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Friedländer, Walter F.

    Image Credit: Tanford Online

    Full Name: Friedländer, Walter F.

    Other Names:

    • Walter Friedländer

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1873

    Date Died: 1966

    Place Born: Poland

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Baroque

    Career(s): educators


    New York University baroque scholar, 1935-42. He was born in Glogau, Germany, which is present-day Poland. Friedländer was the son of Sigismund Friedländer, a merchant, and Anna Joachimsthal (Friedländer). Orphaned early in life, Friedländer was raised a Lutheran, though his deceased parents had both been Jewish. He moved at age 13 to live with a sister in Berlin, where he obtained the nickname “Fridolin.” Friedländer attended the University in Berlin studying Sanscrit under Albrecht Weber (1825-1901). He also spent a semester in Geneva studying linguistics under Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). His Ph.D. on the topic of the Sanskrit language was granted in Berlin in 1898. In 1900 he traveled to London on a post-doctorate fellowship at the British Museum. The treasures of the National Gallery convinced him to become an art historian. He returned to Berlin taking courses in art history under Heinrich Wölfflin, although Berlin would not allow a second Ph.D. Friedländer wrote newspapers magazine reviews under the pseudonym “Dr. Friedrich Walter,” from 1904 onward. He traveled to Italy, and, in 1912 wrote his book on Federico Barocci which established him as an art historian. His next monograph, on Nicolas Poussin, in 1914 was the result of study in Paris. Unfortunately, a book on the same subject, published by Otto Grautoff appeared the same year, largely overshadowing his accomplishment. In 1914, too, he married Emma Cardin and became a Privatdozent at the University of Freiburg am Breisgau. The Freiburg art history department was led by the eminent medievalist Wilhelm Vöge, who had initiated the art history seminar in 1908. Friedländer’s inaugural lecture re-evaluated the Mannerist period of Italian painting in a talk entitled “Anti-classical Style of 1520.” Friedländer was a visionary here, especially considering that Wölfflin’s Grundbegriffe, which would appear the following year, still considered the last sixteenth century an ignorable period. Friedländer taught a range of courses from medieval to nineteenth-century. Among his first students was the brilliant Erwin Panofsky who eventually wrote his dissertation under Vöge in 1914. Vöge suffered a mental collapse in 1916, leaving Friedländer to carry much of the teaching load. In 1925 Friedländer published his lecture on early (Mannerist) “Anti-classicism,” a second in 1929 on later and post-Mannerism, and an primer on the early modernist movement, Von David bis Delacroix in 1932. For this, he was promoted to Nichtbeamtete Professor extraordinarius, but not full professor. Panofsky, now at the University in Hamburg and the Warburg Library, oversaw publication of a festschrift to Friedländer in 1933, despite Friedländer’s largely formalist methodological approach. Before Friedländer could retire and the festschrift printed, the Nazis dismissed Panofsky and Friedländer on “racial/Jewish” grounds. Friedländer traveled the next two years in Germany before Panofsky secured a temporary position for him at he University of Pennsylvania and at New York University’s new Institute of Fine Arts. He and another German refugee, Karl Leo Heinrich Lehmann, were given permanent appointments at NYU. In 1939, his catalog on Poussin drawings began appearing (through 1974). His articles on mannerism and anti-mannerism were translated by his students, (Mahonri S. Young and others), and circulated widely in mimeographed copies. Friedländer retired in 1942 to emeritus status. He divorced in 1943; he continued to be productive, advising students and writing until his death. His students translated Von David bis Delacroix in 1952 as From David to Delacroix. In 1955, Friedländer’s last book, Caravaggio Studies, appeared. It had started as a larger work on the artist during Friedländer’s Freiburg years. His articles on the anti-classical and post-Mannerism, again, translated by his students, appeared in 1957. His papers were donated to the Leo Baeck Institute for the Study of the History of Culture of German-speaking Jewry. Friedländer’s students included the modernists Robert Goldwater, Milton W. Brown, and Bob Rosenblum; in his own subject area, students included John P. Coolidge, Frederick Hartt, Jane Costello, Creighton E. Gilbert, Frances Huemer, Walter B. Cahn, Richard Judson, and Donald Posner. Friedländer’s reputation as an art historian is uneven. Methodologically he employed a largely formalist approach to his history which remained unaffected by other emerging methods, though he was capable of criticizing Wölfflin’s work such as Classic Art. Friedländer was among those art historians who rejected the notion of Italian Mannerism as a degenerate style, even eschewing the term “Mannerism” itself. He formulated the boundaries of Mannerism (“anti-classicism”) as beginning around 1520 and generating a second wave around 1550. Posthumously published volumes of his catalog of Poussin drawings were significantly changed by its editors, Rudolf Wittkower, who disagreed with Friedländer’s decisions on autograph works, and Anthony Blunt, who was working on a Poussin book of his own. His volume on Caravaggio revised the artist’s reputation to underscore Caravaggio’s religious seriousness. He refused to credit formally the work of his New York University students in his books (Caravaggio Studies for example), except for dedication to them.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Der Mahavrata-Abschnitt des Cankhayana-Aranaka. Berlin, 1900; Caravaggio Studies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955;”Die Entstehung des antiklassichen Stiles in der italienischen Malerei um 1520,” Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 46 (1925): 49-86; “Der antimanieristische Stil um 1590 und sein Verhältnis zum übersinnlichen,” Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 1928-1929 (1930): 214-43, English, appearing as: Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting. New York: Columbia University Press, 1957; [two copies of the outlawed 1933 Friedländer festschrift exist at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and New York University]; From David to Dalacroix. Translated by Robert Goldwater. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952; Nicolas Poussin: A New Approach. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1964; [and Wittkower, Rudolf; Blunt, Anthony; Waterhouse, Ellis; Shearman, John; Hughes-Hallett, Richard, and Costello, Jane, eds.] Nicolas Poussin Drawings: Catalogue Raisonné. 5 vols. London: Warburg Institute, 1939-1974.


    [complete bibliography, except for early newspaper exhibition reviews:] Festschrift Walter Friedlaender zum 90. Geburtstag. Kaufmann, Georg and Sauerlaender, Willibald, eds. 1965, and The Walter Friedlaender Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute, NY [letters, diaries, etc.]; “Theses and Dissertations Prepared at the Institute of Fine Arts Under the Supervision of Walter Friedlaender.” Essays in Honor of Walter Friedlaender. New York: Institute of Fine Arts, New York University [Marsyas supplement 2], 1965, pp. xi-xiii; Gilbert, Creighton. “Walter Friedlaender.” American National Biography; Posner, Donald. “Introduction.” Friedlaender, Walter. Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965, pp. xi-xix; Colin Eisler, “Kunstgeschichte American Style,” in The Intellectual Migration, ed. Fleming and Bailyn, 1969; Blunt, Anthony. Introduction [to vol. 5] Friedlaender, Walter and Blunt, Anthony. The Drawings of Nicholas Poussin. 1974; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982; pp. 84-5; 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, pp. 48 mentioned, 49, 70 cited, 81 mentioned, 85 cited; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 189; Beyer, Andreas. Zehn Klassiker der Kunstgeschichte: Eine Einführung. Cologne: Dumont, 1996, pp.13-21; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 104-107; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 174-9; [obituaries:] New York Times September 8, 1966 [numerous errors].

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Friedländer, Walter F.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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