Hohler, Christopher

Full Name: 
Hohler, Christopher
Other Names: 
Edward Christopher Hohler
Date Born: 
1917
Date Died: 
1997
Place Born: 
Long Crendon, UK
Place Died: 
Oslo, Norway
Home Country: 
UK
Gender: 
male
Overview: 

Courtauld Institute of Art medievalist. Hohler born into a wealthy family. He engaged in the privileged pursuits of hunting and riding as well as in education. He was educated at Eton and at New College, Oxford, initially studying archaeology before taking a degree in Modern History in 1938. A year later he married his first wife, Jane (divorced 1961). When World War II broke out, Hohler joined the Royal Corps of Signals and was posted to the Combined Intelligence Center in Iraq. He became fascinated by the Middle East both its pleasure pursuits of horse riding and its history. He remained there after the war to improve his Arabic in hopes of joining the diplomatic service after the war. In 1947 he returned without prospects for employment in the depressed post-war years. Hohler's professor at Oxford, T. S. R. Boase, the director of the Courtauld Institute of Art who had announced his retirement, suggested Hohler to his successor, Anthony Blunt. Boase prevailed upon Blunt to make Hohler a Reader at the Courtauld, though Hohler had had little experience in art history outside amateur excavation at Notley Priory. Blunt, who was still clandestinely spying for the Soviet Union, could not have been more dissimilar than the anarchic right-wing Hohler, but, as Peter Kidson observed, the appointment was extremely shrewd. Hohler was a product of the conservative Oxford history school, obsessed by primary Latin sources and a vision of history as moved predominantly by the nobility. His appointment balanced the staff of the Courtauld at a critical time when the primarily German-educated scholars were changing the traditional face the British art-history from connoisseurship to a scholarship based upon theory and research. Hohler remained at the Courtauld the rest of his life, working on a dissertation-- never completed--on the pilgrimage church of St. Gilles-du-Gard. Hohler published little but did contribute to the published study of the relics of St. Cuthbert, as well as a work on the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago da Compostela and on Stavanger Cathedral. He also contributed a great deal to liturgical scholarship and was a member of the Henry Bradshaw Society, a group founded in 1890 to publish editions of rare liturgical texts. He retired to Oslo in 1979, where he maintained an extensive correspondence with his former pupils. His second wife was Erla Hohler. Of independent means and a bon vivant, his reputed final words were: "I think it's about time for a whisky".Hohler was one of a group of post-war scholars who shaped the Courtauld Institute into the most influential centre of art-historical study in the English-speaking world. Hohler's reputation as a teacher derived from a broad range of antiquarian knowledge innovative approach to art historical problems. Methodologically Hohler differed from newer-age medievalists who based their research on intensive study of individual monuments, such as Kenneth John Conant, whom Julian Gardner described as one of Hohler's bêtes noires). Hohler looked at medieval art through the eyes of the patrons for whom it was made rather than those of the craftsmen who created it (Kidson). His students at the University of London included Andrew Martindale and Neil Stratford.

Selected Bibliography: 
[festschrift] The Vanishing Past: Studies of Medieval Art, Liturgy and Metrology Presented to Christopher Hohler. Borg, Alan, and Martindale, Andrew, eds. Oxford: B.A.R., 1981.
Sources: 
Kidson, Peter. "A Short History of the Courtauld Institute of Art." Courtauld Institute of Art (webpage) http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/history; [obituaries:] Borg, Alan. The Independent (London), February 19, 1997, p.16, The Times (London). March 10, 1997; Gardner, Julian. "Andrew Martindale (1932-1995)." Burlington Magazine 137, No. 1109 (August 1995), p. 517.