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Christopher S. Wood

Christopher S. Wood is Professor in the Department of History of Art, Yale University. He is the author of Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape, and the editor of The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s (Zone Books, 2000).

Titles by This Author

In this widely anticipated book, two leading contemporary art historians offer a subtle and profound reconsideration of the problem of time in the Renaissance. Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood examine the meanings, uses, and effects of chronologies, models of temporality, and notions of originality and repetition in Renaissance images and artifacts. Anachronic Renaissance reveals a web of paths traveled by works and artists—a landscape obscured by art history's disciplinary compulsion to anchor its data securely in time. The buildings, paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and medals discussed were shaped by concerns about authenticity, about reference to prestigious origins and precedents, and about the implications of transposition from one medium to another. Byzantine icons taken to be Early Christian antiquities, the acheiropoieton (or "image made without hands"), the activities of spoliation and citation, differing approaches to art restoration, legends about movable buildings, and forgeries and pastiches: all of these emerge as basic conceptual structures of Renaissance art.

Although a work of art does bear witness to the moment of its fabrication, Nagel and Wood argue that it is equally important to understand its temporal instability: how it points away from that moment, backward to a remote ancestral origin, to a prior artifact or image, even to an origin outside of time, in divinity. This book is not the story about the Renaissance, nor is it just a story. It imagines the infrastructure of many possible stories.

Distributed for Zone Books

Titles by This Editor

Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s

This book introduces to an English-language audience the writings of the so-called New Vienna School of art history. In the 1930s Hans Sedlmayr (1896-1984) and Otto Pächt (1902-1988) undertook an ambitious extension of the formalist art historical project of Alois Riegl (1858-1905). Sedlmayr and Pächt began with an aestheticist conception of the autonomy and irreducibility of the artistic process. At the same time they believed they could read entire cultures and worldviews in the work of art. The key to this contextualist alchemy was the concept of "structure," a kind of deep formal property that the work of art shared with the world. Sedlmayr and Pächt’s project immediately caught the attention of thinkers like Walter Benjamin who were similarly impatient with traditional empiricist scholarship. But the new project had its dark side. Sedlmayr used art history as a vehicle for a sweeping critique of modernity that soon escalated into nationalist and outright fascist polemic, even while Pächt, a Jew, was forced into exile. Sedlmayr and the whole scholarly project of Strukturanalyse were sharply repudiated by Meyer Schapiro and later Ernst Gombrich.

After an introductory essay, the book opens with two selections from Riegl. Following this are essays by Sedlmayr, Pächt, Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg, and Fritz Novotny, all dating from the 1930s. The book closes with the divergent responses of Benjamin (1933) and Schapiro (1936). The difference of opinion between these two key voices raises again the question of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the method, and reveals the analogies between the New Vienna School project and the antiempiricist cultural histories of our own time. The book also contains an extensive bibliography.

Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s


This book introduces to an English-language audience the writings of the so-called New Vienna School of art history. In the 1930s Hans Sedlmayr (1896-1984) and Otto Pächt (1902-1988) undertook an ambitious extension of the formalist art historical project of Alois Riegl (1858-1905). Sedlmayr and Pächt began with an aestheticist conception of the autonomy and irreducibility of the artistic process. At the same time they believed they could read entire cultures and worldviews in the work of art. The key to this contextualist alchemy was the concept of "structure," a kind of deep formal property that the work of art shared with the world.

Sedlmayr and Pächt's project immediately caught the attention of thinkers like Walter Benjamin who were similarly impatient with traditional empiricist scholarship. But the new project had its dark side. Sedlmayr used art history as a vehicle for a sweeping critique of modernity that soon escalated into nationalist and outright fascist polemic, even while Pächt, a Jew, was forced into exile. Sedlmayr and the whole scholarly project of Strukturanalyse were sharply repudiated by Meyer Schapiro and later Ernst Gombrich.

After an introductory essay, the book opens with two selections from Riegl. The next section includes two essays by Sedlmayr, two by Pächt, and one each by Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg and Fritz Novotny, all dating from the 1930s. The book closes with the divergent responses of Benjamin (1933) and Schapiro (1936). The difference of opinion between these two key voices raises again the question of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the method, and reveals the analogies between the New Vienna School project and the antiempiricist cultural histories of our own time. The book also contains an extensive bibliography.