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Kaufmann, Emil

    Full Name: Kaufmann, Emil

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1891

    Date Died: 1953

    Place Born: Vienna, Vienna state, Austria

    Place Died: Cheyenne, Laramie, WY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Austria

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), French (culture or style), revolutions, and sculpture (visual works)


    Ledoux and French Revolutionary architecture scholar. Kaufmann was the son of Max Kaufmann (d. 1902), businessman, and Friederike Baumwald (Kaufmann) (b. 1862). He was raised in Vienna, attending the Maximiliansgymnasium, 9th region of the city (IX Bezirk) along with the future Warburg School art historian Fritz Saxl. He received his Abitur in 1909 and entered the Exportakademie (literally, Export Academy), studying trade through 1911. Beginning in 1913 he attended lectures in the humanities at the Universities of Innsbruck and Vienna. At Innsbruck he studied art history under Heinrich Hammer, at Vienna archaeology with Emanuel Löwy, general history under Ludwig Pastor (1854-1928), and art history under Hans Semper and the Vienna School masters Max Dvořák and his students Julius Alwin von Schlosser and Hans Tietze. He also attended the competing school of art history at the University of Vienna run by Josef Rudolf Thomas Strzygowski and M. Dreger. Kaufmann fought as a soldier in World War I and attending school intermittently because of illness. He received his Ph.D. in 1920, writing his dissertation under Dvořák on the development of the architecture of Ledoux and classicism. After graduation Kaufmann could find no work as an art historian. He earned a living as a bank employee in Vienna, continuing his art-history research on the side. In 1933, Kaufmann published a monograph on Ledoux (the first full-length one) Von Ledoux bis Le Courbusier. The work was in fact a polemic on the development of modern architecture from 1770 to 1920. This sweeping thesis found many opponents. Most famously Meyer Schapiro, who found it simplistic, and the conservative Vienna-School Hans Sedlmayr (Schapiro’s nemesis) who found it a symptom of the pathology of modernism (Verlust der Mitte). He published numerous articles and dictionary entries (the Thieme-Becker lexikon ones on Ledoux and Marmorek). He lectured at the Urania museum, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe and Austrian radio. Significant articles on Ledoux and the architect Boullée (the latter in English) were also published. With the annexation of Austria by the Nazi’s, Kaufmann, a Jew, emigrated to the United States. With little means of support, he lived penuriously, continuing to research French architecture, “the only reward was his satisfaction in revealing hidden aspects in the history of architecture and in scholarly work well done” (Schapiro). He was a Fellow at the Research School of the University of Southern California in 1941. He moved to the eastern United States were he lectured at Princeton, Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago. While lecturing, Kaufmann worked on his book on revolutionary architecture. Kaufmann received grants from the American Philosophical Society and a Fulbright. He died in Wyoming while traveling to Los Angeles before his magnum opus could be completed. It was published posthumously in 1955. Some of his papers are at the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia. Kaufmann brought the theories and work of the innovative architects prior to and of the French Revolution to modern scholarship. Using largely formal analysis and theoretical writings to exact social-historical significance, he created what Germain Bazin termed the “hétéronome” Baroque. Like his contemporary Pierre Francastel, Kaufmann has been accused of writing Franco-centric architectural histories (Bois). Erwin Panofsky wrote at the time of his immigration the the U.S. that he was the only person in his field of neo-classical architectural theory. Kaufmann’s use of the Kantian notions of autonomy and modernism influenced the work of later critics, historians and architects such as Philip Johnson in the 1940s, Colin Rowe in the 1950s and Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) in the 1950s and 1960s (Vidler, 2002).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Die Entwürfe des Architekten Ledoux und die Àsthetik des Klassizismus. Vienna, 1920, partially published in several venues as, 1) “Die Architekturtheorie der französischen Klassik und des Klassizismus.” Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 44 (1924) , 2) “Architektonisch Entwurfe aus der Zeit dere fanzosischen Revolution.” Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 64 (1929) , 3) “Die Stadt des Architekten Ledoux: Zur Erkenntnis der autonomen Architektur.” Kunstwissenschaftlichen Forschungen 2 (1933); Von Ledoux bis Le Corbusier: Ursprung und Entwicklung der Autonomen Architektur. Vienna: Passer, 1933; “Etienne-Louis Boullée.” Art Bulletin 21 (September 1939): 212-27; Three Revolutionary Architects Boullée, Ledoux and Lequeu. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1952; Architecture in the Age of Reason: Baroque and Post-Baroque in England, Italy, and France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955.


    “Biographical Note.” American Society of Architectural Historians Journal 3 no. 3 (July 1943): 12; Teyssot, Georges. “Emil Kaufmann and the Architecture of Reason: Klassizismus and ‘Revolutionary Architecture’.” Oppositions 13 (Summer, 1978): 47-74; Watkin, David. The Rise of Architectural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 180; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 p. 198-199; 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, p. 51 mentioned; Teyssot, Georges. “Neoclassic and Autonomous Architecture: the Formalism of Emil Kaufmann.” Architectural Design (London) 51 no. 6/7 (1981): 24-29; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 208-210; 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. 360-362; Bois, Yve Alain. “Forward.” Francastel, Pierre. Art & Technology in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. New York: Zone Books/MIT Press, 2000, p. 13; Vidler, Anthony. “The Ledoux Effect: Emil Kaufmann and the Claims of Kantian Autonomy.” [Mining Autonomy issue] Perspecta 33 (2002): 16-29; Damisch, Hubert. “Ledoux with Kant.” Perspecta 33 (2002): 10-15;Vidler, Anthony. “Neoclassical Modernism: Emil Kaufmann.” in Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp.16-59; [obituary:] Schapiro, Meyer. “Emil Kaufmann (1891-1953).” College Art Journal 13, no. 2 (Winter, 1954): 144.


    "Kaufmann, Emil." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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