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Bachhofer, Ludwig

    Image Credit: The University of Chicago Photographic Archive

    Full Name: Bachhofer, Ludwig

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1894

    Date Died: 1976

    Place Born: Munich, Bavaria, Germany

    Place Died: Carmel, CA, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Asian, Chinese (culture or style), East Asian, Indian (South Asian), Japanese (culture or style), sculpture (visual works), South Asian, and Southeast Asian

    Career(s): educators


    German specialist in Asian art history, including East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Indian art and sculpture. Bachhofer began his studies in 1916 before a tour of service as a soldier in the First World War. He returned to his studies in 1918 in Munich studying art  history (under Heinrich Wölfflin, archaeology, philosophy and ethnography of Asia under Lucian Scherman (1864-1946). He completed a dissertation on Japanese woodcuts under these men (whom it is unclear). Between 1921 and 1922, Bachhofer volunteered at the Völkerkundemuseum (Ethnological Museum) in Munich under the Scherman who was the director there. He began researching his habilitation thesis in 1922 engaged in travel. Bachhofer completed his habilitation in 1926, the sameyear establishing a Japanese departments in the Völkerkundemuseum. He entered the University of Munich as a Privatdozent as well,  teaching courses in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian art history. His 1929 book Die frühhindische Plastik appeared in English the same year as Early Indian Sculpture. In 1930, he mounted an exhibition of Chinese and Japanese paintings from the 10th -18th centuries (“Die Kunst der japanischen Holzschnittmeister”) for the Völkerkundemuseum.  In 1933, he was appointed to associate professor at Munich, but education ministry rejected him through the so-called Nuremberg Laws (Nazi racial laws) because of the “non-Aryan origin” of his wife. Bachhofer emigrated to the United States in 1935. There Bachhofer taught East Asian art history at the University of Chicago, later becoming professor and chairman of the department. From 1941-1945, he was the co-editor of the Art Bulletin.  He retired from the University, succeeded by his student, Harrie Vanderstappen (1921-2007), moving to California where he died.

    Bachhofer was one of the leading specialists in Asian art history, a developing field of specialized in the West. He was one of the first generations of European scholars to turn their full attention to the art of Asia. His interests included East Asian, Southeast Asian, and Indian art; including early Indian and Chinese bronze sculptures. He remained close to his mentor, Wölfflin in friendship and methodology. Using stylistic analysis he developed methodology for dating Chinese bronze vessels. His method was to find real, dated works, then to judge their quality and finally to estimate the direction of creative development through style analysis.

    Selected Bibliography

    Chinesische Kunst. Breslau: F. Hirt,  1923; Die frühindische Plastik. Leipzig: Schmidt & Günther 1929. English, Early Indian Sculpture. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1929; “Characteristics on Tang and Sung pottery” Burlington Magazine 65 (1934):. 72-76; “Chinese landscape painting in the eighth century.”  Burlington Magazine 67 (1945): 189-191; “The influx of Indian Sculpture into Fu-nan.” Journal of the Greater India Society 2 (1935): 122-127; “On the origin and development of Chinese art.” Burlington Magazine 67 (1935):   251-264; “Two Chinese wooden statues.” Burlington Magazine 73, (1938): 142-146; “Two Chinese wooden figures.”  Art Quarterly 1 (1938): 289-298; “On Greeks and Sakas in India.”  Journal of the American Oriental Society 61 (1941): 223-250; “Bronze figures of the late Chou period.”  Art Bulletin 23 (1941): 317-331; “The evolution of Shand and early Chou bronzes.” Art Bulletin 26 (1944):  107-116.


    Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munchen: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.


    Contributors: Cassandra Klos and Emily Crockett


    Cassandra Klos and Emily Crockett. "Bachhofer, Ludwig." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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