Thursday, July 26, 2012


The two decades stretching from 1885 to 1905 are a turning point in art history, a crucial development embracing much more than the formalism that has been simplistically ascribed to it.  During this era progressive art historians addressed a broad array of issues having to do with the psychology of art, visual perception, the role of the beholder, constants of historical development, the rehabilitation of neglected styles and artists, and the relation of art to other forms of cultural development.

Many lines of communication connected the art historians involved in this endeavor.  The main cohort in Vienna formed a network or “invisible college,” a group of closely linked intellectuals who read each others work, quoted each other, corresponded, and met in cafes and other venues.  Some were joined by mentor-student relationships.  In this phalanx of late-nineteenth-century pioneers, the Swiss Heinrich Wölfflin stood somewhat apart, while the Viennese enjoyed the advantages of proximity.

Geographically, this advance in art-historical inquiry took place mainly in the southern German-speaking area, that is in Switzerland and Austria-Hungary. These countries are adjacent to Italy, long holding the attractions of the “Sehsucht nach Italien” of German writers, tourists, and culture mavens. Stretching from the Alps to the Danube, these realms preserved significant remains of Roman art on their soil.  Moreover, both countries were multicultural, as we would say nowadays.  Switzerland comprised four linguistic groups: speakers of German, French, Italian, and Romansh, with Austria-Hungary even more diverse, including (to name only the most significant ethnic groups) Germans, Hungarians, Jews, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Romanians, Croatians, Slovenes, and Italians.  This ethnic diversity fostered a growing awareness of cultural pluralism, though this recognition of diversity had to compete with several types of backlash, including old-fashioned nationalism and an entrenched classicism, which sought to enforce a unitary ideal of civilization.

Some leading Austrian art historians died in the course of the first two decades of the twentieth century.  Others, including a new generation that came to prominence after World War I, continued the momentum the pioneers had launched.

It is probably fair to say that Vienna ranked as the world center of art history until Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938. At that point a number of innovative art historians--many, though not all of Jewish origin--left for English-speaking countries, where they continued their work.


 The Swiss Jacob Burckhardt, who had no system but was a many-sided genius, functioned in a kind of intermediate realm between art history and history proper.  His comments on art tended to be empirical and to the point. His pupil Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) was an equally gifted observer; unlike Burckhardt, he created a system of art history.1  His very readable style--most of his books have been translated into English--assured him a wide audience.

The son of a teacher of classical philology, Wölfflin was born in Winterthur, Switzerland, on June 26, 1864. He studied at three universities: Basel, Munich, and Berlin. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1886, tackled the question of how architectural forms could be expressive, marking the start of a lifelong concern with psychological factors in art. He chose the non-imitative art of architecture in order to exclude the problem of reference and concentrate on the essentials of perception. Italian art strongly attracted the young Wölfflin.  During his postgrad­uate residence in Rome he conceived his first masterpiece, Renaissance und Barock (1888).2  In its insightful treatment of baroque art in that city, this book fostered a rehabilitation of a major period of art and culture. As this change in taste was just beginning, the new book was timely.  Yet attention to baroque per se was not the most remarkable feature of this precocious study.  What engaged the writer's passionate interest was the contrast of two epochs with respect to two ways of seeing, one of which succeeded the other.  In this procedure of comparing and contrasting two different eras, Wölfflin followed the advice of his father to use the comparative method. In addition, his emphasis on ways of seeing revealed an affinity with concepts of visual perception pioneered by the experimental psychology of Gustav Fechner and Wilhelm Wundt.3
In his study of Renaissance and baroque art, Wölfflin elected to explore this contrast chiefly in architecture, which would, he held, show the differences most effectively.  He also displayed an awareness of parallel trends in poetry and gardening, indicating that he believed that the contrasts were of a more general nature.  The theme of the comparison of the arts reflecting their depen­dence on a single organizing principle was a residue of the Hegelian project. This older preoccupation stood in some tension with the more contemporary concern with the psychology of seeing, and before long it was to fall by the wayside.  In later writings, Wölfflin emphasized the specificity of art, the visual qualities that give it the character that it has. In order to isolate this specificity, he rejected the temptation of exploring relationships with other aspects of human culture. Fascinating though they might be, these bypaths would lead too far away from the primacy of the visible.

Concentrating on the essentials of his self-chosen task, Wölfflin identified the Renaissance vision as linear, its baroque counterpart as painterly.  While the meaning of the first term is clear (well delineated outlines and internal lines within figures), the second--malerisch in German--calls for some explanation.  Surely the meaning is not that baroque painting was more successful than Renaissance painting.  The point becomes clearer if one considers that the German word also has the sense of "picturesque."  Painterly effects are those that show soft and gradual transitions between one tone and another, effacing the sharp boundaries of the linear mode.  These transitions may be realized through various techniques: in drawing, by using thick chalk instead of pencil; in printmaking, by choosing the etching process to spreas; and in painting, by employing sfumato or impasto techniques. 
The fine description Renaissance und Barock offered of the painterly qualities of the baroque was Wölfflin's main contribution to the cause of rehabilating the era. His words would inspire others, but the writer himself had not yet achieved a neutral stance. In keeping with the older idea of baroque as decadence, he still wrote of it as "the disintegration of the Renaissance." Only in his fullest statement of the question, twenty-seven years later, was he to overcome this inherited negativity.

The method of dialectical opposition is one that has recurred in the history of art, though often as a device to contrast good and bad.  Wölfflin sought to overcome the deeply rooted disparagement of baroque; although he did not fully succeed at this stage of his work, his aim was to offer a purely objective analysis.  Significantly, Wölfflin was one of the first to use the two-projector method of lecturing with slides, a procedure now standard in art-history classes.  As those who have become accustomed to the experience recognize, this way of presenting two images at a time facilitates the kind of contrast that Wölfflin employed--perhaps to the detriment of less definite qualities that tend to fall in between any two poles.  
Paul Frankl has shown that the contrast of the categories of linear and painterly is not entirely new.  4  It is rooted in eighteenth-century efforts to define the difference between ancient and later European art.  According to Frankl, the Dutch writer Frans Hemsterhuis (1721-1790), was the first to essay a version of the contrast, defining ancient art as "trop sculpteur" and the art of his own day as "trop peintre."  An era of domination by sculpture yielded to one ruled by painting. Out of this discourse arose Hegel's concept of each stage of art having its own dominant medium.  Wölfflin, however, dropped this whole side of the argument.  Instead, he modernized the approach by presenting it in terms of perception: the contrast was visual, rather than one of medium.  Thus his system could accommodate painterly sculptures and linear pain­tings. 

At times Wölfflin even seemed to imply that there were fundamental differences of seeing in the two epochs he was considering.5   Surely he cannot have meant that the structure of the human eye itself changed.  Some students of perception have suggested that the cultural environment conditions one to see in certain ways.  It is claimed, for example, that Westerners, accustomed to read texts from left to right will have a certain preference for examining paintings in this direction, while those brought up with the Hebrew or Arabic alphabets, which proceed from right to left, will have a different preference.  The results of empirical studies along these lines are not entirely conclusive.  6  In any event Wölfflin failed to specify a comparable change in the visual environment in Western Europe between 1500 and 1600.  One is left with the sense that he is claiming too much. Perhaps there were no changes in "ways of seeing," but people came to prefer one type of presentation over another.  In other terms, the change was more a matter of fashion (using the term in a nonjudgmental sense) than of the "deep structure" of perceiving.  The baroque style came to prevail because it seemed more up-to-date, and consequently more exciting than its predecessor.  All in all, however, it must be acknowledged that the baroque represented a vast sea change in European sensibility and Wölfflin deserves credit for stress­ing this point.  At the same time he emphasized the inherent dignity of the visual arts, discussing the matter not in terms of some disembodied Geist, but through the factor of visuality itself--the "specificity" of art. 

Another problem with laying so much emphasis on ways of seeing is mediation. Works of art do not come into being like Athena emerging from the brow of Zeus. They must be realized through labor that is often tedious, and in the course of production the creation may assume a different appearance from the one originally envisaged. Put another way, if the artist chooses a burin (an engraving tool) rather than a paint brush, the result will be different. To be sure, techniques can be adapted to ways of seeing, as etching seems to have owed much of its popularity to the popularity of the painterly vision. But the role of technique cannot be treated as simply subordinate. Here a useful corrective may be found in the life work of Gottfried Semper, whose Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischen Künsten (1860-63) emphasized the role of techniques in the origins and development of the various branches of art. 8

It has been suggested that Wölfflin took a hint from contemporary art, from the visual interests of impressionism and postimpressionism.  This is unlikely: his course on the nine­teenth century (which he, perhaps wisely, never published) concentrated on academic art.viii  (Later in life he endorsed Carl Gustav Jung's diagnosis of Picasso as a schizophrenic.) It is possible, however, that Wölfflin was indirectly influenced by new research into prehistoric and primitive art, for he noted the advantages of an "art history without names."  His method does, in fact, stress modes rather than personalities.  Here he recalls the method of Winckelmann, who focused on major trends of style at the expense of the cult of the great masters. But Wölfflin assured the reader that he had no objection to the study of artistic personality, which he himself treated in his writings on Dürer and on the great Italian masters. It was simply that in his theoretical research he concentrated on a more fundamental level.

Wölfflin realized that the systematic implications of his book needed to be stated in a more generally valid way.  Before attempting this task, however, he explored specific problems of Italian Renaissance art in his Klassische Kunst (1899), where he devoted more attention to painting and sculpture than he had in his first book.9 

The fruit of almost thirty years of rumination finally appeared in his Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe of 1915.  This book has been translated (poorly) as Principles of Art History; the title might be more precisely rendered as "Fundamental Conceptual Tools of Art History."x  The German title did not promise an exhaustive inventory of all the basic concepts, but implied that a key set of them would be offered. Wölfflin took seriously the metaphor of space implied by the word Grund; he sought to drill down to the very bedrock of art, the foundation supporting all its other aspects.
The new book was structured around five essential contrasts:
linear painterly
plane recession
closed open
multiplicity unity
absolutely clear relatively clear
Evidently these contrasts were an elaboration of the first basic pair.  Now, however, Wölfflin offered a systematic treatment of all five in the major media.  In the new book, he used examples from northern art (mainly Dutch, Flemish, and German) as well as Italian, showing that the applicability of the thesis was not limited to one country.

This analysis, and the temporal ordering that located the painterly dominance after that of the linear principle, tends to suggest that linear is primary (in the sense that it occurs first), and painterly second.  Wölfflin insisted that this ordering was logical. The sequence was an irreversible one, for the linear phase had first to be traversed in order to reach the painterly one. This order need not imply an inferiority of the painterly mode, for it might be regarded as an "advanced" or "improved" approach on the basic or linear beginnings.  But Wölfflin would not have agreed with this. His point is that the two were radically different; during its period of dominance, each principle summoned the artists to work within its parameters.

