Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Reprinting and Republishing Wölfflin in the 1920s

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Reprinting and Republishing Wölfflin in the 1920s

Article excerpt

A surprising number of art historical texts written before, during and just after the first world war were republished in the 1920s. The fourth edition of Renaissance und Barock: eine Untersuchung über Wesen und Entstehung des Barockstils in Italien by Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) was published by Bruckmann in Munich in 1926 with an additional hundred and fifty pages of new text added to it by Hans Rose (1888- 1945).1 Rose had been chosen by Wölfflin to undertake the task and his approach differed quite markedly from the majority of reprints that appeared in this decade [See the Appendix to this article].2

Except for Rose's 1926 edition of Renaissance und Barock, all the other volumes were principally reprints with corrections, minor additions and emendments, new or additional photographs, or collected editions of earlier essays with introductions. The reason why things had to be different for Wölfflin and Rose in the mid 1920s was that Wölfflin had, in the first instance, deliberately shied away from directly reacting to the posthumous publication by Schroll in Vienna of the text by Alois Riegl (1858-1905) Die Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom in 1908, presumably because he knew or guessed it would vie directly with his Renaissance und Barock, originally published in 1888.3

What else can have prompted him in the autumn of 1906 to bring out a new edition of Renaissance und Barock with the assistance of Hans Willich (1869-1943)?4 There is no doubt that it was his knowledge of the impending publication of Riegl's text by Arthur Burda and Max Dvorák (1874-1921) that pushed Wölfflin to republish in 1907.5 A slightly revised text and new and improved photos are the main changes as announced on the title page and in the forward written by Wölfflin, where he disarmingly explains that he had given Willich a free hand to make whatever changes he deemed necessary, although without being drastic.6 Yet for almost two decades Wölfflin had not seriously returned to Renaissance und Baroque, except for the annotations he made in his own copy and presumably passed to Willich, in contrast to the extensive and immediate revisions and corrections to his Die klassische Kunst: eine Einführung in die italienische Renaissance that he made when republishing it in 1901, just two years after the first edition had appeared with Bruckmann in Munich.7

Even more surprising is the appearance of a third edition in 1908, which already acknowledges in its opening pages Riegl's work, although Wölfflin also stated that he could not react to this material in his own text but would do so in a review.8 Anyone who has worked in academia will know how ingenuous such a statement sounds. Wölfflin did review Riegl's volume in 1908 and, as Arnold Witte has noted, he started out with a strikingly positive evaluation and praised Riegl's power of visual perception and his descriptions of works of art, but he also criticized the absence of synthetic reasoning. He also felt Riegl's editors were overly reverential about the importance of his work, they being ex-pupils, suggesting that Wölfflin did not grasp the import of Riegl's methodological innovations shifting focus from abstract stylistic development to historical objects and the circumstances of their creation.9

Fast-forwarding to the 1920s and the series of reprints undertaken in this decade or so, the significance of Hans Rose's contribution to the Wölfflin re-edition becomes clear. Rose not only adds 150 pages of entirely new text, but in his conclusion he directly engages with Riegl.10 In fact, Rose's closing words specifically mention Riegl several times: "To begin with, Alois Riegl formulated the opposition between tactile and optical artistic formation, which to my judgment establishes a too narrow relation between the ideal and the respective artistic disciplines".11 Rose goes on to conclude:

Even more importantly, Riegl was guided by this antithesis toward another issue, namely that of the artistic method of thinking. …

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