Hans Sedlmayr

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Hans Sedlmayr (18 January 1896, in Szarvkő, Kingdom of Hungary – 9 July 1984, in Salzburg) was an Austrian art historian. Sedlmayr first studied architecture at Vienna's Technische Hochschule between 1918 and 1920. Afterward, he continued his education at the University of Vienna, where he studied art history under Max Dvořák, until Dvořák's death in 1921. He continued at the University of Vienna under Dvořák's successor, Julius von Schlosser, who advised Sedlmayr's dissertation on Austrian baroque architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, which was published in 1925. Sedlmayr held a chair in Art History at the University of Vienna from 1936 until 1945, then at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich from 1951 until 1964. In 1964 he was appointed as visiting professor at the University of Salzburg, where he established the art history curriculum. Sedlmayr was a strong supporter of the preservation of the old town in Salzburg. He stressed the importance of studying art and architecture in their historical and social context.[1] He specialized in the study of Baroque architecture and wrote a book on the churches of Francesco Borromini. A founding member of the New Vienna School of art history alongside Otto Pächt, which based itself on the writings of Alois Riegl, he wrote a manifesto in 1931 called Zu einer strengen Kunstwissenschaft ("Toward a Rigorous Study of Art"[2]). In this text, Sedlmayr calls on the discipline of art history to move past empirical research, and he introduces a 'second', interpretive method of art historical analysis that would discern the aesthetic nature of the artwork. This method of art history is known as Strukturforschung (structure research) or Strukturanalyse (structure analysis). He is the author of Verlust der Mitte: Die bildende Kunst des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts als Symptom und Symbol der Zeit (1948, "Loss of the Center: the Fine Arts of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries as Symptom and Symbol of the Times"), published in English in 1957 as Art in Crisis: The Lost Center.[3] In this book, Sedlmayr offers a "critique" of the spirit of the 19th Century, as revealed through the artwork created during that time period.[4]

He was a member of the Austrian Nazi Party from 1930-1932, and again, following the Anschluss when membership of the party again became legal in Austria, from 1938-1942. He left the party when the first news of the camps arrived.[5] Following World War II he lost his position at the University of Vienna as a result of his membership, although he was never prosecuted by the OSS. In 1946 he began to publish in the review Wort und Wahrheit ("Word and Truth") under the pseudonym Hans Schwartz, the name of his best Jewish friend, murdered in the camps, and he continued to do so until 1954. In 1951 Sedlmayr was appointed to the University of Munich to the position of ordinarius of the Institute of Art History. In 1963 he became Professor (Emeritus) at the University of Salzburg (Austria), where he created the chair of Art History.[6]

After the loss of his first wife, Helene Fritz, in 1943 he married Maria von Schmedes, a well-known singer. In 1951 their only daughter Susanna was born. Susanna became a picture restorer, working in Rome, Zürich, Vienna and Paris at the Louvre). She married a French neurophysiologist, Jean-Patrick Gueritaud, and since 1979 has lived in Marseille with her family working for French museums on the South coast and for private collections.


  1. ^ "Dictionary of Art Historians". Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Sedlmayr, Hans (2000). Wood, Chistopher S., ed. Toward a Rigorous Study of Art (1931). The Vienna School Reader. Politics and Art Historical Methods in the 1930s. Cambridge, MA. pp. 131–180. ISBN 1-890951-14-5. 
  3. ^ Sedlmayr, Hans (2006) [1948/1957]. Art in Crisis: The Lost center. New Brunswick. ISBN 1-4128-0607-0. 
  4. ^ Sedlmayr, Hans (1957). Art in Crisis: The Lost Centre. London: Hollis & Carter. 
  5. ^ Haiko, Peter (1989). Heiss, Gernot; et al., eds. "'Verlust der Mitte' von Hans Sedlmayr als kritische Form im Sinne der Theorie von Hans Sedlmayr". Willfährige Wissenschaft. Die Universität Wien 1938-1945: 87. 
  6. ^ "Dictionary of Art Historians". Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  • Hans Sedlmayr, "The quintessence of Riegl's Thought (1929)," translated by Matthew Rampley in Richard Woodfield (ed.), Framing Formalism: Riegl's Work (Amsterdam 2001), pp. 11–31. ISBN 90-5701-322-3
  • Hans Sedlmayr, "Art in Crisis: The Lost Centre (1957)," translated by Brian Battershaw, Hollis and Carter Ltd., London.

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