Within each of the two modes, artists have enormous scope for self-expression--but they do not enjoy absolute freedom. "Not everything is possible at all times, and certain thoughts can only be thought at certain stages of the development." With this trenchant formula (concluding the preface to the 1922 edition of the Grundbegriffe), Wölfflin charted a course intermediate between the claims of determinism and the demands of free will.

Wölfflinian Complications.

The attention to northern art in the 1915 synthesis impelled Wölfflin to ponder whether there might be another variable apart from the chronological.  It might be, he began to reflect, that the northern countries have a perennial affinity for painterly art, a predilection repressed during the Renaissance owing to Italian influence, only to resurface with gusto once the Italians them­selves had turned to the painterly mode.  His last book, Italien und das deutsche Formgefühl (1931) explored these geographical and national issues. Although he made no concessions to the extremes of German chauvinism that Nazism had evoked, the new orientation towards national character remained a tricky one.10  Surely, ability to respond to particular modes is not a matter of national upbringing; if it were so, why would so many Germans feel deeply about Italian art?  On the whole, then, this attempt to enrich the theory beyond its established chronological framework seems to have failed,

One question has been frequently asked: Was Wölfflin a formalist?  His published work did deal mainly with formal issues, but in his teaching he also inculcated the basic aspects of iconography, the meaning of art works as inherent in their subject matter.  Since he felt he could not make new contributions in this realm he did not publish in it, but he did not depreciate it either.  Wölfflin's enduring contribution seems to lie precisely in his emphasis on visuality, which he analyzed in terms of fundamental polarities.  Works of painting, sculpture and architecture interest us because we can see them, and in this seeing we ponder other aspects of our existence, our goals and values.  We can never look enough, and for those who become fatigued with this imperative--we all do from time to time--his message is an essential reminder.  
More than any of his Central European contemporaries, Wölfflin made an impact on the English-speaking world. As early as 1903, the English art critic Roger Fry was commending his writings, which the theoreticians of the Bloomsbury school found appealing as they accorded with their emphasis on Significant Form, disregarding subject matter. This formalist appropriation of Wölfflin even made his key concepts appealing to Herbert Read and other defenders of abstract painting (an art for which the Swiss thinker himself had no sympathy at all). In the United States the Wölfflinian message found a parallel in the New Criticism, a trend of literary scholarship which "explicated" poems in terms of their internal structure, downplaying historical and other "external" information. In the America of the mid-century, just beginning to explore the full richness of the visual arts, Wölfflin's polarities lent themselves readily to promoting "art appreciation." They also permitted one to sidestep political questions, which were explosive in the early years of the Cold War. As the cultural climate changed in the 1960s, however, Wölfflin's North American popularity waned. His reluctance to address subject matter and the socioeconomic factors conditioning the production of works of art made him seem old fashioned and even "reactionary." 
Some observers have concluded that Wölfflin's views rested on a philosophical base. However, he did not advance such claims in his mature writings, where he excels in evoking the qualities of individual works. In the grand scheme of things, the most that he would assert for himself is the discovery that he made in tracing the essential features of the Great Transformation from Renaissance to baroque. They were based on two radically different ways of beholding. Other scholars coming after him detected a similar shift in Greek art as it moved from the classic to the Hellenistic style and in later European art as it shifted from neo-classicism to romanticism. Some savants influenced by Wölfflin even detected such shifts in Chinese and Indian art. The French art historian Henri Focillon offered a related, but different reading: he expanded the scheme into a more general pattern of a predestined cycle from archaic to classic to baroque to impressionist.11

Oskar Walzel, born like Wölfflin in 1864, believed that he could import the art historian's categories into the study of literature, in keeping with the old idea of the sister arts.12 After World War II, this notion was taken up in a popular book by the American Wylie Sypher, who revised the scheme to introduce mannerism and added a coda in the form of late baroque.13 Sypher held that Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is mannerist, while Othello is baroque. Most have found such parallels forced.

Sensitive to the prestige of the natural sciences, Wölfflin adopted the ideal of the scholar as the dispassionate investigator who suppresses his personal views. In fact, his whole career was marked by an extraordinary prudence, even reticence. His personal papers and letters--those that have been published--offer little that would permit a reconstruction of the emotional dynamics of this life-long bachelor. Curiously, these published records give no hint of his response to the rise of National Socialism in Germany and World War II, which he must have monitored from the security of his Swiss retirement. To be sure, he was sixty-eight years old and in declining health when Hitler assumed power.

Wölfflin was both a clear thinker and a clear writer.  Amazingly enough, in today's era of footnote brandishing, he managed to dispense almost entirely with scholarly references.  
Wölfflin concentrated his energies on what he regarded as his essential task: clearly to differentiate two fundamental modes of seeing. He wrote elegantly and forcefully about works of art that we still feel are important. For these reasons his works are likely to continue to attract serious readers.


Little suspecting what was to come when he published his first book in 1888, Wölfflin stood at the threshold of a great breakthrough in his field of art history, a breakthrough that was to fix its character for almost a century. Embracing all the German-speaking lands, its center was fin-de-siècle Vienna.

From the time of Mozart and Haydn the Austrian capital had excelled in music, but little else. Yet in the closing years of the nineteenth century Vienna witnessed a startling upsurge in culture in general. For all its accomplishments of the metropolis, historians--even Carl Schorske, its most influential and reliable interpreter today--tend to regard fin-de-siècle Vienna in a somewhat pessimistic light, viewing it in the harsh light of the defeat and dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian empire that were the consequence of World War I. 14  This view, perhaps somewhat lurid, is commonly shared today.

Yet our own perception of the Habsburg capital as a “doomed city” was not necessarily that of the inhabitants before the fall, though they did worry about signs of decay and conflict that were everywhere to be detected. Above all, the nationality question--or as we would say the question of ethnicity--was a major problem. The nineteenth-century solution of power-sharing with the Hungarians (duopoly) was offensive to the other (mainly Slavic) groups, who increasingly demanded their rights. Stormy scenes, including fistfights, marred the sittings of the Austrian parliament, mocking the aspirations to reason and harmony cherished by liberal politicians.

As a great industrial and cultural center, Vienna was a magnet for the ethnic groups of the empire.  A special contribution to the city’s intellectual distinction was made by Jewish citizens. Freud, Kraus, Mahler and many other luminaries were of Jewish origin. In keeping with the traditions of the Enlightenment, these figures had generally assimilated the universalist values of Western civilization so that it is hard to find major differences between their work and that of such non-Jews as Krafft-Ebing, Musil, and Brahms. Both groups addressed the task of pioneering modernity. The twelve-tone music identified with Arnold Schoenberg was commonly attacked as Jewish, but in fact the system was invented by the “Aryan” Josef Matthias Hauer. Nonetheless, in a thoughtful study of the question, Steven Beller argues that the link was more subtle; many intellectuals, Jews and non-Jews alike, looked through distinctive Jewish “moral spectacles.” 15   In any event the antisemitic politics of conservative ressentiment seized on the prominence of Jews in the avant-garde in an effort to discredit both.

Despite its political strife, Austria-Hungary achieved major economic advances, industrializing rapidly.  Vienna expressed its new status as a world metropolis by erecting a series of showy buildings flanking the Ringstrasse, the great boulevard replacing the ramparts that separated the old city core from the new middle-class quarters that surrounded it. 16  Twin museums, one of science, the other of art, rising on the southern perimeter of the Ringstrasse celebrated Vienna’s achievements as a center of knowledge and culture. Proudly, the burghers hailed the great boulevard as the most prominent of a series of improvements that put the city on a level with Haussmann’s Paris. To complement this urban development, the architect Otto Wagner organized a new integrated urban transportation system, including a subway.

The showy constructions embellishing the Ringstrasse represented a surge of confidence that was not to last,for as the century turned, a new, more anxious mood arose. In a memorable formula, Alessandra Comini has summed up the change from what might be called Vienna I to Vienna II as the shift “from façade to psyche.”  17 Whether in architecture, painting, or intellectual pursuits, façades came to be viewed as a lie, What mattered increasingly was the exploration of inner life, of the psyche.

What better means of exploring the inner person than the medical discipline of mental health? The prestigious Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing wrote the first sexological best seller, the Psychopathia sexualis (1886). This book abounded in case histories of sexually disturbed persons, contributing to the Central European “decadent” image. Vienna was still regarded, rightly, as boasting the best medical school in the world, and this reputation helped to keep the discussion on a serious plane. Reflecting these interests, but involving much more, was Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. As an educated bourgeois Freud held Italian Renaissance artists in high esteem, and published an influential paper on Leonardo’s psychosexual character in 1910. Freud gathered a body of disciples around him, who helped to spread the faith to foreign countries. The propagation of psychoanalysis was not unlike that of an artistic movement.

The study of economics attained a high level. The Austro-Marxists upheld socialism. Yet they did not go unopposed, for Eugen von Bȍhm-Bawerk produced the first thorough critique of the technical inadequacies of Karl Marx’s economic theories. In the 1930s, this critical tradition went international in the syntheses of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, both active in the English-speaking world. Today free-market principles on the Austrian model are taught throughout the globe. 18

Otto Wagner was an important innovator in architecture, paving the way for more daring successors Josef Hoffmann, Josef Olbrich, and--above all--Adolf Loos. Loos went so far as to preach the abolition of ornament altogether. It was Wagner, however, who presciently created a theoretical justification for the new trend in building. His programmatically entitled Moderne Architektur (1896), was a landmark. 19 There was more to be noticed than individual buildings,  Recognizing the city’s burgeoning growth, Camillo Sitte produced Der Städtebau (1889), a detailed treatise on city planning. 

In painting the daring creations of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and other innovators did star turns at the annual exhibitions of the Secession, Vienna’s avant-garde art society.  20 A restless spirit, Klimt eagerly culled motifs from archaeology, including Greek archaic art and the finds at Mycenae. 21 His focus on design elements echoed the historical concerns of Alois Riegl, who published a pioneering treatise on the history of the decorative arts, the Stilfragen of 1893. In fact, Viennese crafts--furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles, jewelry, and so forth--gained world renown through the launching of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903. 22 Much of this work shows affinities with the international art nouveau trend, but in a distinctively Viennese way.

In concert music, Gustav Mahler troubled some listeners as he advanced beyond the accepted harmonic structures of late romantic music. But his innovations were themselves capped by the twelve-tone music of Arnold Schoenberg and his associates. Schoenberg was also active for a time as an expressionist painter.

Vienna also gave birth to the academic discipline of Musikwissenschaft (musicology).  This achievement is due to Guido Adler (1855-1941), who began his career as a lecturer in the University of Vienna in 1883. Together with Friedrich Chrysander and Philipp Spitta, he founded the Vierteljahresschrift für Musikwissenschaft (Musicology Quarterly) the following year.  In that publication Adler presented a seminal article, "Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft" ("The Scope, Method, and Aim of Musicology,"1885).  This essay not only constituted the first attempt at a comprehensive description of music scholarship, but also famously divided the field into two subdisciplines: music history and systematic musicology (or music theory).  Between 1894 and 1938 he edited the Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, a monumental series in 83 volumes. In1898 Adler founded Musikwissenschaftliche Institut  of the University of Vienna, which he directed until his retirement in 1927.The emergence of the new discipline also influenced composers, notably Arnold Schoenberg, who consciously situated his innovative twelve-tone system in the broader context of Western music.

