Degenhart, Bernhard

Full Name: 
Degenhart, Bernhard
Date Born: 
1907
Date Died: 
1999
Place Born: 
Munich, Germany
Home Country: 
Germany
Gender: 
male
Overview: 

Drawings scholar, especially of the Italian Renaissance; Pisanello expert. Degenhart's father was a high school (Gymnasium) teacher. Degenhart began his dissertation work in 1931 at the University in Munich, researching Lorenzo di Credi under August Liebmann Mayer. Mayer, a Jew, was denounced by many in Munich, including Degenhart, and after Mayer's dismissal, he completed his dissertation under Wilhelm Pinder. After a volunteer position at the Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich, he received a fellowship (Stipendium) in 1933 at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence followed by an assistantship at the Hertziana Library in Rome. Studies of other Quattrocento artists, including Botticini, Botticelli, Rosselli, Piero di Cosimo, Fra Bartolomeo, and on Venetian painting (Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Jacopo de Barbari, and Basaiti) followed. One important essay, Dürer and German art in an Italian context, appeared in 1937. From 1940 to 1946 he was hired as a registrar at the Albertina in Vienna. Beginning in 1941, Degenhart began issuing his study of Pisanello (final volume, 1973). In Vienna he met a converted Jew, Adelgunde "Gundl" Krippel, whom he married in 1943. Her connection to the cultural scene in Austria (she came from a family of poets), led to Degenhart's introduction to Kajetan Mühlmann, now the leader of art looting for the Nazis. Degenhart supplied expert opinions on art as part of a team of art historians in the Netherlands under Mühlmann, others included the Berlin art historian of Dutch art, Eduard Plietzsch, and Franz Kieslinger. All assisted in expertising works of art forcibly taken from fleeing or condemned Jews or institutions to be sent to the Führermuseum and the art collection of Reichsmarschall Göring. After the War, he was appointed a curator at the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. His post-war years resulted in an interest in the 19th-century Hans von Marées. Two significant publication about that artist's work were issued in the 1950s. Degenhart was apppointed Director of the Graphische Sammlung in 1965. In collaboration with Annegrit Schmitt, Degenart began publishing his monumental Corpus of Italian Drawings Between 1300 and 1450 in 1968. The series was awarded the "Stiftung zur Förderung der Wissenschaften in Bayern" by the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften in 1970. He retired from the Munich museum in 1971, and awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Munich the following year. Degenhart saw the medieval era as a rich and complex time. He disagreed with art historian Robert Oertel that medieval drawing, for example, was limited to axiomatic drawing from pattern books, arguing instead the diversity of sketching from what was contemporarily termed "from nature" (Woods).

Selected Bibliography: 
Antonio Pisanello. Vienna: A. Schroll 1941; Marées Zeichnungen. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1953; Die Fresken in Neapel by Marées. Munich: Prestel, 1958; Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300-1450. 4 vols. Berlin: Mann, 1968-1990.
Sources: 
Petropoulous, Jonathan. The Faustian Bargan: The Art World in Nazi Germany. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 194; "Giudizio della Commissione per l'attribuzione del Premio Internazionale Galileo Galilei dei Rotary Italiani, anno XV." Sezione "Storia dell'Arte Italiana". [website] http://www3.humnet.unipi.it/galileo/fondazione/Vincitori%20Premio%20Galilei/Bernhard_Degenhart.htm ; Fuhrmeister, Christian, and Kienlechnere, Susanne. "Exkurz 1: Bernhard Degenhart undKajetan Mühlmann Wien, Den Haag, Krakau (?), Wien, 1939 - 1942." Kunstgeschichte im "Dritten Reich": Theorien, Methoden, Praktiken. Berlin: Akad.-Verl. 2008, pp. 422- ; Woods, Kim, ed. Making Renaissance Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press/The Open University, 2007, p. 26; [obituary:] Ciardi Dupre Dal Poggetto, Maria Grazia. "Per Bernard [sic] Degenhart." Rivista di storia della miniatura 5 (2000): 7.