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Finding aid for the Heinrich Geissler Papers, 1857-1996, bulk 1960-1990
2001.M.9  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The archive represents a lifetime of scholarship by the German art historian and curator Heinrich Geissler, who devoted his scholarly career to the study and attribution of sixteenth and seventeenth century drawing in German-speaking regions of Central Europe. It contains research material leading to Geissler's groundbreaking exibition Zeichnung in Deutschland deutsche Zeichner 1540-1640, held between December 1979 and February 1980 at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and the publication of the exhibition catalog, as well as unpublished material compiled for ten more years after the exhibition. Extensive files on individual artists are arranged preserving Geissler's original filing system by region or city. Besides a wealth of study photographs and copious notes, there is correspondence with art experts, and card indexes of artists and drawings in private and public collections. Also present are research materials Geissler inherited from another German scholar, Friedrich Thöne, including Thöne's unpublished manuscript "Die deutsche Meisterzeichung."
Background
The German art historian Heinrich Geissler (1927-1990) spent most of his professional career at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, becoming chief curator of prints and drawings in 1983. A student of Kurt Bauch, he completed his dissertation on the Bavarian court painter, Christoph Schwarz, in 1960. The significance of his scholarship must be seen within the art historical context of the post-war reevaluation of what until then, and especially under the Nazi regime, was considered German art. This substantial reconsideration had a profound impact on Geissler's generation and without it his groundbreaking exhibition Zeichnung in Deutschland deutsche Zeichner 1540-1640, held at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart between December 1979 and February 1980, would likely have not taken place. After the collapse of National Socialism, art historians were in a sense "free" to assess the artistic production in the many German-speaking regions of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Central Europe as a totality, regardless of where the artists active in those places were born. Seeing artists in terms of where they produced their works, rather than in terms of their national origin, enabled the post-war scholars to rethink the history of late Renaissance and early Baroque German art. In addition, after World War II, German museums were generally encouraged not to organize exhibitions promoting only great German masters such as Albrecht Dürer. As a scholar and museum curator, Geissler focused on artworks by lesser-known artists from a period that was still viewed as a time of decline after the heyday of German Renaissance art of the early sixteenth century, when the "great German masters" such as Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Hans Holbein the Elder, and Hans Holbein the Younger were active.
Extent
29.24 linear feet (75 boxes)
Availability
Open for use by qualified researchers.