In the 1920s Vienna became a center of innovative philosophy in the group known as the Wiener Kreis (Vienna Circle), sometimes known as logical positivists. 23  Building on foundations erected by such nineteenth-century scientists as Ludwig Boltzmann and Ernst Mach, the insurgents adopted a severely restricted view of truth. The logical positivists, with Moritz Schlink as the pivotal figure, held that metaphysical speculation was nonsensical and that moral and value statements were merely emotive. The only worthwhile function of philosophy was to clarify existing statements, whether couched in everyday or scientific language.

This general tendency to reshape humanistic inquiry according to models derived from the natural sciences, especially physics and mathematics, is termed scientism. It became particularly salient towards the end of the nineteenth century. While positivism, as the humanistic version of the trend was termed, flourished throughout Europe, it was particularly cultivated in Vienna, where the decaying political and social system (the “throne and altar”) caused sensitive thinkers to look elsewhere for pillars of support. The more general and universal they were, it was felt, the more likely they were to be unassailable. The tendency to view scientific regularities as “laws” seeped over into the humanities, where the temptation to annex some of the prestige of the natural sciences was hard to resist.

Scientism held a number of attractions for art historians. On the one hand, there was a need to catalogue and classify existing artworks, as well as to acquire new ones through expeditions and archeological excavations. These activities of inventorying and acquisition represented the positivist task in its narrow sense. On the other hand, the temptation of formulating general laws beckoned. An example of this tendency has already been noted in Wölfflin’s contrast of the linear and painterly trends. These two principles may be regarded as general laws, because one or the other, or the two in combination, apply in principle to all know artworks--at least representational ones. Some art historical laws, however, are in force only during particular periods, so that some spoke of the “law of the frame” as a defining characteristic of Romanesque art.

A special aspect of the influence of natural science was the growing enthusiasm for Darwin’s ideas of evolution as governed by natural selection. Books flaunting the word “evolution” in the title proliferated. 24 Moreover, the Darwinian (or social Darwinian) emphasis on the struggle for survival reinforced a tendency to treat artists (and scholars) as competitive beings, striving to control market and edge out less vigorous colleagues. This idea appears. for example, in Jakob Burckhardt’s notion of the “agonic” or competition principle as the driving force in Greek civilization.

The Viennese School of Art History Emerges.

The constellation of Viennese accomplishment was also distinguished by an art-historical component: the Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte .25  The term school is a little misleading as this trend was not a unitary phenomenon in the way that, say, twelve-tone music and psychoanalysis were. The Vienna school of art history spanned a wide spectrum: the more traditionally inclined individuals edited texts and published objects, while the more adventurous speculators proffered striking new ideas. Some of these innovations have survived to become part of the permanent legacy of art history, while others have failed to stand the test of time. 

In his account of the Viennese school of art history, Julius von Schlosser traced its ultimate origins to the collector and amateur Joseph Daniel Böhm, who was director (from 1836) of the Engraving Academy; he also headed the Imperial Belvedere Museum. However, it was Bohm’s disciple, the energetic Moravian-born Rudolf von Eitelberger (1817-1885), who was the true founder of art history in Vienna. 26  Like many art historians Eitelberger first studied law, but then switched to classical philology. In the Vienna of the 1840s he became active in organizing art exhibitions. Galvanized by the revolution of 1848 he took as his mission the reform of art education. His close relations with the imperial government secured his appointment in 1851 as professor of art history at the University of Vienna. In Berlin in 1844, Gustav Friedrich Waagen had been the first in Europe to receive such a position; Eitelberger was the second.) Eitelberger’s outstanding institutional achievement was the creation of the Austrian Museum for Art and Industry in 1864. This, the first museum of the applied arts on the European continent, was inspired by Eitelberger’s visit to the South Kensington (later the Victoria and Albert) Museum in London in 1862. The connection with museums, and the direct contact with art objects that they afford, was to leave a decisive stamp on the research interests of Wickhoff, Riegl, and Schlosser.

Museums contain moveable objects. Yet there is much art, including buildings, which cannot (or should not) be transferred. To record these monuments from the past, Eitelberger started the first publication in the field of art topography, the Mittelalterliche Kunstdenkmäler des österreichischen Kaiserstaates (Stuttgart, 1858-60); the task was relaunched on a much broader scale in Vienna in 1907. This effort to record the details of the buildings, which some would regard as typical of Germanic thoroughness, gave much practical work to journeymen art historians.  27 Focusing on these structures, which were often endangered by modern “progress,” helped to give birth--after the turn of the century--to the movement for historic preservation. 

Another project launched by Eitelberger (in 1871) was a monumental undertaking in the gathering and arrangement of data: the Quellenschriften für Kunstgeschichte und Kunsttechnik des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit (Literary Sources for Art History and Art Techniques of the Middle Ages and Modern Times). This collection, which attained 33-volumes by 1908, enjoyed the support of the Imperial Ministry of Religion and Education. The series embraced both texts, published and unpublished, by individual artists and writers, such as Cennino Cennini and Albrecht Dürer, and anthologies gathered from a great variety of sources, such as those covering the Carolingian period (by Julius von Schlosser) and the Byzantine Empire (by F. W. Unger and Jean Paul Richter). The series title mentioned not only sources in art history, but in techniques. Previously, Sir Charles Eastlake, director of the National Gallery in London, had published a gathering of technical evidence, his Materials for a History of Oil Painting (London, 1847-49); his task was taken up and pursued more systematically in Vienna and the study of original texts became an integral part of art historical teaching there.

In both England and Austria the interest in techniques reflected a contemporary concern that the applied arts were in a state of crisis. It was feared that English and Austrian goods could not compete commercially in international trade. A prime motivation for the founding of Eitelberger’s museum was to offer specimens of the best applied art of older times as a guide to artisans seeking to improve their performance. As a further aid, scholars sought to make available information about traditional techniques, information that had been neglected. Today we would say, somewhat harshly, that this concern was misplaced because in our economic situation the applied arts must be produced using industrial methods, not the older ones--a point vividly stressed by Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Attached to the museum, however, was a school, the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule, which did change with the times. 

The craft-revival assumption, nostalgic as it may have been, nonetheless promoted valuable recording and analysis of the actual processes used by artists of the past to produce their works. This material in turn provided the basis for the conservation laboratories of the later twentieth century, where the old recipes are matched with modern methods of scientific investigation. The more strictly historical documents provided data for new monographs on artists and periods. The disadvantage was that historical documents are often insufficient, and their use tends to privilege documented works and periods over those that do not have their “papers in order.” However, the direct contact of the Viennese scholars with objects, many of them anonymous, served to reduce this danger.

To return to Eitelberger, his achievement lay primarily in his great capacity for organization and his journalistic support of these activities. He never succeeded in creating a coherent aesthetic vision of his own. This task was left for his successors at the turn of the century.

Franz Wickhoff.

With Franz Wickhoff (1853-1909), Eitelberger’s pupil and holder of the chair at the university, the school of Vienna went into high gear.  29 Taking their cue from Wickhoff, members of the school excelled in the rehabilitation of Roman and Early Medieval art. The interest of a Viennese in ancient Rome is understandable. After all, Vienna had been a Roman town named Vindobona. Moreover, the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian realm had a precursor in the Roman empire. The early middle ages also seemed important because this era, that of the great migrations, had seen the settlement of the two dominant groups of Austria-Hungary, the Germans and the Hungarians, in the lands that they now occupied. Finally, these two periods beckoned “because the were there.” Completing these two units of Western art history would forge the last two links between the ancient cycle--the Near East and Greece--and the later one that began with the Romanesque and Gothic. A “Pan-European” highway came into being that allowed one to travel, so it seemed, from the beginnings of art all the way to its present accomplishments.

By common consent Wickhoff’s greatest achievement was the rehabilitation of Roman art. Prior to Winckelmann’s day Roman civilization had been accorded equal, if not greater, respect than Greek. But Winckelmann’s reorientation captured the world of classical scholarship for Greece. Nineteenth-century Hellenism tended to see the Romans as mere imitators of Greek things. The only exceptions to this generalization were found in architecture (where the Roman mastery of the arch and the dome found acknowledgement), and in law. 

In sculpture and painting, however, it was held that the Romans were either slaves of the Greeks, or when they did attempt to launch out on their own accord, hopeless bunglers whose inept pastiches simply reaffirmed the supremacy of their Greek teachers.

Wickhoff’s conceptual breakthrough came as a result of an invitation to write a scholarly commentary on a precious manuscript kept in the National Library: the Vienna Genesis. 30 This fragment of a lavish purple-stained illuminated manuscript consists of 24 leaves with text and pictures on both sides of each leaf. Although Wickhoff ascribed the word to the fourth century, it is now believe to have been coined in Constantinople in the early sixth century. Wickhoff’s older date does not detract from his analysis of the work as pivotal, since in the early fourth century the Roman state had adopted Christianity and shifted its capital to the new city on the Bosporus. Although the text of the manuscript was Greek, deriving from the Septuagint adopted by the Eastern Church, Wickhoff recognized that the images recapitulate the previous centuries of the development of Roman art. In particular, the artists used the device of showing the passage of time by employing the same figures more than once within a single frame. In the story of Jacob, for example, we see several different phases of the story, united by the device of the road on which the figures travel. This principle of continuous narrative, though rare in Greek art, occurs in some of the great Roman sculptural monuments, such as the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. Moreover, Wickhoff noticed that some of the miniatures employed light and atmosphere in a way that was different from the emphasis on absolute clarity that is characteristic of Greek art. This ancient illusionism had its sources not only in the wall paintings of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but could be seen in relief sculpture as well.

In these perceptions Wickhoff was guided, probably unconsciously, by his experience of contemporary impressionist art, where the solidity of forms was dissolved by patterns evoking atmosphere. In Vasari’s time interest in art history and contemporary art were united in a single person. With the coming of the critic vs. art historian contrast the two became separate. Yet as Otto Brendel suggested, there may be a less visible connection between the two, born of an inchoate desire to heal the rift. 31

Wickhoff was a cultivated man of wide sympathies. Although he believed that the seventeenth-century art of Rembrandt and Velẚzquez accomplished the climactic realization of his cherished principle of illusionism, he was open to more recent developments. His concern with the art of his own day ranged from the traditional George Watts to the innovative Gustav Klimt. He was also intrigued by the role than Japanese art played in the impressionism and postimpressionism of his own day. 

