A Brief Biography and Chronological Analysis of the Works of Erwin Panofsky
Rarick, Holly M.
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I began this thesis because I wanted to spend my Senior Independent Project quarter reading all of Erwin Panofsky's works-a project that proved impossible. I feel that the most interesting aspect of this project has been the realization on my part that I was going through different Panofsky stages. I first chose to write on Panofsky because he exemplified everything that I hope to be someday. Then I read his "Curriculum Vitae." The first section of this work is a brief biography of Panofsky's life; during the writing of this section I learned more about Panofsky than I wanted to learn. After reading various accounts of his life I discovered that I did not like Erwin Panofsky no matter how well he wrote. My disappointment centered arounld his professed dislike of teaching, children and his reservations about women art historians. I began to compare him with other art historians, particularly with H. W. Janson, whom everyone seems to have loved. I set out to prove to an already-dead Panofsky and myself. that a woman could be a serious art historian. The second stage is what I term the "Panofsky/Cassirer" st.age. Once I began re-reading Panofsky's works I forgot all ablut his dislikes and backhanded compliments and I became entranced with the way in which his ideas and the ideas of the Neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer paralleled one another. It opened up new fields of research for me, and I am afraid that for a few weeks I was completely carried away with the ideas of these two men together. However, it soon proved impossible· for me to follow up every new lead; each day seemed to bring a new chapter-or at least what could easily have become a new chapter-and the quarter was rapidly coming to an end. I began concentrating on those issues and ideas that I considered pure Panofsky. In limiting myself I discovered why I had chosen to write on Panofsky in the first place. Despite the fact that his works are lengthy and, at times, ponderous, Panofsky always has some particular revelation in his works that makes reading even the· lengthiest article worthwhile. I have returned, in some respects, to my earlier state of hero worship. Panofsky was not perfect but he was brilliant. At this point there are probably already over 100 statements that I would change in this thesis. New opinions I would express and new avenues of research that I would like to follow. More than anything else I have learned from this project the difficulty, and the necessity, of thorough research.