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Baxandall, Michael David Kighley, 1933-2008 (art historian)

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1933 - 2008

Biography

Michael Baxandall was born on 18 August 1933 in Cardiff, the eldest child of David Kighley Baxandall (1905-1992), museum director, and his wife, (Sarah) Isobel Mary, née Thomas (1905-1990). His twin sisters, Edith and Jennifer (known as Mary and Jane), were born in 1938. Baxandall received a classical education at Manchester grammar school and went on to read English at Downing College, Cambridge (1951-54). In 1955 Baxandall enrolled as an External Student for B.A. in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute and went to Italy for a year, staying at the Collegio Borromeo and studying in Pavia, and then proceeded to St Gallen, Switzerland, in 1956-57 for a year teaching English and studying German. In the following year (1957-58) he went to the University of Munich and sat in on classes with Hans Sedlmayr, a well-known and somewhat controversial figure who had published a popular book on art called Verlust der Mitte in 1948 (published in English as Art in Crisis: the Lost Centre, 1957). Michael did not take to Sedlmayr and after a time based himself at the Central Institute for Art History. The Director of the Institute, Ludwig Heydenreich, was an Italian Renaissance scholar whom Baxandall admired. Consequently Baxandall decided to attend Heydenreich's course on Urbino and write for him, rather than for Sedlmayr, the paper he felt he ought to produce. In the summer of 1958 Baxandall returned to London and was given a job in the photograph collection at the Warburg Institute. There he met Katharina Dorothea (Kay) Simon (b. 1926), who worked in the same department. She was the daughter of Francis Eugen Simon, professor of physics at Oxford. They married on 6 April 1963 and had a daughter, Lucy (b. 1963), and a son, Thomas (b. 1968). In 1959 Baxandall was awarded a two-year Warburg research fellowship. He studied with Ernst Gombrich, who became Baxandall's dissertation adviser on the topic of decorum and restraint in the Renaissance, a thesis that Baxandall never completed. In 1961 he took a job at the Victoria and Albert Museum where he was eventually given responsibility for cataloguing the collection of German sculpture. His work there, augmented by summer trips to Germany sponsored by the museum and discussions with his colleague Terence Hodgkinson, led to the research that resulted in his book 'The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany' (1980). Meanwhile, in 1965 Gombrich offered Baxandall a lectureship in Renaissance studies at the Warburg. He was promoted reader in 1973 and professor in 1981. In 1986 he was offered a chair in the history of art at the University of California at Berkeley, where he became a permanent member of the department the following year and stayed until his retirement in 1996. Baxandall's two-year Warburg fellowship in 1959-61 and his collaboration with Gombrich led to his first publication, a short entry co-authored with Gombrich, in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (Jan 1962). There followed, in quick succession, a series of three articles in the same journal over the next three years (1963-65). Each of these articles examined humanist texts that dealt with art and laid the foundations for his ground-breaking book 'Giotto and the Orators' (1971), in which not only the vocabulary of the humanists but the conventions and even the styles of humanist writing were correlated with aspects of pictorial culture. The book opened up an entirely new and expansive way of considering the relationship between writing and painting. In subsequent books Baxandall continued to expand the frontiers of the art history discipline, introducing new topics, new ways of writing, and new explanatory models. In addition to the award of the Mitchell Prize for the History of Art, the highest accolade for an art history book (for Limewood Sculptors in 1980), Baxandall was awarded the Edmund Gardner prize for his contribution to Italian studies in 1972, appointed Slade professor of fine art at Oxford in 1974 (his Slade lectures leading to Limewood Sculptors), and made a fellow of the British Academy in 1982. In the United States he was A. D. White professor-at-large at Cornell University from 1982 to 1988 and was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation award in 1988. Also in 1988 he was awarded the city of Hamburg's Aby M. Warburg prize. He was a Getty scholar in 1994-95. He died at the Royal Free Hospital, London, on 12 August 2008 of aspiration pneumonia, and was survived by his wife and his two children. Sources: Allan Langdale, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; private information

Found in 14 Collections and/or Records:

 File

Articles, 1963-2006

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/7/1
Scope and Contents

An assortment of files relating to articles written by Michael Baxandall

Dates: 1963-2006
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

BBC Broadcasts, 1960-1975

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/7/3
Scope and Contents From the Series:

Papers relating to articles, books, a broadcast and book reviews by Michael Baxandall. Also includes reviews of Baxandall's books by others

Dates: 1960-1975
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Book reviews by Michael Baxandall, 1972-1982

