Life and work
Pächt studied art history in Vienna, and received his doctorate in 1925 with a dissertation on medieval painting, supervised by Julius von Schlosser. Pächt was, alongside Hans Sedlmayr, one of the proponents of art-historical Strukturforschung, a key scholar of the so-called New Vienna School of Art History (an art-historical school involved in the reformulation of methodological approaches first advanced by Alois Riegl). His advanced doctoral dissertation (Habilitation) of 1932 was written on the painter Michael Pacher, supervised by August Grisebach (de), at Heidelberg. It was published, along with work by Sedlmayr, in the journal Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen. With the rise of the National Socialists to power in Germany in 1933, Pächt's university post was revoked and he returned to Vienna. Shortly before Anschluss, Pächt left Austria to accept an invitation to work with the National Gallery of Ireland.
In 1936, Pächt travelled to England. From 1937 until 1941, he worked at the Warburg Institute in London. At Oxford University, he catalogued manuscripts in the collection of the Bodleian Library, and also had teaching duties. From 1945 he held an honorary lectureship in medieval art at Oriel College, and in 1950 was appointed to a lecturing position at the University. In the 1950s and 1960s Pächt held short-term positions at Princeton University, the Institute of Fine Arts, and at Oxford. In 1963, at the invitation of Otto Demus, he was appointed as professor of art history at the University of Vienna. From 1969, Pächt headed the Department of Manuscripts at the Austrian National Library, and following his retirement in 1972, he compiled and edited a catalogue of illuminated manuscripts in the Austrian national collection.
- Das Verhältnis von Bild und Vorwurf in der mittelalterliche Entwicklung der Historiendarstellung, (doctoral dissertation), Vienna, 1925.
- Gestaltungsprinzipien der westlichen Malerei des 15. Jahrunderts, (Habilitationsschrift), Heidelberg, 1932. Published partially as: "Gestaltungsprinzipien der westlichen Malerei des 15. Jahrhunderts." Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen 2 (1933): 75-100.
- "Panofsky's 'Early Netherlandish Painting'", Burlington Magazine 98 (1956), part I (April): 110-116, part II (August): 267-79.
- "Alois Riegl", Burlington Magazine 105 (May 1963): 188-93.
- Methodisches zur Kunstgeschichten Praxis, ausgewählte Schriften, Munich: Prestel, 1977. Translated in English as The Practice of Art History: Reflections on Method, New York: Harvey Miller, 1999.
- Van Eyck: Begründer der altniederländishen Malerei. Munich: 1989. Translated as Van Eyck and the Founders of Early Netherlandish Painting, 1994
Decorations and awards
- 1976: Wilhelm Hartel Prize
- Austrian Decoration for Science and Art
- Hans Morgenstern "Jüdisches Biographisches Lexikon", LIT Verlag