Yet Wickhoff’s interest in non-European culture was not as generous as it seems. He believed that Japanese art found a welcome in Europe because at an earlier period the Far East had benefited from the import of European art forms and motifs. Here he was following the earlier researches of a private scholar, Friedrich Hirth. In his 1898 essay “The Historical Unity in the Universal Evolution of Art,” Wickhoff claimed to have found evidence for European influence that was much earlier than heretofore known. 32 Analyzing the decor of a Chinese bronze vessel of the Zhou period, he proclaimed that it bore three motifs that were borrowed from ancient Greece: the meander, the palmetto, and the two-eye device. He admits that the Greek meander is continuous and Chinese ones broken into cells, but he adduces Balkan examples as intermediaries where, in his view, the process of breaking up had begun. The identification of the palmetto is the weakest, and would probably be rejected by all modern scholars. His clincher is the seemingly disembodied eyes of what is known as the tao-tieh motif, which seems functionally surprisingly similar to the eye motif as found, for example, on an Athenian cup of Exekias. But this last comparison founders on the shoals of chronology: as we now know, the tao tieh has been found on Shang vessels from as early as the fourteenth century B.C., while the supposed Greek source appears only in the sixth century! Thus if this chronology were to be honored, the Chinese motif would be the source of the Greek one, not the other way around. In fact, in the view of many scholars the Greek motif is not original, but is derived from the Egyptian “eyes of Horus.” Because of a lack of connecting links, however, this motif is probably not connected with the Chinese one.

Wickhoff rejected the idea that China evolved independently. To grant this possibility would violate his principle of “historical unity in the universal history of art.” For he claimed that all art derives from a common source. Setting aside their Eurocentrism, such views incorporated a view of cultural development that was rife in the nineteenth century. The principle of diffusionism had been made fashionable by studies in comparative linguistics--especially in the far-flung Indo-European languages--and by the rising discipline of anthropology. 33 This principle inclined Wickhoff to detect a genetic relationship between similar motifs, where the likeness is probably better explained as the result of separate, sometimes parallel evolution.

It is curious that Wickhoff defended his faith by invoking the principle of universality. Such arguments had also been made by those who opposed diffusionism. Cultural evolutionists had said that it is perfectly understandable that cultures, when they reach a certain stage, will produce similar traits. Thus the technique of coiling reappears over and over again in the history of pottery, without our having to assume that this techniq diffused from a single source.

Perhaps this is a case where better knowledge of such neighboring disciplines as anthropology and archaeology would have saved the writer from grief. Of course, Wickhoff lived before today’s era of specialization.  In his own day, such bold hypotheses were more easily launched. Perhaps because this very specialization leads to narrowness, boldness of his kind would be salutary today, even at the cost of making some mistakes.

Alois Riegl.

The greatest representative of the Vienna school was Alois Riegl (1858-1905). Apart from some juvenilia, his rich, many-sided, sometimes disconcerting work was completed in an extraordinarily short period--the last thirteen years of his life. Focussing on one aspect or another, Riegl’s commentators have tended to neglect his achievement as a whole. Moreover, his rather plodding literary style, suggesting more a bureaucratic memorandum than a contribution to the humanities, makes his writings difficult to access, even for German speakers. He seems to have sense that his time was short so that he could not afford the luxury of polishing or enlivenment through apt use of metaphor. Or perhaps this gray prose was just the vehicle that he felt he needed in order to make art history credible to his sober fellow citizens who rejected “frivolous” art writing. Only in the 1980s did English translations of Riegl’s books begin to appear, starting with his magnum opus on late antique art, Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie. 34 In any event, many admirers, one suspects, have long intended to read his published work as a whole but have stalled somewhere along the way. 

Fortunately, Margaret Olin--who has been grappling with Riegl’s oeuvre for a period equivalent to the one that it took him to create it--has produced a guide that is itself a serious contribution to art theory. 35

Born in Linz on January 14, 1858, Alois Michael Riegl was the son of Johann Riegl, an official in the imperial tobacco administration with roots in Bohemia, and the former Katharina Mayr, daughter of a tax collector. Eventually, his father was posted to Galicia, now part of the Ukraine, and Alois attended school there, returning to Linz to complete his gymnasium training. As Olin observes, “The legacy of his childhood was a lifelong commitment to the international composition of the Hapsburg Empire and strongly held views about the necessity for the union of diverse forces in historical development.” 36 

Enrolling in the philosophy faculty of the University of Vienna in 1875, he received a strongly positivist formation that stressed the importance of facts and historical objectivity. His postgraduate training in the Institute for Austrian Historical Research emphasized precise instruction in such auxiliary sciences as diplomatics, chronology, heraldry, and paleography. Riegl also took courses in linguistics, which emphasized the comparative study of Indo-European languages and their development over time. This linguistic model, reinforced by the pervasive influence of Darwinism, influenced his understanding of historical progress as a steady pattern of advance from one stage to the next.

His early papers on illuminated manuscripts revealed an interest in naturalism and the way that it interacted with the demands for formal patterning. This contrast--between accurate representation of the external world and abstract composition--mirrored changes in the art world itself as painters, for example, moved from naturalism (including impressionism) to symbolism and abstraction. Although these parallels are intriguing, one should not make too much of them, for Riegl’s personal taste seems to have run to such academic painters as Hans Thoma and Arnold Böcklin.

For twelve years, from 1885 to 1897, Riegl served as a curator of textiles in the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry. His responsibilities brought him into contact with the ideas of the arts and crafts movement, which had arisen in England to preserve the quality of traditional art production in the face of the challenge of the machine. Riegl traveled to many “backward” parts of the empire to gather specimens of still surviving craft production. He realized that it would not be possible to defeat machine production; the thing to do was to formulate valid principles of design. In this task he had been preceded by a number of earlier theorists, above all Gottfried Semper, whose major work Der Stil (1860-63) had sought the origins and basic principles of ornament. 36a

As he poured over the Near Eastern carpets under his care, Riegl gradually came to recognize that they might tell a tale that no one had realized before. A key motif, one that is characteristic of Islamic culture as a whole, was the arabesque. Riegl was able to show that after many permutations the arabesque was consubstantial with the earlier rinceau (or vine scroll), a motif that itself grew out of the palmette in Greece two thousand years before the carpets he was studying. Unconsciously he was probably following a linguistic analogy. A study of modern French, for example, leads back to medieval French, then to Latin, and finally to Indo-European. The lucky arrival of an American book by the Egyptologist W. H Goodyear permitted Riegl to extend the story back another two thousand years, for Goodyear had shown how the palmette motif (the source of Riegl’s rinceaux) derived from the Egyptian lotus. 37 The results of this detective work appeared in his Stilfragen or “Questions of Style” of 1893. 38

Implicit in all this is the topical question of the status of the minor arts, which aspired to autonomy, breaking with the aesthetic monopoly of the triad--painting, sculpture, and architecture--that the Italian Renaissance had established. By the time that Riegl published his book, this trend had modulated into the art nouveau with its predilection for sinuous linear ornament of vegetable derivation. 39 Moreover, abstract art was in the air. It is true that most historians date the first major nonobjective paintings as late as 1912, but several artists, especially in Munich (as Peg Weiss has shown), had experimented with nonobjective patterns in the nineties. 40  Through these connections then Riegl’s seemingly pedantic inquiries into remote civilizations chimed in with contemporary practice, a practice that was entering into uncharted territory. Still, one should not exaggerate his prescience. In Stilfragen Riegl claimed only to have explored the formal principles that governed “style,” that is the ornamental arts. The arts of representation were explicitly left out of his program.

An appointment at the University of Vienna allowed Riegl to test his ideas on a more general plane, and also to deal with the representational art. These lectures were not published at the time but a good idea of their contents can be gleaned from a book manuscript of 1897-98 and a set of lectures from 1899. 41  In these sweeping accounts he first surveyed art from the Egyptians onward as a reflection on world view (Weltanschauung); he then treated motifs (including ornament, figure groups, and portrait) and form and surface. In these manuscripts he introduced the ideas of near vision and far vision, seeking to show that over the centuries art progressed from an additive procedure characteristic of near vision to the synthetic approach of far vision.

Like the Stilfragen, Riegl’s next major published work, Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie (1901) also took its start from his interest in the minor arts--late antique and early medieval jewelry that had been recovered from excavations or chance finds on the soil of Austria-Hungary. 42 In order to classify this material, he undertook a new study of the material that Wickhoff had examined but with a greater emphasis on the work after about 200 CE. This art, which Riegl terms “late Roman,” is now generally called “late antique,” suggesting that it came at the end not only of Roman art, but of a great cycle of the art of antiquity of which the art of Rome is but a part. Studying both the triad of “major arts” of architecture, painting, and sculpture; as well as the minor arts of late antiquity; he now aspired to a general theory of art. The key to this theory he found in the concept of the Kunstwollen. 43  The usual translation, “artistic volition,” is not adequate because it suggests the conscious will of an individual. 

What Riegl was seeking to capture was the impetus of collective endeavor, an amalgam of attractions, temptations, and compulsions, that artists were involved in. Not a purely rational force, the Kunstwollen might almost be described as a striving towards a particular constellation of stylistic preferences, preferences which necessarily exclude other choices. In this sense, the Kunstwollen was a dynamic principle that summoned artists to its service; although it promoted uniformity at each stage it was always evolving to a new stage. The concept is something like that of the Zeitgeist, but it also has within it an element of the uncanny and the irrational: it is more of an urge than a spirit. Riegl had read some of the same sources--above all the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer--that led Sigmund Freud to the formulation of psychoanalysis in the very same years. In this way Wölfflin’s insight that not all things are possible at all times is transformed into a creative principle, what might almost be termed a summons. Every era, Riegl seems to be saying, confronts its artists with certain urgent tasks. One can refuse this call--but at the risk of becoming a marginal or retardataire figure. The truly significant artists always engage the Kunstwollen of their age, inviting it into their own house of being and making it theirs.

In order to explain the rise of the late-antique Kunstwollen Riegl introduced a new contrast, between the tactile (haptic) and the optical. If, to take an extreme contrast, we compare an ancient Egyptian landscape with one by Rembrandt, we note that the former is all edges, lines and contours, while the Rembrandt dissolves boundaries into soft, atmospheric transitions. The Egyptian painting is tactile, the Rembrandt optical. Evidently Riegl had evolved his own version of the tradition utilized by Wölfflin for his linear-painterly contrast. But he employs it in a new fruitful way. The significance of the late antique for Riegl is that instead of being a period of stagnation or decadence it initiated an almost geological process of shifting from the tactile to the optic. Up to this point--from the Egyptians to the Greeks and the official art of the Romans--the tactile principle had been dominant. In later European art the optical one was. The late antique was the crucial period in which this new orientation emerged and was explored, laying the foundation for all subsequent European art.
In order to convey these new insights Riegl forged a new terminology. In late-antique sarcophagi, for example, he emphasized the Tiefendunkel, the “deep dark” that enabled the artist to create a sense of continuity among the shaded parts. This continuity, this new principle of union, is a prerequisite for the emergence of the optical principle. Related to the Tiefendunkel is the concept of mutual patterns, whereby figure and ground exchange places in a continuing dance of ambiguity.

