The Schmooze

Erwin Panofsky, Example in Letters and Life

The much-anticipated spring publication by Harrassowitz Verlag of the 5th and final volume of the correspondence of German Jewish art historian Erwin Panofsky is a cause for celebration.

Devoted to the years 1962-1968 (Panofsky died in the latter year at age 75), it goes far to explain the continuing influence of the noted Hannover-born author and teacher. Panofsky’s still-available brilliant studies, such as “Meaning in the Visual Arts” from The University Of Chicago Press; “Studies in Iconology” from Westview; and “The Life and Art of Albrecht Durer” from Princeton University Press taught generations of art lovers new ways of looking at paintings. Yet beyond the books he wrote, Panofsky’s warmth, humanity, and humor made him an unforgettable friend and colleague, as the Harrassowitz volume, consisting of letters mostly written in English, amply proves.

Unlike the often waspish, catty snobbery of art historian Bernard Berenson (born Valvrojenski to a Lithuanian Jewish family), Panofsky’s wit was charmingly self-deprecating, referring to himself in a 1962 letter to the

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Erwin Panofsky, Example in Letters and Life

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