Riegl on the Baroque

Article excerpt

Riegl on the Baroque Review of: Alois Riegl: The Origins of Baroque Art in Rome. Edited and Translated by Andrew Hopkins and Arnold Witte. Essays by Alina Payne, Arnold Witte, and Andrew Hopkins, Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute 2010 (Texts & Documents), 292 pages, 47 b/w illustrations, ISBN 978-1-60606-041-4, USD 50.00

Alois Riegl (1858-1905) undoubtedly belongs to the most influential and original art historians around 1900 and as such has been recognised for a long time in historiography.1 Already in his lifetime, there was a wide-spread reaction to the three major works which Riegl published before his early death 1905, Stilfragen. Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik (Berlin 1893, translated by Evelyn Kain as Problems of Style. Foundations for a History of Ornament, Princeton 1992), Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie nach den Funden in Österreich-Ungarn, 1. Teil (Vienna 1901, translated by Rolf Winkes as Late Roman Industry, Rome 1985), and "Das holländische Gruppenporträt', (originally in Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, 23,1902, 71-278, translated by Evelyn Kain and David Britt as The Group Portraiture of Holland, Los Angeles 1999). Yet Riegl's impact as a teacher seems to have been even greater, lecturing from 1889 at the University of Vienna. His many pupils felt obliged to publish Riegl's lecture notes and scattered articles after his death, starting in 1908 with the volume under discussion here, Die Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom, based on university lectures in the terms 1894/95, 1898/99,1901/02 and edited by Arthur Burda and Max Dvorák. After the First World War nearly all of Riegl's texts were edited or re-edited, including a second, revised publication of Barockkunst in 1923, edited by Karl M. Swoboda and Johannes Wilde. This renewed interest in Riegl in the 1920s and 1930s centred on the evaluation of his prominent, yet enigmatic concept of Kunstwollen and the discussion of the term Mannerism as a period style related to the counter-reformation, as first argued by Riegl in his Barockkunst and later elaborated by Max Dvorák and many others in the 1920s.2 Both debates stood at the heart of the so-called second Vienna school of art history, and émigré members of this circle, like Otto Pächt or Ernst Gombrich, inaugurated the debate and reception of Riegl's thoughts from the 1960s onwards in Anglo-American academia.3 This has resulted in the translation of all of Riegl's major works into English, of which the translation of Die Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom by Andrew Hopkins and Arnold Witte, edited as The Origins of Baroque Art in Rome in the series Texts and Documents of the Getty Research Institute in 2010, is the most recent.

It is one of the merits of this latest Riegl translation that it does not only produce a scrupulous and sensible translation of the original German text of 1908 (89-254), but also addresses the important historiographie aspects of Riegl's ongoing importance by the inclusion of three introductory essays (1-87) and a wide-ranging bibliography of Riegl's publications and secondary sources (255-264), which take up together nearly half of this volume. Andrew Hopkins, in a well-founded essay aptly titled 'Riegl Renaissances' (60-87), enfolds the diverse responses to Riegl up to today. He differentiates convincingly between a first 'Riegl Renaissance' in the 1920s and 1930s in Austria and Germany, and a second, yet interconnected 'Riegl Renaissance' in the 1980s and 1990s. This was initiated by the re-evaluation of Riegl by Henri Zerner and Michael Podro,4 and followed from the late 1970s onwards by the parallel research on Riegl by Margaret Olin in Chicago and Margaret Iversen in Essex.5 The latter's indirect connection to the original Vienna School - as Hopkins hinted, Iversen was a doctoral student of Michael Podro, himself being Gombrich's pupil (like Richard Woodfield) - highlights the general importance of teacher- student filiations for historiography. …