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Eitner, Lorenz

    Full Name: Eitner, Lorenz

    Other Names:

    • Lorenz Edwin Alfred Eitner

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1919

    Date Died: 2009

    Place Born: Brno, Jihomoravsk, Kraj, Czech Republic

    Place Died: Stanford, Santa Clara, CA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

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

    Career(s): educators


    Stanford University Art History professor and Géricault scholar. Eitner was the son of William Eitner and Katherine Thonet [Eitner], Austrians citizens living in Czechoslovakia. His father worked in his wife’s family bentwood furniture business, a process which the Thornet family had founded. After attending grade schools in Frankfurt and Berlin, his family, then living in Brussels, immigrated to South Carolina in 1935. He entered Duke University the following year. While a student at Duke, Eitner wrote a somewhat positive account of his experiences in Hitler’s Germany for the school literary magazine. He graduated summa cum laude at Duke. in 1940, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in World War II, serving in intelligence with the Office of Strategic Services. Stationed in Washington, London, Paris and Salzburg, he headed the research section in the Office of Chief Prosecution for the Nuremberg Trials. Following the war, he married Trudi von Kathrein in 1946, a member of the Austrian resistance. At the conclusion of his Office of Chief of Prosecution duties at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials in 1947, he returned to the United States completing an M.F.A from Princeton University in 1948. Eitner began teaching art at the University of Minnesota in 1949. He continued his graduate studies at Princeton, studying with among others Kurt Weitzmann. In 1952 he received his Ph.D. from Princeton writing on what would be his area of expertise, Theodore Géricault. Eitner continued researcch as a Fulbright Fellow during the 1952-1953 year in Brussels. The publication of his dissertation in book form by Princeton University press in 1952 appeared the same year as the first full-length biography on Géricault (in German) by the German-American art historian Klaus Berger. Eitner took Berger to task for his overtly Marxist methodology and authentication of some of questionable Géricault paintings. In 1955 he was elected chair of the College Art Association. A Guggenheim Fellowship was awarded for the 1956-1957 year for Munich. He left Minnesota to chair of the Department of Art and Architecture at Stanford University in 1963, which included on a volunteer basis the administration of the Stanford art museum. Under his tenure he refocused university art museum to be a center for art; it previously had held a variety of realia including a railroad car and biological specimens. A gifted fundraiser, Eitner was able to buy Turners and Géricaults at auctions in London and New York. The 52,000-square-foot Cummings Art Building was completed in 1968. Eitner developed the art history department at Stanford, hiring the Rodin scholar Albert E. Elsen in 1963, the Asianist Michael Sullivan and future Getty director Kurt Forster. Eitner received both The Mitchell Prize for the History of Art and a Charles Rufus Morey Book Award of the College Art Association in 1983 for his book Géricault: His Life and Work. He retired from the University in 1989; two months before the Loma Prieta earthquake closed the university’s art museum for a decade. Eitner was working on his autobiography at the time of his death. His students included Kirk Varnedoe.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation] The Work of Theodore Gericault, 1791-1824. Princeton, 1952; “How I saw Hitler.” The Archive [Duke University] 50 no. 3 (December 1936): 5, 19; “The Pacifist, A Satire.” The Archive 51 no. 5 (February 1938): 6-8; The Flabellum of Tournus. Studies in Art and Archaeology 1. New York: The College Art Association of America, 1944; “The Open Window and the Storm-tossed Boat.” Art Bulletin 37 (1955): 281-90; “Open Window and the Storm-tossed Boat: an Essay in the Iconography of Romanticism.” The Art Bulletin 37 (December 1955): 281-90; Géricault: an Album of Drawings in the Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960; “Homage to Delacroix.” Apollo 77 (January 1963): 32-5; Introduction to Art: an Illustrated Topical Manual. Minneapolis: Burgess Pub. Co. 1967; Neoclassicism and Romanticism, 1750-1850; Sources and Documents. 2 vols. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1970; Géricault. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971; Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. London: Phaidon, 1972; Gericault: His Life and Work. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983; An Outline of 19th-century European Painting: from David through Cézanne. New York: Harper & Row, 1987; The Drawing Collection. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Museum of Art, 1993; French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2000; 19th Century European Painting: David to Cézanne. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002;


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 67 mentioned; [obituary:] Haven, Cynthia. “Lorenz Eitner, founding spirit behind museum and Art Department, dies at 89.” Stanford Report March 13, 2009.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Eitner, Lorenz." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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