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Thausing, Moriz

    Full Name: Thausing, Moriz

    Other Names:

    • Moriz Thausing

    Gender: male

    Date Born: c. 1835-1838

    Date Died: 1884

    Place Born: Schloss Tschischkowitz (Čížkovice) bei Leitmeritz, Czechoslovakia

    Place Died: Ústí nad Labem, Ústecký Kraj, Czech Republic

    Home Country/ies: Austria


    Second chair in art history at the University of Vienna 1873; director of the Albertina museum. Thausing was born in Aussig am Elbe, Austria which is present-day Ústi nad Labem, Czech Republic. He initially studied at Prague before changing his studies to German literature and philology at the University in Vienna. The work of Gustav A. Heider and Rudolf Eitelberger von Edelberg changed his mind to study art history. Thausing studied at the Institut für österreichische Geschichtsforschung under Eitelberger and received his degree in Tübingen. He accepted the librarian position at Vienna’s Imperial museum of works on paper, the Graphiksammlung des Erzherzogs Albrecht (the Albertina), in 1864. In 1871 he was among the team of art historians (the others including Alfred Woltmann, Carl von Lützlow, Adolf Bayersdorfer, Friedrich Lippmann, Wilhelm Lübke, 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. He published a compilation of letters of the artist Albrecht Dürer in 1873. The following year he was appointed professor at the Institut für Geschichtsforschung at the University of Vienna. In 1875 Thausing published his pioneering monograph on Dürer which met with critical success, particularly in the French and English translations. Shortly thereafter, Thausing was appointed director of the Albertina. His collecting and administration turned the museum into the premiere works-on-paper museums in the world. One day, Thausing encountered Giovanni Morelli, the founder of modern connoisseurship. The meeting was one of the major events development of the Vienna school. Thausing’s students and later assistants, first Franz Wickhoff and then Aloïs Riegl, learned much from both men. They joined Thausing in the formation of the (first) Vienna School of art history at the University of Vienna. Thausing’s subsequent articles in the Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst reflected Morelli’s methodology in practice. In 1882 his book on Dürer was published in English, translated by the (British) Royal Academy secretary Frederick Alexis Eaton. Thausing battled with neurosis his whole life and was committed to a sanatorium in Rome, where Morelli visited him shortly before his death. On an excursion from the hospital the same year, Thausing committed suicide in town of Aussig am Elbe. His students included art historians as disparate as Wickhoff, Henry Thode and Riegl. Thausing’s monograph on Dürer is one of the great positivist art histories. Thausing’s view of the artist was as the (Carlyle-style) man-of-action hero. To Thausing, Dürer was representative of the Volksgeist of the age of the Reformation. His view of art history was largely free of esthetic evaluation; in his 1873 work on methodology, he wrote, “I can truly imagine a better art history in which the word ‘beautiful’ does not ever appear.” The animadversion he lodged against his art history colleagues, especially those in Berlin, tarnished his overall reputation (Feist/Metzler).

    Selected Bibliography

    Dürers Briefe: Tagebücher und Reime, nebst einem Anhange von Zuschriften an und für Dürer, ubers. und mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen, Personenverzeichniss und einer Reisekarte versehen. Vienna: W. Braumüller, 1873; Dürer: Geschichte seines Lebens und seiner Kunst. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1876, English, Albert Dürer, his Life and Works. 2 vols. London: J. Murray, 1882; Wiener Kunstbriefe. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1884 [particularly “Die Stellung der Kunstgeschichte als Wissenschaft” pp. 19ff.].


    Schlosser, Julius von. “Die Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte.” Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Instituts für Geschforschungen 13 no. 2 (1934): 145ff.; Rosenauer, Artur. “Moritz Thausing und die Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte.” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 36 (1983): 135-139; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 155; German Essays on Art History. Gert Schiff, ed. New York: Continuum, 1988, p. xlii mentioned; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp. 145, 159-60; Feist, Peter. “Thausing, Moriz.” Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 155, 410-11.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Thausing, Moriz." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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