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Special attention is given to the first generation of Islamic Art Historians (even before this term was generally used) and their impact on the History of Islamic Art & Architecture: e.g. the researcher, travelor, collector and first director of the "Islamic Department" of the Royal Museums at Berlin (today Museum of Islamic Art of the State Museums at Berlin) Friedrich Paul Sarre (1865-1945), who's 150. anniversary in 2015 has been celebrated, as well as the genious, but also very controversal art historian Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941). 

In addition, cross connections, i. e. networks that also include lesser-known names will be shown. In the course of time, a comprehensive index of first German-speaking researchers (born before 1914) from the fields of Islamic art history, architecture and archeology with biographical information, bibliographical references and pictorial material will emerge.





Islamic Art Historians  


Wilhelm von Bode

Wilhelm (von) Bode (1845-1929) 

Wilhelm (from) Bode, director-general of the Royal Museums in Berlin since 1905, had started early to collect Islamic carpets in Italy. He has the great merit of having initiated an Islamic department at the Berlin Museums.  He also inspired the young Friedrich Sarre for the Islamic art history and later won him as director of the newly founded department (1904).



Cornelius Gurlitt

Cornelius Gurlitt (1850-1938)

German Art Historian and Architect, b. 1.1.1850 in Nischwitz near Wurzen (Saxonia), d. 25.3.1938 in Dresden.

1890 Habilitation at the TH Charlottenburg, from 1893 until 1920 Professor of History of Architecture at the TH Dresden. 

Gurlitt has been known for his works on baroque, rococo und classcism, his works on Islamic / Ottoman Architecture are widely unknown to the public, and are not mentioned in the DBE (Deutschen Bibliographischen Enzyklopädie) at all.

Works (related to History of Islamic Architecture):

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die Baukunst Konstantinopels. Berlin 1907, 2. Aufl. 1912

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die Bauten Adrianopels, in: Orientalisches Archiv 1, 1910-11, 51-60

Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die islamitischen Bauten von Isnik (Nicaea), in: Orientalisches Archiv 3, 1912-13, 49-60 

Cornelius Gurlitt: Mode und Kunstrichtung, in: Deutsche Revue. Eine Monatsschrift, hrsg. v. Richard Fleischer (Leipzig, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), Jg. 46, September 1921, ***.

Obituaries/ appraisals:

J. Haarman, Gurlitt als Hochschullehrer, in:  Neudt. Bauztg. 1919, S. 268

P. Klopfer, Gurlitt als Hochschullehrer, in:  Neudt. Bauztg. 1919, S. 270 


DBE 4, 263 (NDB) 


J. Gierlichs, Islamische Kunstgeschichte an deutschen Universitäten, in: J. Gierlichs u. A. Hagedorn (Hrsg.): Islamische Kunst in Deutschland (2004), S. 29



Josef Strzygowski

Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941)

Josef Strzygowski was one of the most versatile and at the same time most controversial art historians of the first half of the 20th century. On the occasion of his 150th birthday in 2012, two major symposia were held, in spring in Biala, his birthplace (formerly Galicia, today Bielsko in Poland) and in October in Vienna, organized by the Society for Comparative Art Research, Josef Strzygowski founded in 1934. To the program of the international symposium in Vienna. 

 The contributions of both conferences were published together in one volume: see Piotr O. Scholz (Hrsg.), Von Biala nach Wien. Josef Strzygowski und die Kunstwissenschaften, Akten der internationalen wissenschaftlichen Konferenzen zum 150. jährigen Geburtstag von Josef Strzygowski [Bielsko-Biala / Wien 2012] 2015. In this volume there is a so far unpublished, very well balanced obituary on Josef Strzygowski written by Alfons Maria Schneider (1896-1952), ed. by Joachim Gierlichs with an introduction by Alexander Zäh.

