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Courtauld Institute of Art

WILDE, Johannes (1891-1970)


Reference code(s): GB 1518 CI/JW

Held at: Courtauld Institute of Art

Title: WILDE, Johannes (1891-1970)

Date(s): 1916-1995

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 2 metres

Name of creator(s): Wilde | Johannes | 1891-1970 | art historian.


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Budapest, 1891; educated at the State Gymnasium in Budapest, University of Budapest, 1909-1914; studied art, archaeology and philosophy, University of Vienna, 1915-1917, under Max DvorŠk; awarded the degree Doctor Philosophiae by Vienna University for his thesis 'Die Anfange der italienischen Radierung', 1918; Assistant Keeper, Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, 1918-1922, where he gained his interest in the study of Old Master drawings, assisted in organising the sequestration of works of art considered of national importance, collaborated with Karl Swoboda on the collected works of DvorŠk; Assistant Keeper, then Keeper, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1923-1938; developed the use of x-rays to discover the condition of paintings and the artists' creative process; fearing for the safety of his Hungarian-Jewish wife, they left to visit Holland, 1939, then to England as guests of Sir Kenneth Clark; went to Aberystwyth to look after Count Antoine Seilern's pictures, and assisted with cataloguing the National Gallery's pictures in store there; approached by Arthur Ewart Popham, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, to help write a catalogue of Old Master drawings at Windsor Castle, 1939; interned and deported to a concentration camp in Canada, 1940-1941; allowed to return to England, 1941, resumed his work on the Windsor Castle catalogue and began lecturing at the Courtauld Institute; reader in the History of Art, London University, 1947; Deputy Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, 1948-1958; Professor of History of Art, 1950; fellow of the British Academy, 1951; published his catalogue of the Michelangelo drawings in the British Museum, 1953; CBE, 1955; member of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, 1957-1963; Serena medal of the British Academy, 1963; died in Dulwich, London, 1970.
Publications: Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte. Studien zur abendlšndischen Kunstentwicklung, etc Max DvorŠk [edited by Carl M Swoboda and Johannes Wilde](MŁnchen, 1924); 'Michelangelo and his Studio' by Johannes Wilde (translated by J A Gere and T H Scrutton) 1953, in Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum (London, 1950-62); The Italian Drawings of the XV and XVI Centuries ... at Windsor Castle By A E Popham and Johannes Wilde [A catalogue, with reproductions. The sections relating to Michelangelo and his school by J Wilde, translated by J Leveen] (Phaidon Press, London, 1949); Michelangelo's 'Victory' (Oxford University Press, London, 1954); Venetian art from Bellini to Titian (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1974); Michelangelo: six lectures by Johannes Wilde edited by John Shearman and Michael Hirst (Oxford University Press, 1978); 'The Decoration of the Sistine Chapel' (1958), in Art and Politics in Renaissance Italy: British Academy Lectures edited by George Holmes, (Oxford University Press, 1993); Michelangelo: Selected Scholarship in English [5 volumes], edited by William E Wallace (New York: Garland Publishing Inc, 1995). Includes [volume 1] 'Michelangelo, Vasari, and Condivi' (1978), 'The Hall of the Great Council of Florence' (1944), 'Michelangelo and Leonardo' (1953), [volume 2] 'The Decoration of the Sistine Chapel' (1958), [volume 3] 'Michelangelo's Designs for the Medici Tombs' (1955), 'Notes on the Genesis of Michelangelo's "Leda"' (1957), 'Michelangelo's "Victory"' (1954).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Johannes Wilde, 1916-1995, comprising files of working papers including notes, (manuscript and typescript), sketches, correspondence, photographs, lectures and slidelists, 1916-1965. Wilde meticulously wrote out the text of his lectures each time he gave them, making it possible to trace the evolution of ideas from the earlier to the later versions of the same piece.

Working papers relating to Michelangelo, 1922-1965, (the largest section of material in the collection) including general life and work, specific works including the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta, Cartonetti, 'Christ before Pilate'; his relationship with other artists, including Leonardo, Vasari, Raphael, Sebastiano; his drawings, including notes for a short survey of drawings, lectures, and a summary catalogue; his work in Florence, notably the faÁade of the Church of San Lorenzo, including correspondence with James S Ackerman concerning his book, The Architecture of Michelangelo (A Zwemmer, London, 1961), the Medici chapel and tombs, including lecture of Michelangelo's designs for the tombs, the Sagrestia Nuova, including draft chapter of its history, various works in the Palazzo Vecchio, the Hall of the Great Council, the Sala del Consiglio Grande, 'the Battle of Cascina', 'Victory', 'Leda', including correspondence concerning the publication of an essay, 1957; the Papal Tombs in Rome, the Marcus Aurelius statue in the Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome, the Sistine Chapel, Rome, the 'Battle of Angiare'; note and transcripts of Michelangelo's letters [now at the British Museum and Oxford]; notes on Michelangelo's drawing methods and early drawings;
list and notes of Wilde's new students [1948], catalogue entries for the catalogue of drawings at Windsor Castle, 1953;