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/7/4
Scope and Contents

Four press cuttings of book reviews by Michael Baxandall published in the 'Times Literary Supplement'. They include 'Culture and Society in Italy, 1290-1420' by John Larner; 'The Sculpture of Bernardo Rossellino and his Workshop' by Anne Markham Schulz; 'Studies in Late Medieval and Renaissance Painting in Honor of Millard Meiss' edited by Irving Lavin and John Plummer; and Tilmann Riemenschneider: His Life and Work' by Justus Bier

Dates: 1972-1982
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Books, 1953-2008

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/7/2
Scope and Contents

An assortment of files relating to books written by Michael Baxandall

Dates: 1953-2008
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 Series

Conferences & Symposiums, 1955-2004 (c 1955-2004)

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/6
Scope and Contents

An assortment of files relating to conferences and symposiums at which Michael Baxandall presented a paper

Dates: 1955-2004 (c 1955-2004)
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Correspondence with Basil Selig Yamey, 1989-2012

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/3/29
Scope and Contents

Letter from Michael Baxandall to Professor Yamey, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of London thanking him for a copy of Yamey's recently published 'Art and Accounting' (1989) and commenting on an earlier discourse between them. The letter was offered to Cambridge University Library by Professor Yamey in 2012. An explanatory note on the letter from Prof. Yamey is included together with correspondence between Professor Yamey and Cambridge University Library

Dates: 1989-2012
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Correspondence with Renate Quaß, 1937-1996

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/1/2
Scope and Contents Letters from Renate Quaß recalling her memories of the Baxandall household and giving an account of her life since 1938, and photographs of Renate and the Baxandall family and home taken in 1937-1938 by David Baxandall. Baxandall makes reference to Renate in 'Episodes: A Memorybook' published posthumously in 2010. The book includes a photograph of himself and Renate on a regular walk along the Glamorganshire CanalRenate worked as an au-pair in the Cardiff home of David and Isobel...
Dates: 1937-1996
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Correspondence with Stephen Bann, 16 Apr. 2008-24 Apr. 2008

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/3/1
Scope and Contents

An exchange of letters between Stephen Bann, Professor of History of Art, University of Bristol and Michael Baxandall re 'The Coral Mind: Adrian Stokes's Engagement with Art History, Criticism, Architecture, and Psychoanalysis (Refiguring Modernism)' - a collection of essays edited by Stephen Bann and published in 2008

Dates: 16 Apr. 2008-24 Apr. 2008
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Correspondence with the University of California, Berkeley, 14 Dec. 1984-12 Aug. 1985

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/2/1
Scope and Contents

Correspondence between the University of California and Michael Baxandall re the offer of an appointment as a part-time tenured full professor

Dates: 14 Dec. 1984-12 Aug. 1985
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Curriculum Vitae, 1980-1985

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/1/12
Scope and Contents Two curriculum vitae produced in October 1980 and [August] 1985. The first is a 2-page document listing education, experience, and publications. The second is an 8-page document listing activities under the headings: Teaching, Examining, Committees, Public Lectures & Papers, Reviews, and includes a list of individuals supervised by Michael Baxandall for their M.Phil or Ph.D. This second curriculum vitae was most likely produced as a requirement of the visa application process in order to...
Dates: 1980-1985
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 Series

Lectures, 1958-1999

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/5
Scope and Contents

An assortment of files relating to lectures given by Michael Baxandall, principally at the Warburg Institute, the University of Oxford, and the University of California

Dates: 1958-1999
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 File

Papers concerning the Institut auf dem Rosenberg, Switzerland, 1956-1957

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/1/5
Scope and Contents Michael Baxandall spent 1956-1957 teaching English and Latin at the Institut auf dem Rosenburg in St. Gallen with the purpose of earning money and learning German in preparation for studying in Germany. He retained a small folder of items from that time. These include a contract between Baxandall and the Institut, information concerning appointments, a rule book, sets of instructions on supervision duty, accompanying excursions and writing reports, lists of teachers, classrooms and students,...
Dates: 1956-1957
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 Series

Research Notes, 1958-1996 (Items written in red ink are likely to date from 1957-58. Baxandall only used red ink during his period in Munich)

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843/8
Scope and Contents

A miscellaneous collection of files (some with titles) containing manuscript notes, drafts, and photocopies of pages from published texts

Dates: 1958-1996 (Items written in red ink are likely to date from 1957-58. Baxandall only used red ink during his period in Munich)
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.
 Fonds

The Papers of Michael Baxandall

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.9843
Scope and Contents

The collection contains working notes and draft texts relating to lectures, conference papers, articles and books. A small number of personal documents are included, together with some correspondence, most of which is made up of letters to Baxandall confirming various appointments and roles or inviting him to present papers. There is very little personal correspondence

Dates: 1937-2012
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for researchers using Cambridge University Library. Some items of personal correspondence have been closed.

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Archival Object 13
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