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International symposium on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Max J. Friedländer

Amsterdam, June 08, 2017
Deadline: Nov 7, 2016

Max J. Friedländer (1867-1958): art-historian, museum director, connoisseur
International symposium on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Max J. Friedländer’s birth

Organised by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the RKD – Netherlands
Institute for Art History, The Hague in collaboration with the
University of Bamberg and the CVNK (Contactgroep Vroege Nederlandse
Kunst/Network for specialists in early Netherlandish art)

The 5th of June 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Max J.
Friedländer (1867-1958), offering an excellent opportunity to reflect
on his legacy. Having grown up scarcely 200 meters from the Altes
Museum in Berlin – something that he loved to point out – Friedländer
joined the city’s Gemäldegalerie in 1896 as Wilhelm Bode’s scholarly
He was appointed director of the Kupferstichkabinett in 1908, then
subdirector of the Gemäldegalerie in 1912 and finally director of the
latter in 1929. Under the energetic leadership of Bode, the slightly
shy but highly ambitious Friedländer developed into a recognised
connoisseur and author of over eight hundred publications. He also made
significant acquisitions for Berlin, including paintings by Hugo van
der Goes and drawings by
Matthias Grünewald. His museum career came to a sudden end in 1933,
when the Nazis purged the Berlin museums of Jewish influence.
Eventually, Friedländer, with the help of the RKD, emigrated to The
Netherlands. Having survived the Second World War he died in Amsterdam
in 1958 at the age of 91.

In art history Friedländer’s name is primarily connected with his
famous fourteen volumes 'Die Altniederländische Malerei' (1924-1937).
Although the English translation of this pioneering work, published
between 1967 and 1976, made 'Early Netherlandish Painting' accessible
to a larger audience, it also concealed Friedländer’s mastery of the
German language. Currently, Friedländer’s magnum opus is mostly
consulted as a reference work. In
addition to his expertise in early Netherlandish painting, Friedländer
was equally known for his knowledge of early German artists such as
Albrecht Altdorfer, Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach. Probably less
well known are his writings on modern printmaking around 1900.

In the history of art history Friedländer is primarily associated with
”connoisseurship”, whichhe considered to be the most important
competence of an art historian. As early as 1919 he published 'Der
Kunstkenner', followed by 'Echt und Unecht'. 'Aus den Erfahrungen des
Kunstkenners' ten years later. These publications are unthinkable
without the experience his positions at the Berlin museums afforded
him. The essence of his connoisseurship was finally worded in his book
'On Art and Connoisseurship' from 1942, which received much
According to Friedländer, connoisseurship can be gained only by
practice and inevitably embodies a subjective form of scholarship. This
approach was already criticised in his own day. Subsequently, the lack
of a theoretical underpinning and the impossibility of factual
verification, gradually led to the decline of connoisseurship as a
scholarly method, especially in the academic field.

The symposium aims at highlighting Friedländer’s work as museum
official, scholar and connoisseur. Moreover, the relevance of
connoisseurship for today’s art history will be discussed.

Papers focussing on the following topics are invited:
· Friedländer’s activity at the Berlin museums and his cooperation with
and relation to his colleagues, other art historians and institutions,
as well as to art dealers, collectors and contemporary artists;
· evaluation of Friedländer’s scholarly contribution to the history of
art with regard to the early modern as well as modern period;
· the importance of connoisseurship as a method in art history,
including the field of technical study and its rivalry with the learned
eye, and the necessity of teaching connoisseurship.

The conference will be held in English. Proposals for 20-minute papers
(in English, maximum 400 words on one page A4, including your name,
position and institute) should be submitted before 7 November 2016 to:

Suzanne Laemers:
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