Heinrich Wölfflin's ideas and historiographical discourse

Bauer, Kaarina-Nancy (2008). Heinrich Wölfflin's ideas and historiographical discourse. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d4da


This thesis on Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) is a problematisation and, essentially, a revision of the interpretation of his personal discourse: the theories, themes and implications of three of his texts. This re-evaluation is a historiographical analysis in connection with the unpublished material in the Wölfflin archives, which establishes Wölfflin's concern for the subject in terms of an anthropological Kulturgeschichte. The subjectdriven terminology of the texts indicates an aesthetics of perception and reception. Wölfflin's thinking is analysed with regards to his methodological practices (formal analysis and comparison of two images) and academic scholarship (focusing mostly on Renaissance and Baroque studies). His texts are an exemplification and evidence for the theoretical conception of the historical categories (in a philosophical and epistemological sense) of bodiliness (Karperlichkeit, Karperhaftigkeit) and visuality (Sichtbarkeit, Anschauung) within the cultural transition between the fields of historicism and modernity/modernism. Through the impact of photographic reproductions he demarcated an analytical typology of architectural form and spatial effects, and of modes of depiction (of artists, sculptors or arqhitects) and categories of beholding (of the viewer), with emphasis on the underlying and ontological connection between each of the two domains, that is, bodiliness in the Prolegomena and Renaissance and Baroque, and visuality in the Principles of Art History. The fundamental and problematic interweaving of issues of theory and history characterises Wölfflin's theories throughout his life and in this his discourse is symptomatic for the emergent discipline of art history. The construction of the Wolfflinian field is set up in relation to the conditions of the intellectual context of the discipline, as extrapolation of aesthetics, philosophy, psychology, epistemology, systemisation, Wissenschaftlichkeit and history-writing. The identification and unfolding of multiple intentions, ambiguities and problems are crucial aspects of this interpretation of Wölfflin's theory of art history in theoretical and practical terms.

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