Profile of the Department of Art and Visual History at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Profile of the Department of Art and Visual History at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


The „Pergamon-Palais“, Seat of the Department of Art and Visual History (Photos: Andreas Baudisch)

The Department of Art and Visual History has its roots in the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität’s art history department founded in 1875, where notable scholars of the founding generation of German Art History taught, including Herman Grimm, Heinrich Wölfflin and Adolph Goldschmidt.
The Department is known for its historically deep and at the same time broad understanding of its subject, consciously drawing and building on traditional art historical methods as they emerged in German-speaking countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and combining them with new approaches to visual history. Teaching and research activities range from the medieval ages to contemporary times (mostly, but not exclusively, in Europe) across the breadth of visual media, including architecture, sculpture, drawing and painting as well as design, photography, film, video, technical and news imagery. The specific interlacing of art and visual history is reflected in all areas of activities: these include architectural and urban development history, art exhibitions, film studies, the relationships between art, science and technology, political iconography, the history and theory of form, gender research and the art history of Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, each year two internationally renowned researchers are appointed as Rudolf Arnheim visiting professors.
The study of art history is primarily considered a school of seeing. This is emphasized by the numerous excursions and practical artistic teaching formats on offer in the Department, in particular at the “Menzel-Dach”, where workshops and studio activities are combined with instructions in the historic art techniques of printing and drawing.
The Department of Art and Visual History hosts or participates in several major research projects:

  • Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance (Getty/BBAW, Prof. Arnold Nesselrath)
  • The Technical Image (Hermann von Helmholtz Centre for Cultural Techniques, Dr. Matthias Bruhn)
  • Cluster of Excellence Image-Knowledge-Gestaltung (DFG, Prof. Horst Bredekamp, Prof. Claudia Blümle, Prof. Charlotte Klonk, Dr. Matthias Bruhn)
  • Collaborative Research Centre 644 “Transformations of Antiquity” (DFG, Prof. Horst Bredekamp/Dr. Stefan Trinks, PD Dr. Annette Dorgerloh, PD Dr. Peter Seiler).

In addition, the Department of Art and Visual History cooperates with the Berlin State Museums, the Berlinische Galerie, the State Conservation Agency and the Bröhan Museum, which regularly offer courses at the department. There is a cooperation agreement in place with Bard College in New York for the exchange of graduate students. Through its research projects, the department collaborates with the BBAW, the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin, the Film Museum Potsdam, the University of Hamburg, the Warburg Institute in London, the German Center for the History of Art in Paris and the University of Zurich. As a result of an honorary professorship there is also a close exchange with the KHI – the Max Planck Institute for Art History in Florence.