Although Riegl went on to produce important work on Dutch portraits and on Baroque art, he never equaled the dizzying heights of this great work, Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie. As is often the case with ambitious works of synthesis it breaks down in detail, as when Riegl seeks to shift the famous Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (firmly dated to 359 CE) to a date a century earlier so that it will fit in with his scheme. Riegl overestimated the unity of style that is possible in any given epoch. It is also possible that he may have been too successful to rehabilitating the late antique. In the 1930s some scholars of a totalitarian bent embraced the style enthusiastically because they thought that its suppression of the individual and glorification of the leader was in accord with their concept of their own times. By emphasizing that in the late-antique period both pagan and Christian art were united in similar endeavors Riegl probably influenced historians of ideas, who emerged from their separate compartments of classical philology and Patristic studies to focus on this interaction of Christian and pagan.

Riegl’s monograph on the Dutch group portrait tackled another body of art that was out of fashion.  44Dutch landscapes and genre paintings enjoyed great prestige in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but many found the group portraits disturbing. To borrow a term from the aesthetics of theater, these paintings broke with the tacit acceptance of the “fourth wall” convention that permits the beholder to scrutinize the depicted scene at will but forbids the figures in the scene to look out at the observer. But this is just what people do in the Dutch group portraits. The complementarity of gaze that the Dutch group portraits necessarily imply caused Riegl to reassess the role of the beholder. He postulated that to achieve its fullest potential art history would have to take into account not only what goes on within the picture, but the ongoing transaction between the viewer and the work. To some extent this interest grew out of Riegl’s earlier interest in perception--in near view and far view--but it implied something new. The history of art is not a mere procession of objects grouped together to form styles, but a record of our interaction with these styles. In this way Riegl anticipated not only Ernst Gombrich’s idea of the viewer’s share based on the psychology of perception, but also the reception aesthetics of the late twentieth century.  45

Riegl pioneered in yet another sphere: historic preservation.  46  He drafted a model law to protect monuments, becoming Austria-Hungary’s first chief official in this realm. For Riegl old monuments play a key role in that, being products of world views different from our own, they emphasize the importance of distance in the maturing of our world view. But aging monuments must not be aggressively preserved; like people they undergo an aging process which is part of the effect they have on us. From the legal standpoint Riegl saw that preserving monuments limited property right--that it necessarily led to a certain type of “socialism.” Full understanding of the need for this protection would take  many years, he prophesied, but the  art historian could play an important role in diffusing among the masses the understanding of this inherited patrimony. (No doubt Riegl would have been pleased by today’s movement for restoring Victorian houses in the United States.)

Riegl held no elevated view of the dignity of art history. Instead, the monuments were the thing. Art history had no inviolable claim to survival for its own sake. Possibly, indeed, art history itself might be destined to disappear after it had fulfilled its mission.

Josef Strzygowski.

During his lifetime Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941) enjoyed immense prestige in Europe and America. 47  His publications appeared in many languages and he lectured widely.  He had several productive pupils. Yet today some studies of the Viennese school of art history scarcely mention his name. In his later years he was locked in a bitter contest with Julius von Schlosser; posterity has judged the latter the winner. Has the “test of time” simply shown his work wanting, or were there other factors?

Strrzygowski was born in Biała, Galicia, in 1862, the son of a cloth manufacturer. Originally Polish, his family had become culturally German. Nonetheless, Strzygowski always retained an interest in the art of the Slavic peoples. Having begun his studies in Vienna, he completed them in Munich where he received the doctorate in 1885. Strzygowski’s dissertation treated the iconography of the Baptism of Christ. He taught in Graz and then in Vienna, where he was called to assume Wickhoff’s chair in 1909.

Fortified by a long stay in Rome, Strzygowski’s early studies dealt with subjects in Italian art beloved of German-speaking art historians. However, his interest in Cimabue led him to visit Constantinople in 1889. He became an enthusiastic, almost fanatical traveler throughout the Near East, pouring scorn on armchair scholars who had not inspected the monuments first hand. Increasingly, his investigations focused on the hinterlands that lay away from the coastal regions, on Syria, Egypt, Armenia, and Iran.
Addressing himself to the same set of problems that had occupied Wickhoff and Riegl, he came to a very different conclusion in his book Orient oder Rom (Leipzig, 1901). In his view the great transformation in late antiquity that led to medieval art was not the result of a gradual internal evolution, but represented the intrusion of powerful forces originating outside the Roman empire. For the endogeny of Wickhoff and Riegl, with its emphasis on the slow maturation of elements within the ancient matrix, Strzygowski substituted exogenesis, the aggressive incursion of new trends stemming from the Near East, from Syria, Armenia, and Iran. In his own words, “Greece expired in the arms of the Orient.”

Broadly speaking, the stress on motif migration reflected the diffusionist assumptions that were then powerful in anthropology. Strzygowski detected broad political and cultural correlations: his emphasis on Eastern sources went together with an increasingly vehement disparagement of the humanistic culture of the Mediterranean, which he disparaged as “Machtkunst,” the oppressive art of power.

In architecture he noted the creative variations of vaulting in the eastern countries, above all the dome. He had a special fondness for the monuments of Armenia, leading him to the startling conclusion that the central-plan structures of Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante represented the victory of the Armenian domed building forms. In the long run this kind of exaggeration caused dismay even among his own followers. 48  Still, he succeeded in placing Armenia in the mainstream of art. Building forms found there as early as the sixth century have no counterpart in Western Europe until half a millennium later. These resemblances may be only parallel evolution but they are striking nonetheless. Not surprisingly, these views have been received enthusiastically in Armenian circles.

During the 1920s Strzygowski’s Eastern predilections yielded to a Nordic obsession. He believed that northern Eurasia had generated a creative architecture in wood which, because of its perishable nature, had largely disappeared. Since absence of evidence is scarcely convincing proof, these assertions fell largely on deaf ears. Or rather they would have fallen on deaf ears if they had not accorded with the “Aryan” interests of a rising political movement in Germany. After Strzygowski’s retirement in 1933, his racial obsessions became more vociferous, according all too conveniently with Nation Socialism. Even though he never joined the Nazi party, this affinity, more than anything else, spelled the decline of his reputation.

Wiithe passage of time, a more balanced appreciation is possible. Strzygowski believed in public education and wrote regular columns on contemporary art and architecture in newspapers. His theories of eastern and northern origins, while often questionable, served to stimulate research in little-known fields, such as Armenia (and later Georgia), the animal art of the steppes, and the folk art and architecture of eastern Europe and the Balkans. Above all, Strzygowski believed in a concept of world art. He encouraged his American colleagues to concentrate on pre-Columbian art, advice that was adopted only later. Strzygowski may even be said to have anticipated today’s multicultural interest in the culture of ethnic protest. In their resistance to Hellenic domination, his ancient Syrians, Armenians, and Iranians have their counterparts in modern ethnic artists who are trying to break away from the norms of the dominant Euro-american styles.

Strzygowski’s call for the study of non-European art led some of his pupils to a lifelong commitment, so that Ernst Diez dedicated himself to Islam, while Stella Kramrisch became virtually identified with India. 

Yet how do the pieces fit together? It may be that in Stzrygowski’s time a synthesis was premature. The difficulty of achieving such a unified view is revealed by an attempt on the part of Dagobert Frey (1883-1962), who, though a pupil of Max Dvořák, stood in this instance under Strzygowski’s aegis.  50Frey’s Grundlegung zu einer Vergleichenden Kunstwissenschaften (1949) made an ambitious comparison of the art of the Old World Civilizations of Egypt, the ancient Near East, Europe, India, and East Asia on the basis of four themes: the statue, the representation of movement, the monument, and the processional path. Although this book attested to wide reading, much of the information was already out-of-date when it was published and the whole shows a dry schematism that suppresses the vital essence of the actual art works. Evidently, the time was not yet ripe for the fulfillment of Strzygowski’s dream of a “comparative art history” on a global scale. Even today a satisfactory synthesis is lacking, though some reference works, such as the Encyclopedia of World Art proclaim this as their aim.

Julius von Schlosser.

Strzygowski’s combative, flamboyant style contrasted with the retiring introversion of Julius von Schlosser (1866-1938), his archrival. 51  Schlosser, whose mother was Italian, was born in Vienna. After a lengthy museum career, he succeeded to the second chair in art history at the University of Vienna. Devoted to humanistic values in art, he found it difficult to respond to the lure of anticlassical expressiveness that informed the other major figures of the school; medieval art (about which he wrote) he found ugly and inexpressive. Yet he innovated in his own way. The Renaissance chapter of the present book highlighted the value of Schlosser’s monumental edition of Ghiberti’s Commentarii (1912), a work he place on a secure footing as the foundational document of the European tradition of the history of art. His interest in the milestones of art historiography continued throughout his life. Not only did Schlosser love antiquarian books for their own sake, he believed that the views of older writers, founded as they often were in a deep knowledge of the subject, could serve as a corrective to new-fangled enthusiasms that might not last.

The fruit of Schlosser’s immersion in the sources is Die Kunstliteratur of 1924, a work now generally read in the enlarged Italian edition prepared by his student Otto Kurz. 52  The tome reveals him to have been a real bookworm, but this penchant yielded results from which we can still profit. After brief chapters on classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, Schlosser settled into his main narrative, the grand tradition founded in the fifteenth-century in Italy. Observing a distinction that some may question between older sources and modern literature, the Viennese polymath concluded his narrative at about 1800 CE. Within this time frame Italian-language works dominate. Schlosser not only grouped and described the books, but sought to evaluate their accomplishment in accord with the spirit of the age. In the bibliographical sections, he diligently compiled editions and  translations, so that the reader could gauge the relative popularity of the works discussed.

Schlosser’s Mediterranean affinities led him to forge an alliance with the Italian philosopher and cultural historian Benedetto Croce, whose teachins he helped spread in German-speaking countries. 53  From Croce, who was formed by aesthetic interests primarily derived from his studies in language and literature, Schlosser took the idea that art is a language. Following Croce he also sought to make distinctions of quality. Combining these views in his last years, Schlosser formulated the idea that much of art history is merely a linguistics of art, a series of styles in which individual creators do not stand out. However, some gifted individuals, the great artists, transcend these limitations and achieve a past mastery that is not bound by stylistic laws.

Although Schlosser attracted fewer students than Strzygowski, several of them were effective in keeping his memory green, especially those who joined the Warburg Institute in London: Fritz Saxl, Ernst Gombrich, and Otto Kurz. These pupils fused his humanistic emphasis with the broader cultural and hermeneutic interests bequeathed by Aby Warburg.

Max Dvořák.

