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Lübke, Wilhelm

    Full Name: Lübke, Wilhelm

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 17 January 1826

    Date Died: 05 April 1893

    Place Born: Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

    Place Died: Karlsruhe, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): art history, nineteenth century (dates CE), and twentieth century (dates CE)

    Career(s): art historians


    Founder of the popular German art history survey of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Grundriss der Kunstgeschichte. Lübke’s father and grandfather were hosiery merchants. Denied art training by his father, Lübke entered a Catholic school at 21.  The cruelty of the school caused him unhappiness.  Lübke next studied philology at Bonn in 1845.  The teaching of Gottfried Kinkel there inspired him in art history. At the time, Kinkel was one of only two professors of art history (the other being Franz Kugler). Lübke’s initial interest was in medieval art, inspired by castles in the Rheinland.  After three semesters he left Bonn for Berlin, as moving about in universities was standard at that time.  In Berlin, he heard the famous professors, Leopold Ranke and, in art history Heinrich Hotho and Friedrich Waagen.  The philologist Franz Susemihl (1826 -1901) and art historian Friedrich Eggers became friends and also, to a lesser degree, Jakob Burckhardt. Lübke was extremely poor these years and had relied on benefactors and modest work to remain in Berlin.  After passing his exam, he was hired at a gymnasium to teach philology.  The work of Ludwig Puttrich, Denkmale der Baukunst des Mittelalters in Sachsen, became a model for Lübke.  In 1871, Lübke was among the team of art historians (the others including Moriz Thausing, Carl von Lützlow, Adolf Bayersdorfer, Friedrich Lippmann, Alfred Wolters, Bruno Meyer, Karl Woermann, G. Malsz and Wilhelm Bode) who convened in Dresden to determine which of two versions of Hans Holbein the younger’s Meyer Madonna was the autograph work. The so-called “Holbein convention,” one of the important events in nineteenth-century art history when many methodical approaches were employed to determined authenticity, concluded that the Darmstadt version was the original. In the mid 1880s, Lübke and Lützlow took over publication of the Denkmäler der Kunst, begun by August von Voit, as an atlas to Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte of Franz Kugler. At Lübke’s death in 1893 the series was taken over by Max Semrau.  His students include Cornelius Gurltt

    Lübke’s Handbuch became the standard view of art among the German public much the same (and for much the same reason) that Horst Woldemar Janson and his History of Art was in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Lübke’s declaration that “Jews, having no artistic sensibility of their own, [and had] borrowed architectural forms on an eclectic principle from the nations dwelling around them,” lent a historical validity to anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as parasites (Olin).

    Selected Bibliography

    Geschichte der italienischen Malerei: vom vierten bis ins sechzehnte Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: Ebner & Seubert, 1878-79; and Kugler, Franz, and Burckhardt, Jacob. Geschichte der Baukunst. 5 vols. Stuttgart: Ebner & Seubert, 1859-72; Geschichte der deutschen Kunst von den frühesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart. Stuttgart; Ebner & Seubert, 1890; and Kugler, Franz, and Voit, August von.Denkmäler der Kunst, English, Monuments of Art: Showing its Development and Progress from the Earliest Artistic Attempts to the Present Period. New York: E. Seitz, [188-?].Denkmäler der Kunst, English, Monuments of Art: Showing its Development and Progress from the Earliest Artistic Attempts to the Present Period. New York: E. Seitz, [188-?].


    Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 249-251; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 145; Olin, Margaret. “C[lement] Hardesh (Greenberg) and Company: Formal Criticism and Jewish Identity.” in Kleeblatt, Norman L. ed. Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities. New York: The Jewish Musuem/New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996, p. 42.


    "Lübke, Wilhelm." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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