Johannes Wilde

(1891—1970) art historian

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(b Budapest, 2 June 1891; d London, 13 Sept. 1970). Hungarian-born art historian who became an Austrian citizen in 1928 and a British citizen in 1947. From 1923 to 1938 he was on the staff of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and he gained an international reputation with his work on the Italian (particularly the Venetian) paintings there. He made many contributions to the attribution and dating of pictures, and one of his most important achievements was the systematic use of X-rays, not only as a tool for discovering the physical condition of a painting but also as a guide to the artist's creative process. Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, Wilde resigned from the Kunsthistorisches Museum and moved to England. From 1948 to 1958 he taught at the Courtauld Institute, where he was an inspirational figure—Kenneth Clark described him as ‘the most beloved and influential teacher of art history of his time’. Wilde published comparatively little, and as Anthony Blunt wrote, ‘his wisdom was mainly dispensed in lectures, supervisions and private conversation’. During his lifetime only two of his major contributions appeared in book form in English, both on Michelangelo's drawings—in the catalogue of the 15th- and 16th-century drawings at Windsor Castle (1949, with A. E. Popham) and in his catalogue of Michelangelo's drawings in the British Museum (1953). In these two works, which demonstrate his keen sensibility as well as his great learning, Wilde effectively reversed the ‘revisionist’ tendency whereby many genuine drawings by Michelangelo had been rejected. After his death, two collections of lectures were published: Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian (1974) and Michelangelo (1978).

From The Oxford Dictionary of Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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