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Art history at the art school: revisiting the institutional origins of the discipline based on the case of nineteenth-century Greece

Vratskidou, Eleonora

As part of a broader research on the teaching of art history in nineteenth-century art academies, this paper focuses on the courses offered at the Athenian School of Arts from 1844 to 1863 by the historian and philologist Grigorios Pappadopoulos. In his teaching, Papadopoulos turned away from the tradition of a universal history for artists established in Italian and French art schools, and proposed instead an in-depth study of ancient Greek art, drawing on the German university model, and more particularly on Karl Otfried Müller’s Handbuch der Arhchaölogie der Kunst (1830). The paper examines the various operations that permitted the re-invention of an archaeological manual for the purposes of art education, and analyses the different approaches to the study of ancient art developed within the School of Arts and the Athenian University during the period. I argue that adapting the scholarly study of art to the needs of artistic training gave way to approaches primarily centred on objects, techniques and forms, rather than on the construction of historical narratives. The Greek case is used in order to reflect more broadly on the scholarly courses of art academies, which remain largely overlooked both within the history of art education and the history of art history. Lying at the intersection of these two fields, scholarly training at the art school, and art history courses in particular, may permit both a re-evaluation of art education in the nineteenth century and a better understanding of the varied institutional frameworks that shaped art history as a discipline.
Published in: Journal of art historiography, Department of Art History, University of Birmingham