Max Dvořăk (1874-1921) assumed Wickhoff’s chair at the University of Vienna. As the name suggests, he was of Czech origin. A spellbinding lecturer, he emphasized the integration of art history into cultural history; he sought to ground works of art in the spirit of the age. However, his early work on the riddle of the brothers Van Eyck (1903) showed that he could tackle a purely art historical problem, that of attribution, in a Morellian spirit.  54

Dvořăk had a more positive approach to contemporary art than his colleagues. He hailed the expressionism of his own day as a necessary break, promising relief after five hundred years of the oppressive dominance of naturalism. Unlike Riegl, who sought wholes and continuities in earlier art, Dvořák had a more positive approach to contemporary art than his colleagues. He hailed the expressionism of his own day as a necessary break, promising relief after five hundred years of the dominance of naturalism. Dvořák was alert to breaks, ruptures, and contradictions.  55 Already in his 1903 analysis of the Early Christian cemetery in Arles he saw stylistic inconsistencies as the sign of the approaching Middle Ages. His paper on “Idealism and Naturalism in Gothic Sculpture and Painting” (1918) is true to its title, detecting a pervasive conflict of these two principles. 56

This awareness of discontinuity prepared Dvořák to approach mannerism sympathetically. In this light he fostered the rehabilitation of El Greco, whom he regarded as both a mannerist and a symptom of a general spiritual crisis in sixteenth-century Europe. In fact Dvořák perceived this crisis through contemporary lenses:  he longed for a spiritual renewal that would supplant the materialism and positivism dominant in his youth. This sensitivity to sign of cultural crisis lent his approach special urgency as Austria-Hunary underwent its own crisis with the collapse of the Habsburg empire in 1918. Bestowing his attention on another turning point in history, he analyzed the Roman catacomb paintings as works of art, and not just documentation of Early Chirstian religious practices.

It is too facile to reduce Dvořák to the label “Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte”--art history as cultural history. Still, some have felt that he was too inclined to use works of art merely instrumentally as symptoms or expressions of the spirit of an age rather than to analyze them for their own sake. Thus, even today his heritage remains problematic. 57

Worringer as Popularizer.

It is suggestive that Wölfflin’s polarities and Riegl’s formalism made their impact during a period of relentless avant-garde production of painting and sculpture in central Europe. To be sure, these art historians clung to conservative tastes, and probably would not have approved.  Still, an interesting question is to what extent they were read, or misread, to give approval to these trends. Yet there were intermediary channels.

In the years immediately preceding World War I, a major impact on the advanced art world was made by a lesser but cognate thinker, Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965). First issued as a modest doctoral dissertation in 1908, Woringer’s Abstraktion und Einfühlung (Abstraction and Empathy) was reprinted by the enterprising Munich publisher Reinhold Piper. 58

Worringer took his starting point from the then fashionable idea of Einfühlung or empathy, championed by the philosopher Theodor Lipps as the key to aesthetic experience. According to Lipps, when we apprehend beautiful objects we project our own bodily existence into them. Worringer accepted Lipps’s analysis (which is somewhat complicated), but insisted that it held only for one pole of aesthetic response, the feelings typically elicited by classical and Renaissance art. There is, Worringer asserted, another kind of art, characterized by hard, crystalline forms that calls for another sort of response. This art is found in Byzantine mosaics and also in the indigenous objects produced in northern Europe before the advent of classical forms. The first art, the classical, affirms our sense of being at ease in the world, the second, which is anticlassical, recognizes the remoteness and unfriendliness of much of our relations with objects. This last state of unease Worringer rooted in the religious experience of transcendental awe.

Worringer’s new polarity, abstraction vs. empathy, may be traced to the contrast of the sublime and the beautiful as developed by eighteenth-century aestheticians. In addition, however, it had a contemporary resonance, since the abstract pole was attuned to new “disoveries” in past art, such as Byzantine mosaics as well as the contemporary expressionist trend Unlike the sublime, it placed the emphasis on formal qualities that were being explored at that very time. There was also a subtle nationalistic note, for the abstract trend constituted the primordial allegiance of northern European art, untainted by classical admixtures stemming from romance-speaking lands. In any event the expressionists welcomed Worringer’s ideas, as did (in a more qualified way) the creators of nonobjective art.  59 The latter, of course, proposed yet another polarity: objective vs. nonobjective.

Worringer, whose writings revealed extensive familiarity with the works of Alois Riegl, went on to write a monograph on Gothic art, Formprobleme der Gotik (Munich, 1912). 60 Worringer was not a great art historian, but he captured some key resonances of his time. Unfortunately these resonances included not only advanced art, but aspects of nationalistic and racial thinking. His interest in the dubious discipline of “culturalmorphology” converged with the thinking of the portentous Oswald Spengler, whose magnum opus, Der Untergang des Abendlandes--The Decline of the West, appeared in 1918.

The “Second Vienna School.”

The early 1930s saw a changed climate in Viennese art history . Wickhoff, Riegl, and Dvořák had long been dead and their posthumous publications, which required digesting, had appeared some years before. True to form Strzygowski and Schlosser continued to be locked in their bitter quarrel; in any event they retired in 1933 and 1936 respectively. As economies languished in the grip of a world depression, Hitler consolidated his power in Germany, while increasing his expansionist threats. Austria was convulsed by a prolonged crisis. In the realm of art, expressionism had faded and surrealism was dominant--though the country tend to resist this movement, despite its dependence on the theories of Sigmund Freud.

The time seemed opportune for a changing of the guard: hence the emergence of a group of insurgents, sometimes called the second Vienna school of art history. fn Chr With Dagobert Frey, Otto Pächt, and Hans Sedlmayr at its head, the group took a markedly scientific turn, paying attention to Gestalt psychology, logical positivism, physics, and biology. The theoretical premises of the group were set forth by Hans Sedlmayr (1896-1984), who distinguished a first and a second “science of art.”  61 The task of the first is to gather and order material according to external evidence, such as documents, inscriptions, and stylistic symptoms. The second concerns itself with understanding (Verstehen), with the underlying structure, and with the pervasive principles which confer wholeness on a work of art. The goal of this second science of art is not so much the delineation of styles as the elucidation of the character of individual works, and the method for doing this is “structural analysis.” 62  (Note that this method had little to do with the French structuralism that became popular in the 1960s.)

Addressing himself to particular problems, Sedlmayr made important contributions to the study of Borromini, Byzantine architecture, and Bruegel. Unfortunately, with the Anschluss whereby Hitler annexed Austria (1938), he emerged as a committed Nazi. 

Under a cloud during the immediate postwar period, Sedlmayr managed to reinvent himself--not entirely convincingly--as a Catholic thinker. From this vantage point he launched an attach on modern art as soulless and detached from its links to the earth.  63 As a prime example of the arbitrariness of the modern spirit he used the stripped-down creations of the revolutionary architects Claude-Nicolas Le Doux and Etienne-Louis Boullée who had been rediscovered by his former colleague Emil Kaufmann. While Sedlmayr’s antimodern book is not without merit, it is a pity that it was released at that time to the German public, which after thirteen years of Nazi cultural isolation was not prepared to evaluate modern art and was readily seduced into a facile reaction. Fortunately, this ignorance did not last and through the Documenta and other international exhibitions, Germany joined the forefront of avant-garde art.


Even setting aside the problematic coda of the so-called Second School, it must be conceded that the group of art historians active in Vienna did not have the cohesion of a school in the strict sense. They were not cohesive in the manner of such ancient schools of philosophy as the Academy and the Stoics, which honored a single body of writings and doctrines, nor did they resemble their contemporaries, the psychoanalysts. Freud’s psychoanalytic school maintained discipline; when a member was judged to have strayed he was expelled, a fate that befell Jung and Adler. As we have seen, the Viennese were contentious, freely criticizing each other’s theories in public and private. Together with scholars in other fields, they were famous for the harshness of their book reviews. This combativeness may reflect the political turbulence of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, where dissidence betokened an ominous sense of the fate of the realm. The current crisis may in turn have sensitized the Viennese art historians to the cultural manifestations of earlier periods of crisis, such as the later Roman empire and mannerism. In this way, the tensions among the art historians proved fruitful, directing their readers’ attention to neglected periods of art history, and proffering a range of solutions to the problem encountered there. 

But the differences must not be exaggerated: there were important convergences. Let us now seek to elucidate some of the common features of the Viennese art historians, their “canon” so to speak. First, most of them attributed an equal status to the minor arts as to the “fine arts” of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Unencumbered by questions of attribution and subject matter, themes of development could often be traced in these fields more readily than in the “major” arts. To be sure, there were differences; the minor arts, for example, did not generally have to grapple with the demands of naturalism, a burning question in the fine arts of the later nineteenth century. The interest of the art historians in the minor arts accorded with the flourishing state of Austrian crafts at the time: the products of the Wiener Werskstätte were world famous.

Just as the Vienna art historians believed that one should not discriminate according to media, so there should be no discrimination according to period. Thus Wickhoff reevaluated Roman art, Riegl late antique and baroque art, and Dvořák mannerism. In their view the onward march of art wasted nothing. As to the character of that march there were differences of method: Riegl favored a gradualist approach, while Dvořák saw the importance of breaks and reversals.

The Viennese shared a general sense of the consequentiality of art’s development, a conviction that change was ruled by “inner necessity,” to use Riegl’s expression. Unlike some of Wölfflin’s followers, they did not favor a pendulum-like alternation of two opposing principles. Instead, for the most part they favored a dynamic monism, seeing art--or at least the Western tradition, whose ultimate roots they traced to ancient Egypt--as a single polyphonic narrative, which gripped each generation with the urgency of the tasks awaiting it. On the individual level, the situation of the artist is that once one problem is solved another presents itself. Yet this endeavor is a collective one, extending over many generations.

There was general agreement that one need not, should not restrict oneself to narrow specialization. No one was faulted for “straying” outside his field. Even if this conviction was not expressed in writing in each individual case, every art historian should have a kind of inner compass of the whole development of art from the Egyptians onwards; in this way the individual studies become building blocks for the construction of a whole. Because of this universal aspiration, none of them devoted himself to a prolonged study of a single artist, however, significant. This does not mean that they did not respect greatness--Schlosser specifically separated the major artists from the average producers in a given style--but they believed that the achievement of a particular artist could be evaluated only through context and comparison. Some lesser practitioners aside, the school was marked by its rejection of the biographical approach (which of course th general public still demanded--witness the success of Irving Stone’s romanticized biographies of Michelangelo and Van Gogh in our own day). A century before, Winckelmann had recognized the limitations of biography as such. As has been noted the triumphs of archaeology--without the prop of “lives”--had extended our knowledge of the range of art enormously. The notion of art production as a collective endeavor pays tribute to the Hegelian notion of Spirit. It bears repeating that the danger of this supra-individual approach is that it tends to treat individuals as mere channels of some vast, ill-defined force.

