New York Review of Books
April 23, 2015
Online articles and blogs, and the streaming of lectures, have placed the last nails into the coffin of the small art book devoted to an illustrated talk by an eminent scholar, accessible to specialists and general readers alike. The Walter Neurath Memorial Lectures and the Council of the Frick Lecture Series are two such casualties (the former’s demise in 2000 preceded the Internet Age). And so the Getty Research Institute is to be commended for commissioning David Dollenmayer’s fine translation of Willibald Sauerländer’s Manet Malt Monet: Ein Sommer in Argenteuil, a lecture given in Munich in the summer of 2004, published by Verlag C.H. Beck of that city in 2012, and now—over a decade later—appearing in a handsomely designed English edition.
Now aged ninety, Sauerländer—a contributor to The New York Review for over thirty years—is a medievalist recognized above all for his work on Gothic and Romanesque sculpture and architecture. His interests have ranged widely to embrace Poussin, Rubens, Houdon, and Fragonard, but only very recently has he chosen to write on nineteenth-century topics (as in reviews in 2012 of exhibitions devoted to Corot and Renoir). “Trained in looking at things in a very intense way,” he has noted that the art historian needs to “absorb the emotional process in front of a work of art” and then “undergo the critical task of asking ourselves whether the emotional impact of the art is identical with the historical, or original, mission of the object.”