Session Chair, Historic Libraries and the Historiography of Art (II)

02.12.20 - 02.15.20

Hilton Chicago

108th Annual Conference, College Art Association

Historic libraries are coming into their own as resources for interpreting intellectual history. Analyzing those libraries that have informed art historians, art critics and their public has opened new paths for exploring art historiography. Whether book and manuscript collections survive intact, perhaps in their original locations, or are known only through bibliographies or inventories, they yield information that broadens established narratives of the discipline. What is more, such collections are ideally suited to documenting art history’s evolving relationship with social, intellectual and geopolitical currents.

This session builds on a theme introduced at CAA 2019 by addressing new questions, incorporating new methodologies, and introducing previously untapped collections. New questions include, for example, the distribution and impact of “official” vs. “unofficial” resources in the Communist-era library of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Art. Another investigates interpretations of Michelangelo through the “textual lens” of Leopoldo Cicognara’s early nineteenth-century library. New methodologies include data visualizations of the readership of an art library given to the University of Paris in 1918; the visualizations incorporate quantitative and prosopographical data. Previously untapped libraries include that of Charles Eastlake, which served him in his several roles, including as Director of the National Gallery, London. Comparative analysis of Eastlake’s library with those of precursors and contemporaries underlines how readily analysis of any one library aids and encourages the analysis of others. Taken as a whole, this session highlights how libraries not only inform but also shape the relatively young and still restive discipline of art history.