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Grabar, André

    Image Credit: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

    Full Name: Grabar, André

    Other Names:

    • André Grabar

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1896

    Date Died: 1990

    Place Born: Kiev, Misto, Ukraine

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: Ukraine

    Subject Area(s): archaeology, Byzantine (culture or style), and Medieval (European)


    Archaeologist and historian of medieval and Byzantine art at the Collège de France. Grabar graduated from the lycée in Kiev in 1914, entering the University of St. Vladimir. He enrolled in the school of classical studies, which at that time included art history. In 1915 he moved to the university in Petrograd, studying under N. P. Kondakov, Dmitrii Vlas’evich Ainalov III
    and Iakov Ivanovich Smirnov until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. He characterized this period as the formative years that shaped his conception of iconography. Grabar completed his exams in Odessa in 1919 and left Russia in 1920 for Bulgaria. In Sofia, the director of the Archaeological Museum, Bogdan Filov (1883-1945), gave him a position inventorying the medieval monuments of Bulgaria. He labored on the project for three years in harsh field work. Grabar moved to Strasbourg, as a lecturer on the Russian language. In 1922, he settled permanently in France, marrying a Bulgarian medical student Julie Ivanova in 1923 (d. 1977). In Strasbourg he met the medievalist Paul Perdrizet (1870-1938), whom Grabar later described as his most influential colleague. Grabar attained the title maître de conférences at Strasbourg where he taught the history of art. In 1937 Gabriel Millet, the chair of Christian Archaeology at the école pratique des hautes études retired and proposed Grabar as his successor. Grabar moved to Paris, teaching there until 1966. After World War II, he published extensively on the cult of relics, and religious images during Iconoclasm. He founded Cahiers Archéologiques, editing it with Jean Hubert. Between 1946 and 1966 Grabar also held the chair of Art and Archaeology of Byzantium at the Collège de France, and in 1955 he was elected a member of the French Academy. He was a frequent participant in the Dumbarton Oaks symposia, chairing the 1950 one on “The Emperor and the Palace.” He and Carl Nordenfalk produced a two-volume set on early medieval painting, translated into English in 1957-1958, which became one of the most readable and trusted introductory sources on the topic. In 1961 he gave the A. W. Mellon Lectures in Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. These later became the book, Christian Iconography: A Study of Its Origins (1968). As chair of Art and Archaeology of Byzantium at the école pratique, Grabar delivered Saturday lectures and travaux pratiques whose participants included the major medievalists in Paris (Sears). He lent credence to the pioneering and controversial work of the medievalist Percy Ernst Schramm. Despite being housebound and increasingly blind the last decade of his life, Grabar continued to publish, dictating articles which contain his last thoughts concerning Byzantine art. One of his two sons, Oleg Grabar, was also a medievalist art historian. The Johns Hopkins medievalist Henry Maguire (b. 1943) characterized Grabar’s methodology as synthetic, weaving theology, liturgy and political ideology into his studies of Byzantine art in contrast to the formalistic research of earlier historians. The renewed interest (and accessibility) in the art and monuments of eastern Europe after World War II helped Grabar’s work reach a vast scholarly audience, particularly in the United States which was undergoing a methodological shift. The role of the cult in the formation of Christian art; the interrelationship with the Islamic world with the west and general relations between East and West were the hallmarks of his scholarship. Grabar updated and reissued many of his monographs throughout his life.

    Selected Bibliography

    [collected articles and bibliography 1917-1968:] L’Art de la fin de l’Antiquité et du Moyen âge [etc.] 3 vols. Paris: Collège de France, 1968 [bibliography, pp. 1215-1223]; Boianskata tsurkva: arkhitektura–zhivopis’. Sofiia: Durzhavna pechatnitsa, 1924; La décoration byzantine. Paris: G. van Oest, 1928; Nordenfalk, Carl. La peinture religieuse en Bulgarie. Paris: P. Geuthner, 1928; L’art byzantin. Paris: Les éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1938; Martyrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et l’art chrétien antique. 2 vols. Paris: Collège de France,1946; “Un médaillon en or provenant de Mersine en Cilicie.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 6 (1951): 25-49; Byzantine Painting: Historical and Critical Study. Geneva: Skira, 1953; La peinture byzantine: étude historique et critique. Geneva: Skira, 1953; “Un nouveau reliquaire de Saint Démétrios.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 8 (1954): 305-313; Early Medieval Painting from the Fourth to the Eleventh Century: Mosaics and Mural Painting. New York: Skira, 1957; and Nordenfalk, Carl. Le haut moyen âge, du quatrième au onzième siècle: Mosaïques et peintures murales. Geneva: Skira, 1957, English, Early Medieval Painting from the Fourth to the Eleventh Century. New York: Skira, 1957; L’iconoclasme byzantin: dossier archeologique. Paris: College de France, 1957; and Fourmont, Denise. Ampoules de Terre Sainte (Monza, Bobbio). Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1958; and Nordenfalk, Carl. La peinture romane du onzième au treizième siècle. Geneva: Skira, 1958, English, Romanesque Painting from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Century. New York: Skira, 1958; and Chatzedakes, Manoles. Byzantine and Early Medieval Painting. New York: Viking Press, 1965; and Velmans, Tania. Gli affreschi della Chiesa di Sopocani. Milan: Fabbri, 1965; and Velmans, Tania. Mosaici e affreschi nella Kariye-Camii ad Istanbul. Milan: Fratelli FabbrI, 1965; L’âge d’or de Justinien, de la mort de Théodose à l’Islam. Paris: Gallimard, 1966, English, Byzantium: from the Death of Theodosius to the Rise of Islam. Arts of Mankind 10. London: Thames and Hudson, 1966, [U.S. version retitled as] The Golden Age of Justinian: from the Death of Theodosius to the rise of Islam. New York: Odyssey Press, 1967; Byzantium: Byzantine art in the Middle Ages. London: Methuen, 1966; Le Premier art chrétien (200-395). Paris: Gallimard, 1966, English, The Beginnings of Christian Art, 200-395. Arts of Mankind 9. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967; L’Art du Moyen âge en Europe orientale. Paris: A. Michel, 1968; Die mittelalterliche Kunst Osteuropas. Baden-Baden: Holle,1968; Christian Iconography: a Study of its Origins. A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1961. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968; Les manuscrits grecs enluminés de provenance italienne, IXe-XIe siècles. Paris: Klincksieck, 1972. Les origines de l’esthétique médiévale. Paris: Macula, 1992.


    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. 4, 66, 67 cited; 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. 70; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 205-206, 212-213; Maguire, Henry. “André Grabar: 1896-1990.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 45 (1991): xiii-xv; The Dictionary of Art; Sears, Elizabeth. “The Art-Historical Work of Walter Cahn.” in Hourihane, Colum, ed. Romanesque Art and Thought in the Twelfth Century: Essays in Honor of Walter Cahn. University Park, Pa: Penn State Press, 2008, p. 21, note 40; .[obituary:] The Independent (London), October 9, 1990: 14.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Grabar, André." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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