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Baldass, Ludwig von [Baldaß in German]

Date born: 1887

Place born: Vienna, Austria

Date died: 1963

Place died: Vienna, Austria

Vienna-School art historian, Netherlandish specialist and Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Baldass studied in Graz, Halle (under Adolph Goldschmidt, q.v.) and Munich before gaining his degree at the University in Vienna. His thesis, written under Max Dvořák (q.v.) and accepted in 1911, was on portraiture of the Emperor Maximilian. Baldass joined the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna the same year, eventually being appointed curator in 1918. He married Paula Wagner, granddaughter of the architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918). The first of two books on Albrecht Altdorfer by him appeared in 1923. He qualified as a lecturer at the University of Vienna in 1926. In 1934 he was appointed professor Professor. When Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Baldass, as a Reich curator, carried out Nazi policy. The Kunsthistorisches director, together with directof of the Führermuseum project Hans Posse (q.v.), plunderers took thousands of objects from the long-time Jewish Vienese residents. Prominent Jewish art collector brothers, Alphonse Mayer Rothschild (1878-1942) and Louis Rothschild (1882-1955), attempted to flee Nazi-controlled Austria with their art collection that year, but Baldass refused to allow the paintings leave Austria. The treasures were taken to the Hofburg palace, the Nazis' Zentraldepot for confiscated art. Lesser pieces went to Viennese museums, including the Kunsthistorisches, while much of the decorative arts, mainly porcelains, were auctioned at the state-owned Dorotheum. Baldass published an expanded version of his Aldorfer monograph in 1941. He remained as director throughout the war years, retaining his position afterward. After the war, the remaining Rothschild, Louis, made an attempt to recover his family's art work. Baldass again took an administrative tac, pressing Rothschild to "donate" them to the Kunsthistorisches, which the family reluctantly did in return for getting control of some others. In 1949 he retired from the Museum to devote himself to writing. Two of his most important books appeared during this later part of his career, a monograph on Jan van Eyck in 1952 and one on Hieronymous Bosch the following year. The former showed the influence of Dvořák's "Das Rätsel der Kunst der Brüder Van Eyck." In 1959 he issued a second edition of the Bosch book. In his final years, Baldass wrote on Venetian sixteenth-century art, principally Titian and Giorgione. After his death, the Rothchild objects were renegotiated and more returned to the heirs.

Methodologically, Baldass was one of the last art historians to carry on (first) Vienna-school methodology (specifically Max Dvořák's) well into the post-World War II years (de Tolnay). His approach was generally to place individual works of art within the oeuvre of the artist's career, evaluating and assigning art-historical importance, another Vienna-school goal. His strong connoisseurship approach was praised by many and his work on the northern Renaissance remains consulted. However, his complicity in forcing Jews to turn over their art works to the Kunsthistorisches Museum during the Nazi years tarnished his reputation. Some colleagues, such as Charles de Tolnay (q.v.), however, attributed the rehabilitation of German art history after the war to him.

Home Country: Austria

Sources: Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 46, Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 163; Czeike, Felix, ed. Historisches Lexikon Wien 1. Vienna: Kremayr & Scheriau, 1992, p. 237; "How the Republic of Austria Forced the Rothschilds to Donate Art." Museum Security Report February 17, 1998 (online) http://www.museum-security.org/reports/01798.html (from a report of Der Standard February 14-15, 1998); Dictionary of German Biography 1 Munich: K. G. Saur, 2001, p. 273; [obituary:] de Tolnay, Charles. "Ludwig von Baldass." Burlington Magazine 106, no. 732. (March 1964): 136.

Bibliography: [dissertation:] Die Bildnisse Kaiser Maximilians I. Vienna, 1911, published, Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses 31, part 1, section 5, (1913): 247-334; "Die Entwicklung des Dieric Bouts." Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien , n.s., 6 (1932): 77-114; "Die Chronologie der Gemälde des Hieronymus Bosch." Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 38. (1917): 177-195; "Eine südböhmische Malerwerkstatt um 1420." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 4 no. 5/6 (1935): 301-319; Hieronymus Bosch. Vienna: A. Schroll 1943, English, Hieronymus Bosch. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1960; and Heinz, Günther. Giorgione. Vienna: A. Schroll, 1964, English, Giorgione. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1965.