H. W. Janson, founder of the modern Department of Art History, the subject of an article in The Art Bulletin

31 Jul

H. W. Janson (1913-82), founder of the modern Department of Art History at NYU, and author of numerous scholarly books and articles as well as the acclaimed survey History of Art, is the subject of an article published in the June 2013 number (volume XCV, no. 2) of The Art Bulletin, the journal of record for art history in the United States.

Co-authored by Professor Elizabeth Sears, George H. Forsyth Jr. Collegiate Professor History of Art at the University of Michigan, and Professor Charlotte Schoell-Glass of the Department of Art History at the University of Hamburg, “An Émigré Art Historian and America: H. W. Janson” charts Janson’s intellectual formation and interests and the various facets of his career in America.

Born in 1913 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Janson studied art history at Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky. In 1935, at Panofsky’s suggestion, and under the sponsorship of Alfred Barr, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Janson came to the United States and pursued a Ph.D. in art history (awarded in 1942) at Harvard. He came to NYU in 1949 and chaired the Department of Art History — then the Department of Fine Arts — for twenty-five years (1949-75) while teaching and advising graduate students at the Institute of Fine Arts, “developing the undergraduate program at Washington Square into one of the finest in the nation,” as the Dictionary of Art Historians notes. Two of his books, Apes and Ape Lore in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1952) and The Sculpture of Donatello (1957) were awarded the Charles Rufus Morey Prize from the College Art Association. A leader in the profession who chaired and directed numerous national organizations and committees, a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1952-53), and a noted photographer, mainly of sculpture, in 1974 Janson delivered the Mellon lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on nineteenth-century sculpture. For more about Janson, see the biography in the Dictionary of Art Historians and our departmental website.

The authors of “An Émigré Art Historian and America: H. W. Janson” consulted materials in the Department of Art History’s Janson archive, which is being catalogued by our librarian, Thomaï Serdari. They also interviewed and consulted two Department of Art History faculty members, Carol Krinsky and Lucy Freeman Sandler, both of whom were hired by Janson in the 1960s. Scores of our majors as well as students from NYU at large have studied with Professor Krinsky, who teaches History of Western Art I, Northern Renaissance Art, History of Architecture from Antiquity to the Present, and Modern Architecture in the Department of Art History and Program for Urban Design and Architecture Studies. Professor Sandler, who is Helen Gould Sheppard Professor Emerita of Art History and a recent recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship, and who was for many years an Institute Lecturer in the History of Art and Archaeology at the Institute of Fine Arts, succeeded Janson as Chair of the Department of Art History (she served from 1975-89). For more about Professor Sandler, see our March 7, 2011 blogpost and the biography in the Dictionary of Art Historians.

Kathryn A. Smith

Sears-Schoell-Glass - Emigre Art Historian-Janson

Read the entire article here.

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