A frequent means of developing comparisons was through dichotomies. Just as Wölfflin had contrasted linear and painterly, Riegl counterposed tactile and optical and Dvořák set naturalism against idealism.

Their background in the scientific positivism of the late nineteenth-century taught the writers to be aware of the arbitrariness of a priori value judgments. This awareness is connected with the ideal of Wertfreiheit (value neutrality) championed by the great sociologist Max Weber, who conceded that one might be drawn to certain realms of study by our own human needs and penchants, but that it was nonetheless possible to pursue them objectively. This approach, whereby value judgments are at least “placed on hold” until an adequate description of the objects was achieved, made possible the rehabilitation of whole eras, such late antiquity, the baroque, and mannerism. Of course scholars such as Wickhoff and Riegl must have felt some attraction to devote as much time to their assignments as they did. Attraction or not, the key lay in a new confidence in the task. Rehabilitation implied not just personal interest, or a sense of duty, but a sure sense that one could communicate this interest to a sophisticated public and “make it stick.”

Today this ideal of objectivity is under strong attack. Of course remnants of older prejudices remain and sometimes become overt, even strident where contemporary art is concerned. But the ideal of dispassionate analysis remains. This ideal of value neutrality has become a valuable tool in teaching: the instructor is better able to communicate the problems of art if all works are presented, at least initially, in terms of a patient effort to se forth their inherent worth. In this way, one can recognize that one of the great contributions of the Viennese school was the lesson that in order to understand a style we must first analyze it without seeking to judge it as good or bad. It is true that there were some breaches of this precept, but the contribution to the study of late-antique art and Islamic decoration made by the principle of simply understanding them was immense. Despite some recent claims that objectivity is impossible, this nonjudgmental ideal remains one of the pillars of modern art historical teaching.

It is tempting to regard the Viennese, with their profound personal acquaintance with the humanities as a whole, as writer of cultural history. Most of them, however, had a strong sense that the problems of art are the problems of art, and not those of another medium. The visual arts have their own criteria which we can only understand by patient inquiry into the objects and the way that they affect us visually and psychologically. Of course, once the primacy of this art-historical task is established analogies can still be detected. This need for autonomy is commonly disregarded in the voguish trends of the late twentieth century, which emphasize social, political, intra-psychic, and gender issues. The practitioners of these methods often seem little interested in the works of art, but wish to deploy them only as “exhibits” in building up a case against the bourgeoisie or patriarchy. Once they have been presented to the jury, they may be retired again to the property room. These latter day pundits believe that they are combatting elitism, when in fact they are reverting to the traditional privileging of words and ideas over visual experience.

History and historical development were important to the Viennese art historians, and this lesson was reinforced by their academic training. However, what gave distinctive character to the discipline they practiced was the fact that it concerned objects that were visible to the sight, hence the interest in visual perception. We apprehend physical objects through the agency of light. For this reason the Viennese--and Wölfflin--looked to advances in the study of optics and visual psychology. In any event our visual capacity generates its own dynamic. Hence, art history has its own specificity and is not simply reducible to cultural history.

A problematic aspect of the contribution of the Viennese art historians was their tendency to attribute styles to particular nations and races. To be sure, during their formative years the crude racial ideas adopted by Hitler had not yet risen to the fore. More sensibly, the interest in the contributions of different groups was fostered by the multinational character of the Habsburg empire. Lest we think boldly of this trend, one should note that it foreshadows today’s turn to multiculturalism, with its support for the creation of a distinctive art of African Americans and Americans of Hispanic heritage.
Another difficulty that has trouble some was that the findings of the Vienna school, though often rooted in the observation of individual works, tended to be rather general. Of course, they did not believe in any universally valid style--rather they recorded the difference among styles--but they did tend to stress the grand lines of development, rather than the individual and idiosyncratic. On the whole, they inclined to the philosophical trend stemming from Hegel in the early nineteenth century, rather than the empiricist individualism of Rumohr. In this perspective it is easy to see why some critics have felt that a necessary corrective was to be found in Warburg’s maxim “God lies in the details.”

The universalist program of the Viennese entailed a practical problem: even with advances in transportation, how was one to see all the objects that were required? Here technology came forward with a useful, but problematic invention. Strzygowski’s advice to study works in the original was honored more in the breach than the observance. Riegl’s accounts of the carpets under his care are often acute, but when he worked from photographs he sometimes overstate light-and-dark contrasts and other features stemming from the photographic techniques of his ow day. This problem of describing and evaluating works one has not observed directly persists, though advanced techniques of computer resolution may make it less serious. Today, also, foreign travel is easier and cheaper.
On the whole the Viennese were not much interested in subject matter, except in a general sense, as in Dvořák’s efforts to grasp the underlying mentality of late Gothic and mannerist art. This lack of interest reflected in part their own personal development. Having adopted the “enlightened” views of modern educated Austrians, with their aspirations to scientific objectivity and progress, they grew increasingly distant from the Catholicism in which they had grown up. Yet most of the art they studied was either Christian or pagan Greco-Roman in inspiration. Viewpoints neither one shared. Rather than reaffirming the overt message of these images (as did the French medievalist Emile Mâle, who remained Catholic), they sought to elicit the universal qualities of the art by framing the discussion in terms of formal values, such as planes, space, and masses. This emphasis has led to the charge that they were formalists. By the late twentieth century, the word formalist had descended to the status of an epithet, one all too often deployed as a multipurpose term of disparagement. As has been seen, individually and collectively, the views of the Viennese art historians are not reducible to any such simple formula.