notes relating to other artists, 1949-1962, notably Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Vasari, Masaccio, Pierino da Vinci, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, Mantegna, Corregio, Parmagianino, Daniele da Volterra, Sebastiano del Piombo, Marcello Venusti, Giorgione, Antonello, Jacopo de' Barbari, Giovanni de Busi Cariani, Domenico Fetti, Jacometto, Domenico Mancini, Jacopo Palma Vecchio, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Titian, Dutch/ Flemish painting, including Wilde's MA thesis on Rembrandt, 1916; notes on the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm known as the Theatrum Pictorium, teaching notes, miscellaneous articles and notes including Henry VIII monument, landscape painting, Vasari, Fontanellato;

travel journals, 1921-1957, including notes relating to Modena, Uffizi, Rome, and exhibitions;
correspondence, 1937-1970, including letters to Wilde thanking him for the gift of his British Museum catalogue; correspondence with Paola Barocchi, 1962-1963; Kenneth Clark, 1959-1964; James A Crabtree, 1964, relating to a Michelangelo drawing; Brigadier Roy Frank Johnson, 1954, relating to portraits owned by him and Count Antoine Seilern; Arthur Ewart Popham, 1941-1949, covering production of of the catalogue of Italian Drawings at Windsor castle; private matters, and including some of the travel permits Wilde required during the war; Count Seilern, 1964, 1970; Hugh Squire, 1960, relating to a drawing in his collection;
miscellaneous items including photographs of Wilde and colleagues, [1920s-1930s]; Johannes and Julia Wilde, [1960s]; one of Wilde's parties, undated; copies of speeches given by Wilde on his 60th, 65th and 70th birthdays and by Anthony Blunt at a party, 1961; copy of Peter Kidson's lecture 'The Recent Transformation of Art History', 1995; copies of the editorial and obituary of Wilde, from The Burlington Magazine.


Language/scripts of material: English, German, Italian. As a general rule, material which pre-dates Wilde's arrival in Britain (1939) is in German, whilst that dating from about 1945 onwards is mainly in English. The war years material may be in either language.

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections comprising working papers, travel journals, correspondence, and two miscellaneous sections. Files of working papers have been arranged in the list by subject heading, although numbered consecutively straight through the section. Letters are arranged alphabetically by surname.

Conditions governing access:

Initial applications should be made to the Deputy Librarian, Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN. At least one week's notice is generally required for access to archival material.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Material may be photocopied subject to the approval of the Librarian or Archivist, and provided it does not breach the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1988.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

A detailed catalogue is available in the Courtauld Institute Library. This includes a combined personal, place and subject index.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

The papers were sorted by Anthony Blunt, Director of the Institute at that time. The reordering of the material altered any original order Wilde may have had, and it is possible that some personal correspondence was destroyed.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute by Wilde, along with books and photographs, and were transferred in late 1970.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Correspondence, memoranda and poems, 1505-1561, held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (reference: Add MSS 23139-42, 23208-10; Eg MS 1977).

Publication note:

'Johannes Wilde' Kenneth Clark, and editorial and obituary by Michael Hirst in the The Burlington Magazine vol ciii, June 1961, vol cxiii No 816 March 1971 pp 123, 155-7. Two volumes were subsequently published from these papers; Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian, and Michelangelo: six lectures by Johannes Wilde; originally four had been proposed, but the final two never materialised.



Archivist's note: Sources: Who's Who 1897-1996 (A & C Black, 1996); Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1995); Courtauld Institute of Art catalogue; British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the AIM25 Project.

Rules or conventions: National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: May 2000

Art collections | Exhibitions
Art history | Art theory | Arts
Diaries | Nonfiction | Prose | Literary forms and genres | Literature
Painters | Artists
Photographs | Visual materials
Sculptors | Artists
Primary documents

Personal names
Buonarroti | Michelangelo | 1475-1564 | Italian painter and sculptor x Michelangelo | 1475-1564
Clark | Kenneth Mackenzie | 1903-1983 | Baron Clark | art historian
Popham | Arthur Ewart | 1889-1970 | Keeper of Prints and Drawings, British Museum
Seilern | Antoine | 1901-1978 | Count Seilern | art collector x Seilern | Count
Wilde | Johannes | 1891-1970 | art historian

Corporate names

Italy | Western Europe | Europe
London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Windsor Castle | Berkshire | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe