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Schweitzer, Bernhard

    Full Name: Schweitzer, Bernhard

    Other Names:

    • Bernhard Schweitzer

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 03 October 1892

    Date Died: 16 July 1966

    Place Born: Wesel, Lower Saxony, Germany

    Place Died: Hermannsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Ancient Greek (culture or style), ceramic ware (visual works), Greek pottery styles, and pottery (visual works)


    Specialist in Greek art and historiography; particularly known for his work on the Greek geometric pottery style. Schweitzer’s father was Major Carl Georg Heinrich Schweitzer, a career soldier (Major) in the German infantry “Vogel von Falckenstein” division. His mother was Christiana Auguste Adeline Caroline Aneshänsel (Schweitzer). Schweitzer received his abitur from the Gymansium in Kalrsruhe in 1911. He studied at the universities in Berlin, under Georg Loeschcke and Heidelberg, receiving his doctorate from the latter under Friedrich von Duhn in 1917. His Heidelberg studies were augmented with courses from classicists Franz Boll (1867-1924), and the von Duhn student and ceramics scholar Rudolf Pagenstecher. His dissertation was on the topic of chronology of style in the Geometric period of Greek pottery. During these years he befriended Erwin Panofsky and the two remained lifelong friends. In the first World War Schweitzer was a flying instructor and test pilot; throughout his life he had a reputation of fearlessness (Fuchs). After completing his Habilitation in 1921 at Heidelberg with a topic on the concept of art and the artist in ancient art, he received a stipend to study at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI or German Archaeological Institute) in Greece, but the hyper-inflation of the German mark meant that Schwetizer had to support himself as a musician (he was an accomplished piano player and adaquate violinist) and lecturer. He was apppointed Ordinarius professor at the University of Königsberg in 1925. He married Elisbeth Rudolph (b. 1907) in 1931. The following year he accepted a position at the University of Leipzig, replacing Franz Studniczka. During the war his note cards of all his research were destroyed and Schweitzer had to begin his research again, a loss he likened to a colleague’s loss of wife and children.Following World War II Schweitzer was appointed the first Rektor of Leipzig University (1945/46) when philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) was found unfit. He published a study on Roman Republic portraiture, Die Bildniskunst der römischen Republik in 1948. The same year he moved to Tübingen University, replacing Carl Watzinger. Beginning in the 1950s, Schweitzer returned to the study of Geometric-era Greek art, working on a magnum opus on the art of the period. He retired emeritus from the University in 1960. At his death in 1966, his work remained unpublished. It appeared in 1969 as Die geometrische Kunst Griechenlands and in an excellent English translation as Greek Geometric Art in 1971.

    Schweitzer was a leading exponent of the Strukturforschung (structural research) school, a German theoretical notion attempting to replace the concept of style with a spatial structural analysis, which was linked to cultural identity. This group included Gerhard Krahmer, Gido Kaschnitz von Weinberg, and Friedrich Matz (1890-1974).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Untersuchungen zur Chronologie der geometrischen Stile in Griechenland, I. Heidelberg, 1917, published, Karlsruhe: G. Braunschehofbuchdruckerei, 1917; [habilitation:] Der bildende Künstler und der Begriff des Künstlerischen in der Antike: eine Studie. [special number of] Neuen Heidelberger Jahrbüchern 1925]/Heidelberg: G. Koester, 1925, pp. 28-132; Die Bildniskunst der römischen Republik. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1948; J.G. Herders “Plastik” und die Entstehung der neueren Kunstwissenschaft eine Einfürung und Würdigung. Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1948; Die geometrische Kunst Griechenlands: frühe Formenwelt im Zeitalter Homers. Cologne: Du Mont Schauberg, 1969, English, Greek Geometric Art. New York: Phaidon, 1971.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 86, mentioned; Fuchs, Werner. “Bernhard Schweitzer.” Archäologenbildnisse: Porträts und Kurzbiographien von Klassichen Archäologen deutscher Sprache. Reinhard Lullies, ed. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1988: 258-259; Ficker, Friedbert. “Erinnerungen an Bernhard Schweitzer.” Antike Welt 34 (2003): 100-101; [obituary:] Hausmann, Ulrich. “Bernhard Schweitzer.” Gnomon 38 (1966): 844-847.


    "Schweitzer, Bernhard." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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