1.   For a selection of primary material from the literary remains, see Joseph Gantner, Heinrich Wölfflin, 1864-1945: Autobiographien, Tagebücher und Briefe, Basel: Schwabe, 1982. For relations with Burckhardt, see Joseph Gantner, ed., Jacob Burckhardt and Heinrich Wölfflin, Briefwechsel und andere Dokumente ihrer Begegnung, 1882-1897, 2nd ed., Basel: Schwabe, 1989. Valuable intellectual biographies are Joan Goldhammer Hart, Heinrich Wölfflin: An Intellectual Biography, unpublished doctoral diss., Berkeley: University of California, 1981; and Manfred Lurz, Heinrich Wölfflin: Biographie einer Kunsttheorie, Worms: Werner, 1981.
2.   Heinrich Wölfflin, Renaissance and Baroque, trans. by Kathrin Simon, London: Collins, 1964.
3.   The importance of these pioneers of psychology was stressed by Wölfflin’s teacher in Berlin, the cultural historian Wilhelm Dilthey; see Joan Hart, “Reinterpreting Wölfflin: Neo-Kantianism and Hermeneutics,” Art Journal, 42:4 (Winter 1982), 292-300. On the whole, however, Wölfflin never succeeded in “modernizing” himself by adopting the empirical approach of the new laboratory psychology; he remained attached to the older philosophical analyses of perception. On the background, see Michael Podro, The Manifold in Perception: Theories of Art from Kant to Hildebrand, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.
4.   Paul Frankl, The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960, pp. 436-38, 772-75.
5.   In the 1922 preface to his Grundbegriffe of 1915, Wölfflin recognized that his earlier formulation was not quite satisfactory. In the new approach, he suggested that the expression Sehformen might be replaced by Vorstellungsformen. The term Vorstellung has a long and complicated history in German thought, but the gist of the new wording is that the retinal data thought, but gist of mind.  (he did not introduce the new formula into the main text of his magnum opus, which remained unaltered.)
6.   Wölfflin addressed the problem in a study of Raphael’s tapestry cartoons, which were reversed in the weaving process; “Das Problem der Umkehrung in Raffael’s Teppichkartons,” in his Gedanken zur Kunstgeschichte: Gedrucktes nd Ungedrucktes, Basel: Schwabe, 1940, pp. 90-96.
7.   For a new interpretation of this theorist, see Wolfgang Herrmann, Gottfried Semper: In Search of Architecture, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1984.
8.    Heinrich Wölfflin, Classical Art: An Introduction to the Italian Renaissance, trans. by Peter and Linda Murray, 2nd ed., London: Phaidon, 1964.
9.  Heinrich Wölfflin, Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Later Art, trans. by M. D. Hottinger, London: Bell, 1932 (translation poor). For the response to this book, published after the outbreak of World War I, see Martin Warnke, “On Heinrich Wölfflin,” Representations, 27 (1989), 172-87; see also Andreas Hauser, “Grundbegriffliches zu Wölfflins ‘Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffen,’” Jahrbuch des Schweitzerischen Instituts für Kunstwissenschaft, 1986, pp. 39-53.
10.   Lars Olof Larsson, “Nationalstil und Nationalismus in der Kunstgeschichte der Kunstgeschichte der zwanziger und dreissiger Jahre,” in Lorez Dittmann, ed., Kategorien und Methoden der deutschen Kunsteschichte 1900-1930, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1985, pp. 169-84.
11.  Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, 2nd English edition, New York: Wittenborn, 1948.
12.  René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism 1750-1950, vol. 7, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 155-57.
13.  Wylie Sypher, Four Stages of Renaissance Style: Transformations in Art and Literature 1400-1700, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday (Anchor Books), 1955. Wölfflin has sustained some criticism for leaving mannerism out of his scheme. However, the concept of this style (which remains problematic) did not crystalize until after he composed his main contributions. Moreover, the Swiss scholar did not claim the power to explain everything, but sought to isolate the leading features of the art of the sixteenth century, setting them off against their seventeenth-century counterparts.
14.  Carl Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.  See also the encyclopedic work of William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848-1938, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. A psychological approach is employed by Jacques Le Rider, Modernité viennoise et crises de l’identité, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1990. A distinguished scientist, Eric Kandel, offers a new approach in his The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, New York: Random House, 2012.
15.   Steven Beller, Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Although Jews, such as Max Friedlaender, Aby Warburg, and Bernard Berenson, were making important contributions to art history elsewhere in Europe, the founders of the Vienna school do not seem to have included any of their number. However, in the following generation such distinguished art historians of Jewish origin as Ernst such distinguished art historians of Jewish origin as Ernst Gombrich, Otto Kurz, Otto Pächt, and Fritz Saxl refined the ideas of the school and spread its influence in English-speaking countries.
16.  These structures have been exhaustively documented in Renate Wagner-Rieger et al., Die Wiener Ringstrasse: Bild einer Epoche, 11 vols. in 16, Vienna: Böhlau, 1969-81.
17.   Alessandra Comini, “From Façade to Psyche: The Persistence and Transformation of Portraiture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna,” Acts of the 22nd International Congress of Art Historians 1969, Budapest, 1972, pp. 411-14, 476-70.  See also her major work Egon Schiele’s Portraits, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.
18.   E. G. Dolan, ed., The Foundations of Austrian Economics, Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976; Norman F. Barry, “Austrian Economics: A Dissent from Orthodoxy,” in David Greenway et al., eds. Companion to Economic Thought, New York: Routledge, 1991, pp. 68-87.
19.  Otto Wagner, Modern Architecture: A Guidebook for His Students to This Field of Art, introduced and translated by Harry Francis Mallgrave, Santa Monica: The Getty Center, 1988.
20.  Kirk Varnedoe, Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture and Design, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1986.
21.  Jaroslav Leshko, “Klimt, Kokoschka und die Mykenischen Funde,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie, 57 (1969), 16-40; Lisa Florman, “Gustav Klimt and the Precedent of Ancient Greece,” Art Bulletin, 72 (1990), 310-26.
22.   Werner J. Schweiger, Wiener Werkstätte: Design in Vienna, 1903-1932, New York Abbeville Press, 1984.
23.  On philosophy in relation to other cultural developments, see Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.
24.   For an example, and a detailed account of the trend, see Thomas Munro, Evolution  in the Arts and Other Theories of Culture History, Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1963.
25.  Julius von Schlosser, “Die Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte: Rückblick auf ein Säkulum deutscher Gelehrtenarbeit in Österreich, ”Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Instituts für Geschichtsforschung (Ergänzungsband), 13:2 (1934), 145-210;  L. D. Ettlinger, ed., Wien und die Entwicklung der kunsthistorischen Methode (Akten des XXV.  Internationalen Kongresses für Kunstgeschichte, 1) , Vienna: Böhlau, 1984.
26.   On Eitelberger, see Gottfried Fliedl, Kunst und Lehre am Beginn der Moderne: Die Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule 1867-1918, Vienna: Residenz Verlag, 1986.
27.   For a roster of these art inventory volumes, see Donald L. Ehresmann, Fine Arts: A Bibliographic Guide to Basic Reference Works, Histories, and Handbooks, Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1975, pp. 178-218.
28.   Founded in 1867, it still exists as the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst. For its history, see Fliedl, Kunst und Lehre.
29.   Ioli Kalavrouzou-Maxeiner, “Franz Wickhoff: Kunstgeschichte als Wissenschaft,’ Wien und die Entwicklung, 17-27.
30.   This study, first published in 1895, has been several times reissued.  See the English version by Eugenie Strong: Franz Wickoff, Roman Art: Some of Its Principles and Their Application to Roman Painting, New York: Macmillan, 1900.
31.  Otto J. Brendel, Prolegomena to the Study of Roman Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
32.  Trans. by Peter Wortsman, in Gert Schiff, ed., German Essays on Art History, New York: Continuum, 1988, pp. 165-72.
33.   Henrika Kuklik, The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885-1945, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 119-81.
34. Alois Riegl, Late Roman Art Industry, trans. by Rolf Winkes, Rome: Giorgio Bretschneider, 1984. Regrettably, this book is so expensive that it is found in only a few libraries.
35.  Margaret Olin, Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Olin quotes from Riegl’s unpublished notes, which are often livelier than the corresponding published texts, suggesting that he deliberately “dulled down” the writing in accordance with the positivist, “scientific” ideal of prose dominant in his day. For a bibliography of Riegl’s published work, see Alois Riegl, Gesammelte Aufsätze, Augsburg: Dr. Benno Filser Verlag, 1929, pp. xxv-xxxix. 
See also, Alois Riegl Revisited Beiträge zu Werk und Rezeption; contributions to the opus and its reception; [Tagungsband zum Symposium "Alois Riegl 1905/2005", veranstaltet von der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften ... Wien, 20.- 22. Oktober 2005], edited by Peter Noever and Jaś Elsner, Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2005; and Jaś Elsner, "From Empirical Evidence to the Big Picture: Some Reflections on Riegl's Concept of 'Kunstwollen,'" Critical Inquiry (Summer 2006), 32:4, pp. 741-66.
36.  Forms of Representation, p. 18.
36a.  See now the English-language version: Gottfried Semper, Style, Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2004.
37.  W. H. Goodyear, The Grammar of the Lotus, Brooklyn: Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1891.
38.  Alois Riegl, Stilfragen: Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik, Berlin: Georg Siemens, 1893.  See now the English version, Problems of Style: Foundations for a History or Ornament, trans. Evelyn Kain, annotated by David Castriota, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. A clear account of this book appears in Ernst Hans Gombrich, The Sense of Order: A Study of the Psychology of Decorative Art, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 180-93.
39.  For Riegl and contemporary trends, including vitalism, see the incisive remarks of Willibald Sauerländer , “Alois Riegl und die Entstehung der autonomen Kunstgeschichte am Fin de siècle,” in Roger Bauer et al., eds., Fin de siècle: Zu Literatur und Kunst der Jahrhundertwende, Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1977, pp. 125-39.
40.  Peg Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich: The Formative Jugendstil Years, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.
41.   Both were edited and published by Karl M. Swoboda and Otto Pächt as Historische Grammatik der bildenden Künste, Graz: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1966. The title, with its reference to art as a language, is in keeping with Riegl’s intentions.  There is an English-language version:
Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts, trans. by Benjamin Binstock. New York: Zone Books, 2004.
42.  The history of this work is complicated. Riegl’s contribution was originally intended to take its place in a five-volume set covering ancient art objects found in Austria-Hungary. At the ouset, he worked on an essay on the applied arts, and the realize that he must preface this with a study of architecture, sculpture and painting. This text was published as Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie nach den Funden in Östereich-Ungarn, Vienna: K. K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1901. The books is usually consulted in the 1927 reedition or its reprint (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1973). The remainder of the planned five-volume set was not published.
43.  Olin, Forms of Representation, 148-53.
44.  Alois Riegl, “Das holländische Gruppenporträt,” Jahrbuch des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, 22 (1902), 71-278 (reissued as a monograph in two volumes, Vienna, 1931).  There is an English-language version: 
The Group Portrait of Holland, Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1999.
45.   E. H Gombrich, Art and Illusion, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960;   see also, Wolfgang Kemp, ed., Der Betrachter ist im Bild: Kunstwissenschaft und Rezeptionsästhetik, Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag, 1985.
46.   “Der moderne Denkmalkultus, sein Wesen, seine Entstehung (1903),’ in Gesammelte Aufätze, pp. 144-93.  There is an English-language version: "The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin" in K. Michael Hays, ed., Oppositions Reader, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998, pp. 221-53.
47.   Eva Frodl-Kraft, “Eine Aporie und der Versuch ihrer Deutung: Josef Strzygowski-Julius v. Schlosser,” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 42(1989), 7-52. This is a thorough and balanced study, in fact the only one of its kind known to me, bringing out both the good and the bad in Strzygowski.
48.   Strzygowski’s logical leaps and patchy evidence left him vulnerable to a counterattack from the “Romanist” (exogenesis) camp; for a summary of their arguments, see Emerson H. Swift, Roman Sources of Early Christian Art, New York: Columbia University Press, 1951. Yet additional finds, especially from the caravan cities in the Syrian-Jordanian desert, have given partial vindication to Strzygowski’s ideas.  A balanced account is provided by John B. Ward Perkins, “The Roman West and the Parthian East,” Proceedings of the British Academy, 51 (1965), 175-99.  See also,
Jaś Elsner, "The Birth of Late Antiquity: Riegl and Strzygowski in 1901," Art History, 25, no. 3 (2002), 358-79
49.  Ulrike Gensbaur-Bendler “Dagobert Frey--lebensphilosophische Grundlagen seiner Kunsttheorie,” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte. 42 (1989), 53-79.
50.    Dagobert Frey, Grundlagen su einer vergleichenden Kunstwissenschaft: Raum und Zeit in der Kunst der Afrikanisch-Eurasischen Hochkulturen, Innsbruck: Rudolf M.Rohrer Verlag, 1949.
51.    Otto Kurz, “Julius von Schlosser: personalità, metodo, lavoro,” Critica d’Arte, 2 (1955), 402-419. The periodical Kritische Berichte 16:4 (1988), contains a series of articles on Schlosser by Gombrich and others (pp. 5-64).
52.   La letteratura artistica, Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1956. A slightly enlarged version of this, dubbed the third edition, appeared with the same publisher in 1964. There is also a French translation, but no plans seem to have been made to produce an Eglish-language version.
53.  Gian G. N. Orsini, Benedetto Croce: Philosopher of Art and Literary Critic, Cardondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1961; David D. Roberts, Benedetto Croce and the Uses of Historicism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
54.  Artur Rosenauer, “Das Rätsel der Brüder Van Eyck--Max Dvořák und seine Stellung zu Wickhoff und Riegl,” Wien und die Entwicklung, 45-52.
55.  Werner Hofmann, “Was bleibt von der Wiener Schule?” Jahrbuch des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte [Munich], 2 (1986), 273-90, esp. p. 280. For a related perspective, emphasizing differences of national outlook, see Mitchell Schwarzer, “Cosmopolitan Difference in Max Dvořák’s Historiography,” Art Bulletin, 74 (1992), 669-78.
56.  Max Dvořák, Idealism and Naturalism in Gothic Art, trans. Randolph Klawitter, Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame University Press, 1967.
57.   The difficulties with Dvořák’s method were summed up many years after the master’s death by his pupil Hans Sedlmayr, “Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte,” in his Kunst und Wahrheit: Zur Theorie und Methode der Kunstgeschichte, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1958, pp. 71-86. However, Sedlmayr offers his own “spiritual” orientation as a dubious alternative to the guiding principles of his teacher.
58.  See the English translation by Michael Bullock, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style, New York: International Universities Press, 1953.  See also, Neil H. Donahue, Invisible Cathedrals: The Expressionist Art History of Wilhelm Worringer, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.
59.   For Worringer’s appeal to the expressionists see, Donald Gordon, Expressionism: Art and Idea, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, pp. 176-78.
60.   English version: Wilhelm Worringer, Form in Gothic, ed. and trans. by Herbert Read, London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1927.  More generally, see Magdalena Bushart, Der Geist der Gotik und die expressionistische Kunst, Munich: Verlag Silke Schreiber, 1990.
61.   The distinction is embodied in a programmatic essay that Sedlmayr inserted in the first volume of Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen (1931), the organ of the new group.  The text of the essay appears as “Kunstgeschichte als Kunstgeschichte,” in Sedlmayr, Kunst und Wahrheit, 35-70. On Sedlmayr, see the personal, yet balanced observations of Eva Frodl-Kraft, “Hans Sedlmayr (1896-1984),” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 44 (1991), 7-46.  For a collection of representative contributions from the second Viennese school, see Christopher S. Wood, ed., The Vienna School Reader: Politics an Art Historical Method in the 1930s, NewYork: Zone Books, 2000.
62. This method was extended into classical archaeology by Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg (1890-1958); see his Kleine Schriften zur Struktur (Ausgewählte Schriften, 1), Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1965.
63.  Hans Sedlmayr, Art in Crisis: The Lost Centre, trans. by Brian Battershaw, London: Hollis and Carter, 1957. German original: Verlust der Mitte: Das bildende Kunst des 19. und 20s. Jahrhunderts als Symptom und Symbol der Zeit, Salzburg: Otto Müller Verlag, 1948.

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