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Scheyer, Ernst

    Full Name: Scheyer, Ernst

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 03 July 1900

    Date Died: 04 December 1985

    Place Born: Wrocław, Poland

    Place Died: Detroit, Wayne, MI, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)

    Institution(s): Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State University


    Ernst Scheyer was born in Breslau, which is present-day Wrocław, Poland. His parents were Norbert Scheyer (1869-1932), a lumber wholesaler and Martha Beuthner (Scheyer) (1882-1943), both Jewish. After graduating from the St Elisabeth-Gymnasium in Breslau in 1919 he attended the universities in Breslau and Freiburg studying law, economics and philosophy, receiving doctor rerum politicarum (political science) in 1922. After two years of travel, he returned to graduate school, moving between the universities of Heidelberg and Cologne studying art history, sociology and ethnology, 1924-1926. Scheyer received a second Ph.D. from Cologne in art history in 1926, writing a dissertation under Albert Brinckmann. His thesis topic was Chinoiserie in silk design between the 17th-18th centuries. A fellow student of his in Cologne was the wife of the artist Max Ernst, the art historian Luise Straus-Ernst. Scheyer secured a position as research assistant at the Städtisches Museum in Cologne in 1929. The following year he became research assistant at the Silesian Museum of Decorative Arts in Breslau under its director, Erwin Hintze. While there he organized a large exhibition of the sculptural work of the novelist Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946) which toured to Berlin. He lectured at the Kunstakademie in Breslau, co-editing the Schlesischen Monatshefte. Through the art historian Franz Landesberger, he met Hauptmann. The assumption of power by the Nazi party in 1933 resulted in his dismissal because of his Judaism (“Law on the Restoration of Professional Civil Service”). He emigrated to the Netherlands working in the modern division of the Goudstikker commercial art gallery in Amsterdam and lecturing in art history at the New School of Art in Amsterdam. There he met other emigrants to the Netherlands, Klaus and Erika Mann, the literary critic Rudolf Kayser and Dutch Artists and art critics. His research work during that time, 1934-1935, focused on the influence of William Morris on the art in Europe. On the recommendation of Hauptmann, he traveled to England in 1935 as well, hoping to complete the book on Morris. He married Eveline Hanna Rodriguez Pereira (1911-2006), a Dutch pianist, also in 1935. He moved to the United States in 1936. The assistance of Detroit Institute of Arts director, Wilhelm Rheinhold Otto Valentiner, an expatriate art historian from an earlier period, secured him a research fellow position at the museum in 1938. The same year he declared himself Unitarian. In 1943 he learned that his mother had perished in a concentration camp. After the war he was deputy editor of Art Criticism beginning in 1950. He lectured at the museum until 1956 when he was appointed professor of art at Wayne State University in Detroit. He consulted at the Department of Graphics in the museum from 1966 and named honorary curator in 1968. He retired from the university in 1971.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [complete bibliography:] “Bibliography of Ernst Scheyer.” in, Scheyer, Ernst. The Circle of Henry Adams. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970, pp. 289-298;
    • [dissertation: ] Chinoiserien auf den Seidengeweben des  17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. Cologne, 1926, published Oldenburg 1928;
    • Die Kölner Bortenweberei des Mittelalters. Augsburg:  Dr. Benno Filser Verlag, 1932;
    • Zweihundert Jahre Breslauer Stadttheater. Breslau; Korn, 1932;
    • “Drawings by Correggio.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 15 (1935); “Drawings and miniatures.” Detroit Institute of Arts, 1936;
    • “Baroque painting.” Detroit Institute of Arts, 1937; “Alessandro Magnasco.” Apollo 28 (1938);
    • “Portraits of the brothers van Ostade.” Art Quarterly 2 (1939);
    • “Comments on plates.” William J Bossenbrook; Rolf Johannesen, eds. Foundations of Civilization. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1939-1944;
    • “Drawings of the French revolution and the Empire.” Art Quarterly 4  (1942); “Frederic Bazille and the beginnings of French lmpressionism.” Art Quarterly 5 (1942);
    • “Far Eastem art and French Impressionism.” Art Quarterly 6 (1943): 117-144;
    • “Chinoiserie. Japonism.” Encyclopedia of the Arts. New York 1946;
    • “Goethe and the visual arts.” Art Quarterly 12 (1949): 227-256;
    • “Baroque painting in Germany and Austria.” Artforum 20 (1960);
    • “A drawing attributed to Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini.” Pantheon. 18 (1960);
    • “Das Problem der modernen amerikanischen Kunst.” Die Insel Hamburger Künstlerclub Almanach. 1960;
    • Die Kunstakademie Breslau und Oskar Moll. Würzburg: Holzner, 1961.


    • Scheyer, Ernst. Geistiges Leben in der Emigration. Jahrbuch. der Schlesischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Univ. zu Breslau. 5, 1960, pp. 271-295;
    • Grundmann, Günther. “Professor Dr. Ernst Scheyer, Detroit, 75 Jahre.” Ernst Scheyer, Eugen Spiro, Clara Sachs, eds. Beiträge zur neueren schlesischen Kunstgeschichte. Munich: Delp, 1977;
    • Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 605-610.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Scheyer, Ernst." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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