In 1941 Fritz Saxl and Rudolf Wittkower of the Warburg Institute organized an exhibition on English Art and the Mediterranean. The photographic exhibition showed the long history of artistic and cultural ties between English art and the classical tradition, employing Aby Warburg's method. The project was an attempt by Saxl, as director, to show the relevance of the Warburg Institute's work in England, the new home of the Library since 1933. Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery, actively promoted the work of the Institute, including by supporting the naturalization process for many of the Warburg scholars. The popular belief in the cultural ties between England and Italy fed into the positive reception for the exhibition and into acceptance of the work of the Warburg Institute. The exhibition was published in a large format catalog in 1948, further adding to the popularity of the exhibition with a diverse British public. Although the motivation for the exhibition emerged from political conditions and institutional circumstance, it had a lasting effect on the history of the study of English art and architecture. Wittkower and others turned to research on the classical tradition in English art, even though the method had limited relevance beyond the “neoclassical” period.
Christy Anderson; WAR WORK: English Art and the Warburg Institute. Common Knowledge 1 January 2012; 18 (1): 149–159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-1456944
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