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Bauch, Kurt

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    Full Name: Bauch, Kurt

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1897

    Date Died: 1975

    Place Born: Neustadt-Glewe, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

    Place Died: Freiburg im Breisgau, Hesse, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Dutch (culture or style) and painting (visual works)


    Rembrandt scholar and professor of art history, Freiburg. The son of a Mecklenburg judge, Bauch served as cadet and a second lieutenant in the imperial navy, 1916-18. After a 1919-21 volontariat at the Schweriner Museum in Rostock, Germany, under Albert Brinckmann, Bauch studied art history at the universities in Berlin, under Adolph Goldschmidt and Munich, under Heinrich Wölfflin. Bauch also spent time in the art-historical academies of Vienna, where since 1909 two nearly antithetical institutes existed, one run by Julius Alwin von Schlosser and the other by Josef Rudolf Thomas Strzygowski. After brief employment at the Sankt Annen Museum in Lubeck, he obtained his doctorate in Freiburg in 1922 writing his dissertation under Hans Jantzen. Jantzen was to remain a powerful influence on Bauch his life. Bauch’s dissertation was on the artist Jakob Adriaensz Backer (1608-1651), a pupil of Rembrandt. Bauch served 1924-1926 as an assistant in the Hague with the famous Rembrandt scholar, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. In 1927, Bauch’s habilitationsschrift, Die Kunst des jungen Rembrandt appeared. Bauch taught medieval and early modern art history as a privatdozent between 1927-31 in Freiburg, moving to Frankfurt in 1932, also as a privatdozent. He joined the Nazi party (NSDAP) the year of their accession to power, 1933, allowing him to returned to Freiburg as Ordinarius (full) professor and succeeded Jantzen. He continued to publish during World War II under the Nazi regime, joining the Marine War Office, 1939-1944. During this time he published a patriotic booklet, Das eiserne Kreuz (“The Iron Cross,” 1941). However, at the same time he sheltered and “protected” (quotation marks, Heckscher) the art historian Lotte Brand Foerster when she fled Hamburg and Nazi persecution. He resumed his ordinarius professorship at Freiburg in 1945, publishing books on medieval scholarship and Asian art, retiring in 1962. Bauch’s focus on the early, Leyden years of Rembrandt (1626-32) was based on the premise that each individual work of art is fully valid unto itself and that early works were not immature preambles leading to greater accomplishments. Bauch’s methodology conceived of two spheres of the history of art. Firstly the purely artistic aspects, demonstrating the approach of Munich teacher Wöllflin. The second sphere, the historic one, where outside influences and social forces help determine the content of art. Bauch published numerous pronouncements on the authenticity of Rembrandt paintings which the Rembrandt Research Project, founded in 1968, supported. He adopted an ahistorical, philosophical approach to art in the 1940s and 50s based upon the philosophical foundations of the phenomenology and the ontology of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). In a contribution to a volume for Martin Heidegger’s 60th Anniversary, Bauch commented on the topic of the singularity of art. The art historian will only fully understand the work of art, Bauch contended, where the form cannot be analyzed or defined. A universal scholar, his writings covered the Middle Ages and the modern era, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. He also wrote a history of the oriental art (Abendländische Kunst, 1952).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation, Freiburg, 1922] Jakob Adriaensz Backer: ein Rembrandtschüler aus Friesland. Berlin: G. Grote, 1926; [habilitation] Die Kunst des jungen Rembrandt. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1933; Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1966; Der frühe Rembrandt und seine Zeit; Studien zur geschichtlichen Bedeutung seines Frühstils. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1960; Das mittelalterliche Grabbild: figürl. Grabmäler d. 11.-15. Jh. in Europa. New York: de Gruyter, 1976; Studien zur Kunstgeschichte. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967; Abendländische Kunst. Dusseldorf: L. Schwann, 1952; Das eiserne Kreuz, 1813/1939. Berlin: E. S. Mittler, 1941; “Die Kunstgeschichte und die heutige Philosophie.” in, Martin Heideggers Einfluss auf die Wissenschaften aus Anlass seines sechzigsten Geburtstages. Bern: A. Francke, 1949, pp. 88-93.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 48 mentioned; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 2007, pp. 11-13; William S. Heckscher. “Reminiscences of Lotte Brand Philip.” Tribute to Lotte Brand Philip: Art Historian and Detective. New York: Abaris Books, 1985, p. 10, mentioned; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 10-13; [obituary:] Sauerländer, Willibald. “Kurt Bauch.” Kunstchronik 28 no. 10 (October 1975): 375-379.


    "Bauch, Kurt." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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