Hans Sedlmayr

Hans Sedlmayr (18 January, 1896, in Szarvkő, Kingdom of Hungary – 9 July, 1984, in Salzburg) was an Austrian art historian. Sedlmayr first studied architecture at Vienna's Technische Hochschule between 1918 and 1920. Afterward, he continued his education at the University of Vienna, where he studied art history under Max Dvořák, until Dvořák's death in 1921. He continued at the University of Vienna under Dvořák's successor, Julius von Schlosser, who advised Sedlmayr's dissertation on Austrian baroque architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, which was published in 1925. Sedlmayr held a chair in Art History at the University of Vienna from 1936 until 1945, then at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich from 1951 until 1964. In 1964 he was appointed as visiting professor at the University of Salzburg, where he established the art history curriculum. Sedlmayr was a strong supporter of the preservation of the old town in Salzburg. He stressed the importance of studying art and architecture in their historical and social context .He specialized in the study of Baroque architecture and wrote a book on the churches of Francesco Borromini. A founding member of the New Vienna School of art history alongside Otto Pächt, which based itself on the writings of Alois Riegl, he wrote a manifesto in 1931 called Zu einer strengen Kunstwissenschaft ("Toward a Rigorous Study of Art"). In this text, Sedlmayr calls on the discipline of art history to move past empirical research, and he introduces a 'second', interpretive method of art historical analysis that would discern the aesthetic nature of the artwork. This method of art history is known as Strukturforschung (structure research) or Strukturanalyse (structure analysis). He is the author of Verlust der Mitte: Die bildende Kunst des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts als Symptom und Symbol der Zeit (1948, "Loss of the Center: the Fine Arts of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries as Symptom and Symbol of the Times"), published in English in 1957 as Art in Crisis: The Lost Center". In this book, Sedlmayr offers a "critique" of the spirit of the 19th Century, as revealed through the artwork created during that time period.

He was a member of the Nazi Party from 1930-1932 and from 1938-1945. In the Federal State of Austria during the ban of the Nazi-Party he was an illegal member. His writings do not feature the excessive use of Nazi rhetoric, like other professors who continued to teach under Reich. Following World War II he lost his position at the University of Vienna as a result of his membership, although he was never prosecuted by the OSS. He moved to Bavaria, joining the editorial staff of a Catholic magazine, Wort und Wahrheit ("Word and Truth"), from 1946 to 1954. He wrote his articles for this publication under the pseudonym, Hans Schwartz.