Werner Haftmann


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German art historian and administrator. He was born in Głowno (now in Poland) and studied at the universities of Berlin and Göttingen. From 1935 he worked at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. After the Second World War he settled in Hamburg, where he taught history of art and worked as a freelance writer. From 1967 to 1974 he was director of the Nationalgalerie, Berlin. His major work is Malerie im 20 Jahrhundert (2 vols, 1954; 2nd edn, 1957), translated as Painting in the Twentieth Century (2 vols, 1961; 2nd edn, 1965). This is the most detailed survey of its type, and the second English edition contains more than a thousand illustrations. The book still has valuable insights to offer, although its language and theory, heavily influenced by idealist philosophy, can be problematic for the contemporary reader. For Haftmann, modern art is identified with the world of the spirit. The great modern artists who look intensely from the cover, Picasso, Kokoschka, Marc, and Chagall, are the visionaries who grasp that spirit. His other writings are mainly monographs on 20th-century artists, including Nolde (1958), Nay (1960), Wols (1963), Chagall (1972 and 1975), and Uhlmann (1975). He was also one of the organizers of the exhibition ‘German Art of the Twentieth Century’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1957. With Arnold Bode, he was responsible for the first three documenta exhibitions in Kassel.

Subjects: Art.

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