Monday, February 22, 2010
Revised Janson Part 9
Continued from An exile returns: Traveling exhibition re-introduces Germany to émigré art historian H.W. Janson August 10, 2004 by Liam Otten for the "WUSL Newsroom"
Born in 1913 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Janson was raised in Hamburg, where his family settled after fleeing the October Revolution of 1917. He began his university education in Munich in 1932 but transferred the following year to Hamburg University, studying with Erwin Panofsky until the influential professor's firing by National Socialists. Though himself gentile, Janson left Germany shortly thereafter and completed his training at Harvard. In the 1930s and 40s, he emerged as a staunch defender of modern artists, writing pieces on Beckmann, Guston, Klee, Picasso and George Grosz while taking a critical scalpel to American Regionalists like Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.
Janson arrived at Washington University in 1941 as an assistant professor of art history. At the time, public awareness of the University collection was almost non-existent. Though established in 1881, the collection lacked on-campus facilities and was held in storage at the City Art Museum (now the Saint Louis Art Museum). Janson only discovered the collection, then mostly19th-century American and European painting and applied arts, through a close reading of CAM's wall labels.
Janson was named curator of the university collection in 1944 and immediately organized a makeshift gallery in the School of Architecture. His boldest stroke came the following year, when he raised about $40,000 by de-accessioning 120 paintings and more than 500 additional objects — then almost one-sixth of university holdings. Ironically, more than half the funds, about $23,000, came from the controversial sale of Frederic Remington's Dash for Timber, a scene of the American West...
[H.W. Janson's History of Art is one of the most-used art history texts in the Anglo world, and was assigned for the first intro art history survey course I took in the mid-80s. Art History survey courses being what they are, I had to keep my mind alive somehow, and I took it upon myself to make necessary alterations, some of which are featured in the forthcoming group show No Laughing Matter: Art and Humor in Southern California (a Modest Sampling) at LA Valley College. I will try to post the rest of them here as a public service.]
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This series is causing me to rethink my entire eurocentrically-biased body of art-knowledge. Less Karl, more Groucho.
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