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Dehio, Georg

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Dehio, Georg

    Other Names:

    • Georg Gottfried Julius Dehio

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1850

    Date Died: 1932

    Place Born: Tallinn, Harjumaa, Estonia

    Place Died: Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre) and sculpture (visual works)


    Art and architectural historian; Professor at University of Königsberg and later Strasbourg; author of Handbuch der deutschen Kunstdenkmäler. He was born in Reval, Russian Empire, which is present-day Tallin, Estonia. Like many art historians, Dehio began as an historian. He studied history at Dorpat (Tartu) and 1869-71 in Göttingen with Georg Waitz (1813-1886), head of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. In 1872 Dehio attained his doctorate in Munich, writing on the Archbishop Hartwig von Stade. His habilitation, on the history of the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen, was granted in 1877 in Munich under Wilhelm von Giesebrecht (1814-1889). Dehio’s interest in art history was sparked after a trip to Italy 1876-77. Initially Dehio wrote essays on Alberti, Raffael and the early Basilica. In 1883 he became an assistant professor and later full professor of art history in Königsberg. In 1892 Dehio succeeded Hubert Janitschek as the head of the Strassburger Institute, at that time connected to the Christian Archaeology Institute of Henry Kraus. Dehio was one of the first to recognize the talent and potential of the young art historian Wilhelm Vöge, suggesting Vöge’s habilitation topic in 1894. One of his first publications was Die kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes (atlas, 1887, text 1892-1901), written with Gustav von Bezold. For Die kirchliche Baukunst, Dehio and Bezold sketched out the plans and outlines of the buildings by hand. Dehio viewed architecture as symbolic form relevant as part of art-historical analysis. Wilhelm Pinder praised Dehio’s vocabulary for the precision it lent to art history. Dehio’s devotion, like Pinder’s, was to German art. In 1899 Dehio finished the outline for his Handbuch der Deutschen Kunstdenkmäler (Handbook of German Cultural Monuments), published beginning in 1901. The survey, based on the official inventories of the German states, appeared in five volumes between 1905-12. It has remained through newer editions, the standard survey of German architecture. Dehio’s dedication to things German, driven by his conservatism and nationalism, deepened. Although Germanic art histories had been previously authored by Wilhelm Bode, Karl F. A. von Lützow and Jakob Falke, Dehio wanted a truly synthetic survey of German art history. Beginning in 1908, Dehio drafted a text, Deutsche Kunstgeschichte und deutsche Geschichte, incorporating political and economic history to show the relationship between the nation and the art. World War I prevented its appearance. The three-volume Geschichte der deutschen Kunst appeared between 1919-26. By then, Dehio was teaching in Tübingen, a result of Alsace’s annexation by France in 1918. During the war years and after the war he spoke critically about the western democracies, that did not recognize the people as a body, Kleine Aufsätze (1930). Shortly after Dehio’s death in 1932, a fourth volume to Geschichte der deutschen Kunst was written by Gustav Pauli. In 1941 the architectural historian Ernst Gall founded the “Vereinigung zur Herausgabe des Dehio-Handbuchs” (Association for the Revision of Dehio’s Handbook) to further the publication and updating of the Handbook of German Cultural Monuments. In 1958 the organization was renewed as “Dehio-Vereinigung” (Dehio Society), and in 1976 as the “Dehio-Vereinigung: Wissenschaftliche Vereinigung zur Fortführung des kunsttopographischen Werkes von Georg Dehio” (Dehio Society: the Intellectual Foundation for the Furthering of the Artistic/Topographical Work of Georg Dehio), headquartered in Bamburg, Germany. Both Geschichte der deutschen Kunst and Handbuch der deutschen Kunstdenkmäler argue for the autonomy of German art. Previous art histories had often seen German art as derivative from other countries. Dehio’s art history is that of a people, rather than the prevailing conception of art created by “Great Masters.” The “hero” of German art was the youth of Germany. Dehio saw Gothic, Romantic and baroque as essentially the same thing. Geschichte der deutschen Kunst ends with the late 18th century, because, Dehio declared, German art ended there. The remaining years of art in Germany or elsewhere, he contended, could only be conceived of as stories of artists, not art history. A prominent member of the architectural conservation community, Dehio advocated “conservation, not restoration” for projects such as the Friedrichsbau of Heidelberg Castle (1895-1903) and Meissen Cathedral (1903 ff.) against the overzealous conjectural restorations advocated by Carl Schäfer (fl. 1878-1896) and others. Together with Aloïs Riegl, he espoused the concept of Alterswert (the value of aging) for monuments. Robert Hedicke in his Methodenlehre der Kunstgeschichte (1924) considered Dehio an historian rather than an esthetician, one who avoided the generalities and methodologies of others.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Bezold, Gustav von. Die kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, [text published 1892-1901; atlas, 1887-1901], vol. 2 of text and v. 5 of atlas published, Stuttgart: A. Bergsträsser; Ein Proportionsgesetz der antiken Baukunst und sein Nachleben im Mittelalter und in der Renaissance. Strassburg: Karl J. Trübner, 1895; and Winter, Franz. Kunstgeschichte in Bildern: systematische Darstellung der Entwickelung der bildenden Kunst vom klassischen Altertum bis zum Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1898-1902; Handbuch der Deutschen Kunstdenkmäler. 5 vols. Berlin: E. Wasmuth, 1905-1912; Kunsthistorische Aufsätze. Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1914; Geschichte der Deutschen Kunst. 3 vols in 6. Berlin and Leipzig: Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher verleger, 1919-26; Das strassburger Münster. Munich: R. Piper, 1922; Der bamberger Dom. Munich: R. Piper & Co., 1924; Kleine Aufsätze und Ansprachen. s.l.: s.n., 1930 [typewritten manuscript of collected speeches].


    Hedicke, Robert. Methodenlehre der Kunstgeschichte. Strassbourg: Heitz, 1924; Dvorák, Max. Idealism and Naturalism in Gothic Art. Translated and noted by Randolph J. Klawiter. Preface by Karl Maria Swoboda. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1967, pp. 187-8; Panofsky, Erwin. “Wilhelm Vöge: A Biographical Memoir.” Art Journal 28 no. 1 (Fall 1968): 31; Wölfflin, Heinrich. Heinrich Wölfflin, 1864-1945: Autobiographie, Tagebücher und Briefe. Joseph Ganter, ed. Basel: Schwabe & Co., 1982, p. 490; Hubala, Erich. “Georg Dehio 1850-1932: Seine Kunstgeschichte der Architektur.” Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 46 no. 1 (1983): 1-14; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 p.152, 532 [listed as “Gustav Dehio”]; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp. 137-8; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1999, pp. 54-57; Dictionary of Art; Greulich, A. “Dehio, Georg.” vol. 25. Saur Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2000, pp. 255-6; Betthausen, Peter. Georg Dehio: ein deutscher Kunsthistoriker. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2004; [obituaries:] Scheffler, Karl. “Georg Dehio.” Kunst und Kunstler 31 (April 1932): 144; Gall, Ernst. “Georg Dehio.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 1 no. 1 (1932): 2-4; Pantheon 9 (May 1932): 176.

    Contributors: HB and Lee Sorensen


    HB and Lee Sorensen. "Dehio, Georg." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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