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Kunsthistorisches Institut

Wölfflin Renaissances 1915-2015

RSA Annual Meeting, Berlin, March 26-28, 2015

Organizers: Evonne Levy and Tristan Weddigen

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Heinrich Wölfflin`s Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Principles of Art History) we propose three sessions on one of the signal works of early modern art history, a work translated into 24 languages and still in print, taught and debated. The sessions will bring together papers on Wölfflin’s text, and on its wide and wildly diverse receptions: from its deep dissemination and ongoing humming as one of art history`s unacknowledged operating systems to its positioning as a scapegoat at times of disciplinary renewal. The session organizers, co-editors of a new English translation of the book (Getty Publications, 2015) and of a larger research project on the worldwide reception, propose to bore down on the occasion of the Berlin RSA meeting on the important and complex Central and Eastern receptions, while also inviting papers on any aspect of the text and its reception in the humanities that are of concern to today`s researchers in art history and also in other disciplines (such as literary studies and musicology), where the book enjoyed a wide reception at a time when art history might have provided a method for many Geisteswissenschaften.

Potential speakers please send an abstract (150-word maximum) and brief curriculum vitae (300-word maximum) by May 25, 2014 to and Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation and must be members of the RSA at the time of the conference. For more information about the RSA conference, please consult the RSA site.

Session I: Wölfflin Renaissances - Reading Wölfflin in Germanophone Europe

Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe, published in Germany by the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin in 1915, has gone through 19 editions. An immediate publishing success, it is currently back in the discussion on the history of art history, after decades of refusals and ‘renaissances’. Papers are called for that help to explain the reading of this work in the context of debates in art history and Kunstwissenschaft over the 100 years since it was published. Papers may map out symptomatic episodes in the reception of this book: as a work of high theory and interdisciplinary impact as well as a popular work read in drawing rooms across Germanophone Europe, a work laying out the foundations for a ‘science of art’ and a decontextualizing formalism, a work redefining the notion of both Renaissance and Baroque etc. The reception of the Grundbegriffe being global, this panel focuses on the Germanophone world as to explore its immediate impact and discussion.

Session II: Wölfflin Renaissances - Reading Wölfflin in Central and Eastern Europe

Heinrich Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe has been translated into Rumanian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Lithuanian, Croatian and Russian and is currently being translated into the Georgian language. These largely post-war translations surely reflect the politics of the region in the first place. In this session proposals for papers are called for that examine the need for and peculiar uses of this fundamental work of formalism in the context of local institutions, teaching and scientific cultures of art history, before and after World War II and the Iron Curtain. Papers may focus on key transmitters and institutions, on the history of the translations and editions themselves, on methodological debates that may have arisen with the translation and the effects of the work on the discipline in a given place. Positive and negative reactions are equally valuable.

Session III: Wölfflin Renaissances - New Perspectives of the Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe

Papers are called for that offer new perspectives on any aspect of Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe and its worldwide reception (1915-2015). Topics may include, but are not limited to: the reading of Wölfflin’s text outside of art history (philosophy, literary studies, musicology, history and so on); traces of Wölfflin’s formalism in recent art history and art practice; Wölfflin’s principles and museum display; the impact of the Grundbegriffe on notions of Renaissance and Baroque; Wölfflin’s role in recent discussions about the notion of style; Wölfflin’s comparative method (genealogy and afterlife); the affirmative and critical modes of reception in the post-war period and after 1968; formalism and post-war art movements and art criticism; formalism in the classroom; the afterlife of the Grundbegriffe through Wölfflin’s students etc.

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