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Köln. Cologne: Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, 1970; and Vey, Horst. Painting and Sculpture in Germany and the Netherlands, 1500 to 1600. The Pelican History of Art, 31. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1969, German, Deutsche und Niederländische Kunst der Reformationszeit. Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, 1973; Hans Baldung Grien: Gemälde und Dokumente. Berlin: Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft, 1983.
Sources: 
Bier, Justus. "Katalog der Bildwerke in der Niedersächsischen Landesgalerie Hannover, bearbeitet von Gert von der Osten" Art Bulletin 41 (1959): 342-344; [biographical contributions by Rudolf Hillebrecht, Herbert von Einem, and Horst Keller in] Festschrift für Gert von der Osten. (Gert von der Osten zum 60. Geburtstag am 17. Mai 1970 überreicht von seinen Mitarbeitern am Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg, 1970, pp. 7-16; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 287-9; Budde, Rainer. "In memoriam Gert von der Osten (17. Mai 1910 - 30. November 1983)." Wallraf-Richartz- Jahrbuch (1983): 7-9; Bloch, Peter. "Gert von der Osten." Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft 38 (1984): 123.
Contributor: 
Monique Daniels; Lee Sorensen