Newsletter Archive: Autumn 2000
Who's Who? The historiography of classical art in the 20th century
one-day conference, funded by the British Academy, was organised by Sorcha
Carey and Viccy Coltman, Henry Moore Fellows at the Institute, to promote
discussion about classical art history as an academic discipline. Focusing
on the work of Alois Riegl, Eugénie Strong, Sir John Beazley, Bernard
Ashmole, Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli and Sir Ernst Gombrich, the conference
attracted a wide audience of over 80 scholars and students, from the United
Kingdom, Europe and the US.
The day's proceedings opened with a paper by Nigel Spivey (Cambridge) exploring the contribution of Sir Ernst Gombrich (the only living figure to be discussed at the conference). His paper situated the art historian against the backdrop of the Vienna school and pointed to the work of Karl Popper and fellow émigré, Sigmund Freud, as early influences. Anthony Snodgrass (Cambridge) offered a psychological insight into the personality of John Beazley, contrasting the scholar's hedonistic and homoerotic experiences as a young man at Oxford, with the austere scholarly persona which he was later to develop in his work on Greek vase painting. Geoffrey Waywell (King's College, London) gave a paper which addressed Bernard Ashmole's use of casts and photographs in the study of ancient sculpture, particularly in reuniting sculptural fragments housed in different European collections.
Having focused in the morning on the legacy of Greek art, the afternoon session turned to Rome. Mary Beard (Cambridge) showed how Eugénie Strong's contribution to the study of classical art history extended far beyond that of the translator of Fürtwangler's Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture. Drawing on the unpublished letters of Strong and her contemporaries, Beard suggested that Strong was one of the first of our classical art historians to apply Morelli's methodology to the study of ancient sculpture. Marcello Barbanera (La Sapienza, Rome), who is currently writing a biography of Bianchi Bandinelli, revealed Alois Riegl and Kaschnitz von Weinberg as early inþuences on the Italian art historian, best known for his marxist theory of bipolarity in Roman art. Finally, Jas' Elsner (Oxford) looked at Riegl as a pioneer of viewing and relativism, exploring his attempt to write objective art history which would also embrace the idea of subjectivity.
After the papers there followed a discussion which raised issues such as the development of the 'professional' study of classics in the nineteenth century.
Sorcha Carey & Viccy Coltman
Henry Moore Fellows