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Lindsay, Kenneth

    Full Name: Lindsay, Kenneth Clement Eriksen

    Other Names:

    • Kenneth Clement Lindsay

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 23 December 1919

    Date Died: 02 March 2009

    Place Born: Milwaukee, WI, USA

    Place Died: Johnson City, Broome, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Early Christian, painting (visual works), religious art, and Russian (culture or style)

    Institution(s): State University of New York in Binghamton


    Kandinsky scholar; Professor of art history at the State University of New York in Binghamton.  Lindsay was born to Kenneth C. Lindsay, a businessman, and Karen Eriksen (Lindsay).  The younger Lindsay grew up in a staunch Republican family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He initially studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He became fascinated by art history as well, but was discouraged from pursuing it by his father. He joined Pabst Brewing Company in Milwaukee as a chemist after graduation. At the outbreak of World War II, Lindsay enlisted in the Army Signal Corps. He trained as a cryptographer outside Washington, DC, studying German and coding systems. His deployment delayed because of a case of scarlet fever, Lindsay was now a technical corporal decoding messages. Following V-E Day in 1945, Sergeant Lindsay was assigned to the “Monuments Men” group, soldiers assigned to document and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis. He was deployed to the collection point in Wiesbaden, Germany.  The Berlin Museum’s famous bust of Nefertiti was recovered by him. Lindsay remained with the monuments division after his initial tour.  Returning to the United States in 1946 and the University of Wisconsin, he took a second graduate degree, one in art history. He met a piano student at Wisconsin, Christine Charnstrom (d. 2018) whom he married the following year.  His 1948 master’s thesis at Wisconsin was on the Holy Crown of Hungary (Crown of Saint Stephen), a jeweled headpiece he had become familiar with during the war. He received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the École du Louvre in 1949.  His 1951 Ph.D., written under John F. Kienitz (1885-1958) and greatly influenced by James Waltrous (1908-1999) and Oskar Hagen, focused on Wassily Kandinsky, the first dissertation on the artist.

    After teaching as an instructor at Williams College, MA, in 1950, he joined the faculty of Harpur College, today the State University of New York at Binghamton, in 1951. A 1956 article of his identified four Kandinsky works from two different museums as a commission by the American Edwin R. Campbell.  He was promoted to associate professor in 1957.  Lindsay published a 1959 review of a biography by Will Grohmann, convincingly challenging the 1910 date of the “first abstract watercolor,” ascribing it to 1913.  This forced a re-evaluation of Kandinsky’s work as well as destroying the myth perpetrated by Madame Kandinsky through Grohmann. He was elevated to (full) professor in 1962.  Lindsey founded the art history department, as well as that of studio art and the art museum in 1967.  Lindsay assumed the chair of that department and remained for seventeen years. Together with  Peter Vergo he published the complete, translated art writings of the artist in 1982. He was named emeritus in 1983.  A resident of Vestal, NY, he died in Johnson City, New York, in 2009.  His students include Susan Alyson Stein, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and William M. Voelkle, a curator at The Morgan Library, New York.  

    Lindsay was the most important American Kandinsky scholar during his time.  Much of his research combined scholarship with personal knowledge.  He knew and spoke with both Kandinsky’s wife, Nina (1899-1980), and his later liaison, Gabriele Munter. As a documentary scholar, Lindsay attached importance to the artist’s writings and theories of art, much of which has become the accepted view of the artist.


    Selected Bibliography

    • [complete bibliography to 1990] Stein, Susan Alyson, and McKee, George D. Album Amicorum Kenneth C. Lindsay: Essays on Art and Literature.  Binghamton, NY: Dept. of Art and Art History, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1990, pp. 375-378;  
    • [dissertation] An Examination of the Fundamental Theories of Wassily Kandinsky.  University of Wisconsin, 1951;
    • [book review] “Kandinsky by Will Grohmann. Art Bulletin 41, no. 4 (December 1959): 348-350;
    • and Messer, Thomas M., Vasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944: a Retrospective Exhibition. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1962;  
    • edited and Virgo, Peter. Kandinsky, Complete Writings on Art. 2 vols. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1982; 


    • Lindsay, Keneth.  “Autobiographical Statement, 1975.” in Stein, Susan Alyson, and McKee, George D. Album Amicorum Kenneth C. Lindsay: Essays on Art and Literature.  Binghamton, NY: Dept. of Art and Art History, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1990, pp. 370-380;
    • Coker, Rachel. “Documentary Highlights Work of Monuments Men.” Inside BU 28 no. 22 (March 1, 2007) (website, formerly;
    • Lindsay-Tevelow, Jennifer.  While Waiting for Supper: Drawings and Musings of Kenneth C. Lindsay.  Manuscript, 2019;
    • Weiss, Peg. “[review of] Kandinsky Watercolors Catalogue Raisonne edited by Vivian Endicott Barnett.” Art Journal  53 no 4  (winter 1994): 96; 
    • “Kenneth C. Lindsay.”


    National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Lindsay, Kenneth." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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