On Josef Strzygowski see also the entry in Wikipedia (which might change over the time!) as well as the contributions by Alexander Zäh, e.g. A. Zäh, Josef Strzygowski als Initiator der christlich-kunsthistorischen Orientforschung und Visionär der Kunstwissenschaft, mit Beiträgen von Helmut Buschhausen und Christina Maranci, Römische Quartalsschrift für Christliche Altertumskunde (RQ) 107.2 (2012) S. 105-148.



Friedrich Sarre

Friedrich Sarre (1865-1945)

The explorer, traveler, collector and later first director of the "Islamic Department" of the Royal Museums of Berlin (now Museum of Islamic Art of the Berlin State Museums) Friedrich Paul Sarre can be considered the actual founder of Islamic Art History, including architecture and archeology of  the Islamic periods. Between 1895 and 1900 he undertook several major expeditions to Anatolia (Ottoman Empire), Persia (Iran) and Turkestan (Russian Empire). See the article "Philipp Walter Schulz and Friedrich Sarre: Two German Pioneers in the Development of Persian Art Studies on Academia.

Large parts of the collection of Friedrich Sarre, from 1904 onwards displayed as a permanent loan, came later (1921) as a donation to the museum. These objects still characterize the collection of Islamic art until today.

Images of his villa in Babelsberg, built in 1906 by Otto Sior  Orientalism - Villa Sarre and his very modest grave  Orientalism - Grab Friedrich Sarre



Ernst Cohn-Wiener

Ernst Cohn-Wiener (1882-1941)

Ernst Cohn-Wiener (until 1907 Cohn), born in Tilsit in 1882, was a versatile art historian who not only dealt with European, Jewish and Islamic art history, but also researched and published on Asian art in general. In particular, his 1930 published work on the architecture of Central Asia in Islamic times is known in professional circles (Turan: Islamic architecture in Central Asia, Berlin 1930), which still has lasting value because of the numerous good photographs from the 1920s. 

Because of his Jewish origin, Ernst Cohn-Wiener had to leave Germany after a ban on his profession in 1934; He went to India via England, where he found employment with the Maharaja of Baroda until 1939 (in the National Picture Gallery). From there he went to the United States in 1939, where he died in 1941 in New York, not yet 60 years old.

Today largely forgotten, not even a portrait of him was accessible until recently. The photo presented here is due to the architect Ruslan Muradov from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, who discovered it with descendants of a Russian researcher who worked together with Cohn-Wiener in Central Asia.



Katharina Otto-Dorn

Katharina Otto-Dorn (1908-1999)

Katharina Otto-Dorn (b. Käthe Dorn) stood in direct succession of the founding generation of Islamic Art History, scholars and researchers as Friedrich Sarre (1865-1945) and Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941), her supervisor in Vienna, where she was awarded with a doctorate (dissertation thesis on Sassanian Silverware in 1933).  

Katharina Otto-Dorn received her practical training under Ernst Kühnel (1882-1964) at the Islamic Department of the Berlin Museums, from where she first went to Istanbul in 1935 with a short scholarship. There she remained in different positions until 1944, when all Germans had to leave the country or were interned. After her habilitation in Heidelberg in 1948 she taught from 1954-1967 first as the first Professor of Islamic Art History in Ankara, later in Los Angeles (1967-1978 at UCLA). At the end of the 1980s, she returned to Heidelberg from the USA, where she continued to work on topics of Islamic art history until shortly before her death in 1999.

More information can be found in the obituary by Joachim Gierlichs in der Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 152/1, 2002, 5-9. Online here.

An expanded version in English with some illustrations has been published as: "In Memoriam Katharina Otto-Dorn": A life dedicated to Turkish Islamic Art and Architecture, in: M. Kiel, N. Landman & H. Theunissen (eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Turkish Art (ICTA), Utrecht - The Netherlands, August 23-28, 1999, in: EJOS IV (2001), No. 21, pp. 1-14.

Note: The on-line Journal EJOS (Electronical Jourrnal of Oriental Studies), in which the Proceedings of the 11th International Congres of Turkish Art (ICTA) held in Utrecht in 1999 have been published, does not exist any more.




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