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Kinkel, Gottfried

    Full Name: Kinkel, Gottfried

    Other Names:

    • Gottfried Kinkel

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1815

    Date Died: 1882

    Place Born: Oberkassel, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

    Place Died: Unterstrass, Switzerland

    Home Country/ies: Germany


    Political reformer and early art historian at Bonn. Kinkel was the son of Johann Gottfried Kinkel, a minister, and Sibylla Marie Beckmann (Kinkel). Kinkel studied theology at Bonn and Berlin, where and Jacob Burckhardt became friends. After completion of his Ph. D. (at Heidelberg) on Hesiod, he became a privatdozent of theology at Bonn in 1836. During an 1837 trip to Italy, Kinkel became deeply interested in art history. He returned to teach as a headmaster at the gymnasium there in 1839 and, in 1840, as an assistant minister at a congregation in Cologne. Kinkel married Johanna Mockel Matthieux (1810-1858) a talented musician, author and proto-feminist (who had left her first husband) in 1843. The same year his Gedichte (Poems) appeared, a work which would go through several editions. Controversy over his wife’s beliefs caused him to leave theology teaching altogether. In 1845, Kinkel published the lectures from his history of art course, Geschichte der bildenden Künste bei den christichen Völkern, which he conceived of as a textbook for his students and the general public. He lectured in art and, in 1846, was appointed extraordinarius professor of the history of art at Bonn. The same year he published his verse romance, Otto der Schütz, eine rheinische Geschichte in zwölf Abenteuern, and extremely popular novel. Kinkel participated in the 1848 Revolution in Germany (including the storming of the armory in Siegeburg) and was forced to flee. He continued to published under the assumed name Fenner von Fenneberg. In a coup at Durlach in 1849, Kinkel was arrested and sentenced to penal servitude for life at Spandau prison, Berlin. Johanna and fellow revolutationary (and later American statesman) Carl Schurz (1829-1906) organized Kinkel’s escape to England in 1850. Kinkel went to the United States to collect donations for an army, believing a new revolution would break out in Germany. He returned to London in 1853, where he lectured on German literature and the language at the College for Women in Bedford Square. In 1858 Kinkel founded the German-language paper, Hermann. The same year his wife, Johanna, fell from a window (likely a suicide) at age of 48. Kinkel was hired in 1861 to lecture on art at the Crystal Palace and South Kensington Museum. His lectures brought the principles of art history as a discipline to the British public. In 1866 he accepted a professorship of archaeology and the history of art at the Polytechnikum in Zürich. In 1869 he was the first to identify the Dresden Meyer Madonna purportedly by Hans Holbein as a work of a much later date. In Switzerland he published a collection of his earlier essays, Mozaik zur Kunstgeschichte in 1876. He died in Unterstrass, near Zürich in 1882. In 1906 a monument was unveiled to him in Oberkassel. Kinkel worked, by his own admission, to popularize the somewhat dry foundational art history of Franz Kugler and write a less particularized one than that of Karl Julius Ferdinand Schnaase. Like Burckhardt, Kinkel was interesting in appealing to the greater reading public as his audience. He denied a simple history-of-objects approach in favor of a history focusing on the conditions of artistic production, based on the subject matter of the works. Kinkel’s Die brüsseler Rathausbilder des Rogier van der Weyden, a study of the secularization themes in the fifteenth century, is the clearest example (Kultermann).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] De codicibus Hesiodeis nonnullis in anglia asservatis. Heidelberg: E. Tenner, 1866; Kessel, Eberhard, editor. Die Briefe von Carl Schurz an Gottfried Kinkel. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1965; Sander, Richard, editor. Gottfried Kinkels Selbstbiographie, 1838-1848. Bonn: Friedrich Cohen, 1931; Mosaik zur Kunstgeschichte. Berlin: R. Oppenheim, 1876; Die brüsseler Rathausbilder des Rogier van der Weyden und deren Copien in den burgundischen Tapeten zu Bern. Zürich: Polytechnischen Schule für das Schuljahr (1867/68), 1867; and Kinkel, Johanna. Erzählungen. Stuttgart: J.G. Cotta, 1849; Gedichte. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1843; Geschichte der bildenden Künste bei den christlichen Völkern: vom Anfang unserer Zeitrechnung bis zur Gegenwart. Bonn: Henry & Cohen, 1845, [and plates volume] Vierundzwanzig Tafeln architektonischer Zeichnungen zu Vorträgen über die Geschichte der bildenden Künste bei den christlichen Völkern. Bonn: s. n., 1844; Die Malerei der Gegenwart. Basel: Schweighauserische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1871; Otto der Schütz: eine rheinische Geschichte in zwölf Abenteuern. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1846.


    Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 215-17; Berg, Angelika. Gottfried Kinkel: Kunstgeschichte und soziales Engagement. Bonn: Röhrscheid, 1985; Bebler, Emil. Conrad Ferdinand Meyer und Gottfried Kinkel: ihre persönlichen Beziehungen auf Grund ihres Briefwechsels. Zürich: Rascher 1949; Beyrodt, Wolfgang. Gottfried Kinkel als Kunsthistoriker: Darstellungen und Briefwechsel. Bonn: Röhrscheid, 1979; DeJonge, Alfred Robert Willy. Gottfried Kinkel as political and social Thinker. New York: Columbia University Press, 1926; Strodtmann, Adolf. Gottfried Kinkel: Wahrheit ohne Dichtung: Biographisches Skizzenbuch. 2 vols. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1850-51; Rösch-Sondermann, Hermann. Gottfried Kinkel als ästhetiker, Politiker und Dichter. Bonn: Röhrscheid, 1982; Kinkel, Gottfried. Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th edition; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp. 115-16; Beyrodt, Wolfgang. Gottfried Kinkel als Kunsthistoriker: Darstellung und Briefwechsel. Bonn: L. Röhrscheid, 1979; Henne am Rhyn, Otto. G. Kinkel: ein Lebensbild. Zürich: s. n., 1883; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 147.


    "Kinkel, Gottfried." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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