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Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

(b London, Feb 26, 1905; d off Stornaway, Feb 24, 1941).

British writer and traveller. His travels in Greece in 1925–7 resulted in two books, The Station and The Byzantine Achievement, in which he presented readers brought up on the culture of Classical antiquity with a novel view of the importance of the civilization of Byzantium and the seminal influence of its art on the later development of European painting. In The Birth of Western Painting he developed this line of thought with a reassessment of El Greco as the ‘last and greatest flower of Byzantine genius’. His best-known book is The Road to Oxiana, a record of travels through Persia and Afghanistan in 1933–4 in search of the origins of Islamic architecture and culture. He contributed a conspectus of Timurid architecture and photographs taken on his journeys to the Survey of Persian Art. Although his views were often coloured by personal enthusiasm and prejudices (for example his hatred of the historical writings of Edward Gibbon) a surprising number of his insights into Byzantine and Islamic culture have been confirmed by later scholarship, and he played a major role in bringing these cultures to the attention of educated readers. He was also a founder-member of the ...