The INHA posts a dictionary of art historians

local/cache-vignettes/L290xH171/Dictionnaire_Historiens-3a21c.jpg11/5/09 – Internet –Paris, INHA – The INHA recently posted the first part of its Dictionnaire des historiens de l’art actifs en France de la Révolution à la Première Guerre mondiale, under the guidance of Philippe Sénéchal and Claire Barbillon. It contains 150 entries of the 400 ultimately planned.

This dictionary is not meant to be a complete listing as there is a scientific committee which makes certain selections. The criteria for the definition of an “art historian” is someone who “by his writing or teaching, wished to write about art with a historical focus, without it necessarily being the person’s principal activity”. However, those authors who reviewed only contemporary artists are excluded, whereas those who did both (art history itself and reviewing artists during their time) are studied but only for the first activity. We would tend to regret this choice, although limits do have to be set. Thus, this dictionary will be of limited use for art historians of the 19th century.
Finally, let us point out that the dictionary is not comprehensive, on purpose, as the scientific committee selects the names that were chosen. Internet offers the clear advantage nevertheless of allowing for constant updating and these choices may change over time. As the work is so far only partial, it is still too early to say whether certain omissions are to be regretted or not.

The entries are made up of a chronological biography, a critical study, a list of the main publications, a selective critical bibliography (more selective than critical as we did not find notes with comments on the bibliographies) and “identified sources”.
The very important value of this work is to be commended and we hope it will soon grow further. We would however, point out a much needed improvement. A great number of publications by these authors can be found on the net as they have fallen into the public domain, their copyright having expired. It is thus unfortunate that the dictionary does not systematically provide links to these texts. Internet provides obvious advantages over paper works and it is a shame not to use them.

In concluding, we would like to inform our readers that two more regions have joined the RETIF (Repertory of Italian paintings in France). These are the Pays-de-la-Loire (except for Nantes) and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais (see news item of 26/6/08). The number of works online is now about 2000.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 11 mai 2009

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