Panofsky, Erwin


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Panofsky, Erwin

(pănŏf`skē), 1892–1968, American art historian, b. Germany, Ph.D. Univ. of Freiburg, 1914. After teaching (1921–33) at the Univ. of Hamburg and serving as professor of fine arts at New York Univ., he joined (1935) the faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. His writings are among the most important of the 20th cent. in art history. Panofsky contributed studies, particularly in the realm of iconography, of the medieval, Renaissance, mannerist, and baroque periods. He is admired for his immense erudition, his discoveries, and his profound observations, laced with touches of humor. Among his principal works in English are Studies in Iconology (1939, 2d ed. 1962), Albrecht Dürer (1943, 4th ed. 1955), Early Netherlandish Painting (1953), and Renaissance and Renascenses in Western Art (2d ed. 1965). Other writings include The Codex Huygens and Leonardo da Vinci's Art Theory (1940), Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St.-Denis and Its Art Treasures (1946), Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (1951), Galileo as a Critic of the Arts (1954), Meaning in the Visual Arts (1955), Correggio's Camera di San Paolo (1961), Tomb Sculpture (1964), Idea: A Concept in Art Theory (1924, tr. 1968), and Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic (1969).

Panofsky, Erwin

 

Born Mar. 30, 1892, in Hanover; died Mar. 14, 1968, in Princeton, N.J. German-American art historian. Professor in Hamburg from 1926 to 1933 and at Princeton beginning in 1935.

Panofsky—influenced by the Vienna school of art studies (M. Dvořák, A. Riegl), as well as by the teachings of E. Cassirer on “symbolic forms”—together with A. Warburg and F. Saxl provided the foundation for the iconological approach to the study of works of art. Striving to overcome the one-sidedness of both the stylistic and the purely iconographic approaches, he proposed that a work of art be considered as a characteristic manifestation—a sign or “symptom”—of a cultural-historical situation, which is reflected not only in the choice of the subject but also in the artistic style. In his research, which was devoted mainly to medieval and Renaissance art, Panofsky analyzed peculiarities of form within the context of a philological and historical-philosophical interpretation of the content.

WORKS

Studies in Iconology. Oxford, 1939. New edition, New York [1962].
Meaning in the Visual Arts. Garden City, 1957.
Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft. Berlin, 1964.

REFERENCES

Libman, M. Ia. “Ikonologiia.” In the collection Sovremennoe iskusstvoznanie za rubezhom: Ocherki. Moscow, 1964. Pages 62–76.
Bialostocki, J. “Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968), myśliciel, historyk, człowiek.” In E. Panofsky, Studia z historii sztuki. Warsaw, 1971.

Panofsky, Erwin

(1892–1968) art historian; born in Hanover, Germany. He studied at the Universities of Berlin and Munich (c. 1910–14) and the University of Freiburg (Ph.D. 1914); after military service in World War I, he was a professor of the University of Hamburg (1921–32) and worked as a librarian. He fled Nazi Germany, emigrated to New York City (1934), and taught briefly at New York University (1934–35); from 1935 on he taught at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Although best known in his field for developing the iconological approach to art—a method of interpreting the meaning of works of art by an intense analysis of the symbolism, history, and other nonaesthetic aspects of the subject matter—he had an interest in a wide variety of subjects from the history of movies and the detective story to the works of Mozart. His many published works—which gained him the reputation as the major art historian of the 20th century—include Early Netherlandish Painting (1947), Preface to Studies in Iconology (1939), Pandora's Box (1956), and Meaning in the Visual Arts (1955).
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