Belting, Hans 1935-

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BELTING, Hans 1935-

PERSONAL: Born 1935 in Andernach, Germany.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o University of Chicago Press, 1427 East 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637.

CAREER: School for New Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, professor of art history and new media.


Die Oberkirche von San Francesco in Assisi: ihre Dekoration als Aufgabe u.d. Genese e. neuen Wandmalerei, Mann (Berlin, Germany), 1977.

Der serbische Psalter: Faksimile-Ausgabe des Cod. slav. 4 der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek Munchen, L. Reichert (Wiesbaden, Germany), 1978.

(With Cyril A. Mango and Doula Mouriki) The Mosaics and Frescoes of St. Mary Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii) at Istanbul, Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies (Locust Valley, NY), 1978.

(With Guglielmo Cavallo) Die Bibel des Niketas: ein Werk der hofischen Buchkunst in Byzanz und sein antikes Vorbild, L. Reichert (Wiesbaden, Germany), 1979.

Das Bild und sein Publikum im Mittelalter: Form und Funktion fruher Bildtafeln der Passion, Mann (Berlin, Germany), 1981, translation by Mark Bartusis and Raymond Meyer published as The Image and Its Public in the Middle Ages: Form and Function of Early Paintings of the Passion, Caratzas (New Rochelle, NY), 1990.

(With Dagmar Eichberger) Jan van Eyck als Erzahler: fruhe Tafelbilder im Umkreis der New Yorker Doppeltafel, Werner'sche Verlagsgesellschaft (Worms, Germany), 1983.

Das Ende der Kunstgeschichte?, Deutscher Kunstverlag (Munich, Germany), 1983, translation by Christopher S. Wood published as The End of the History of Art?, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1987, republished as Art History after Modernism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Max Beckmann: die Tradition als Problem in der Kunst der Moderne, Deutscher Kunstverlag (Berlin), 1984, translation by Peter Wortsman published as Max Beckmann: Tradition As a Problem in Modern Art, Timken (New York, NY), 1989.

(With others) Der Mensch und seine Gefuhle: Beitrage, EOS Verlag (St. Ottilien, Germany), 1985.

Giovanni Bellini, Pieta: Ikone und Bilderzahlung in der venezianischen Malerei, Fischer Taschenbuch (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1985.

(With Dieter Blume) Malerei und Stadtkultur in der Dantezeit: die Argumentation der Bilder, Hirmer (Munich, Germany), 1989.

Bild und Kult: eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst, Beck (Munich, Germany), 1990, translation by Edmund Jephcott, published as Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Die Deutschen und ihre Kunst: ein schwieriges Erbe, Beck (Munich, Germany), 1992.

(Contributor) Thomas Struth: Museum Photographs, Schirmer/Mosel (Munich, Germany), c. 1993.

(Contributor) Sigmar Polke: The Three Lies of Painting, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 1997.

The Germans and Their Art: A Troublesome Relationship, translated by Scott Kleager, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.

Das Unsichtbare Meisterwerk: Die Modernen Mythen der Kunst, C. H. Beck (Munich, Germany), 1998, translation by Helen Atkins, published as The Invisible Masterpiece: The Modern Myth of Art, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.

Identität im Zweifel: Ansichten der deutschen Kunst, DuMont (Koln, Germany), 1999.

Der zweite Blick: Bildgeschichte und Bildreflexion Herausgegeben von Hans Belting und Dietmar Kamper, W. Fink (Munich, Germany), 2000.

(With others) Qu'est-ce qu'un chef-d'oeuvre?, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2000.

Andrea Pozzo und die Videokunst: Neue Uberlegungen zum Barocken Illusionismus, Mann (Berlin, Germany), 2001.

Bild-Anthropologie: Entwürfe für eine Bildwissenschaft, W. Fink (Munich, Germany), 2001.

Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, Prestel Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.

(Contributor) Bill Viola, Bill Viola: The Passions, J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS: Hans Belting is a renowned professor of art history and media theory on the faculty of the School for New Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. He is the author of numerous books on the history of art, among which The End of the History of Art?, A History of the Image before the Era of Art, and The Invisible Masterpiece: The Modern Myth of Art have been translated into English.

In the twenty chapters that make up History of the Image before the Era of Art (published in German as Bild und Kult: eine Geschichte des Bildes vor demZeitalter der Kunst), Belting traces the use of holy images—icons—from antiquity to the Middle Ages. In doing so, he also explores the development of icons in Byzantine art and considers their impact and use in the West during the twelfth through sixteenth centuries. He discusses the emergence of icons featuring Christian images and their espousal and use by the Roman Catholic Church, considering them within their original context and function in religious rites. "It remains a long, hard read, lightened by the extremely helpful choice of illustrations, yet leaving the impression that one is but a dizzy Ben Hur whirling round and round the hippodrome, regularly passing the same landmarks," observed Robin Cormack in the New York Times Book Review. Jean Michel Massing, writing for the Times Literary Supplement, stated that "Bild und Kult is an important contribution to the study of medieval culture."

The End of the History of Art? contains a pair of essays in which Belting discusses the divergence of art criticism in modern times from its traditional form. He proposes that the disciplines of art history and art criticism should be combined in a single method that emphasizes a historical and anthropological approach. To quote Belting: "Art history, obviously, is not yet finished as a discipline . . . [but it is perhaps] more appropriate to regard the interrogation of the medium of art, of historical man and his images of the world, as a permanent experiment."

In The Germans and Their Art, Belting considers what makes German art German by examining German artistic attitudes from the Romantic period to the present. Belting observes that German artists were perceived unfavorably throughout the world and believes that this influenced the style of their art and made them fearful of being replaced with artists from abroad. Belting also explains why German artists adopted a Gothic art style, first during the Romantic period and again after World War I. He notes the drastically different art styles of the two "Germanies" and discusses how unification has spurred new conflicts.

According to Balzac, the "invisible masterpiece" is an unattainable ideal, a work of art into which a dream of absolute art is incorporated but can never be realized. Belting borrows the metaphor from Balzac and uses it as the basis for his book, The Invisible Masterpiece: The Modern Myth of Art. In the book, Belting presents the history of art beginning in the late eighteenth century, a time when he believes artists began to abandon standards constituting what is and is not a masterpiece. In the New Republic, Christopher S. Wood described the book as "a forceful and highly original history of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century art." Wood went on to explain, "Belting's thesis in his new book is simple, and he frequently repeats it: since 1800, new works of art have failed again and again to live up to the idea of 'absolute' art represented by the concept of the 'masterpiece.'" Writing in American Prospect, Julie Ardery praised the book's wide appeal, noting, "Even those well versed in modern-art history will encounter surprising anecdotes." She added, "One of my favorites, in Belting's chapter about Les Demoiselles of Avignon, reveals that Picasso bought his first primitive masks from the poet 'Apollinaire's secretary, but without knowing that the secretary had stolen them from—of all places—the Louvre, whose stale museum atmosphere Picasso thought he was so determinedly leaving behind.'" A contributor writing in the Economist expressed similar sentiments about The Invisible Masterpiece, noting that Belting's "material is rich and always rewarding" although this reviewer also felt that Belting's interpretations "often fail to convince."

In Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, "Belting argues persuasively for an interpretation of the enigmatic central panel as a representation of the earthly paradise that would have existed, if Adam and Eve's fall had never taken place," observed Kathryn Wekselman in Library Journal. Wekselman felt that the book was "more philosophical and less comprehensive" than some other books about Bosch, but concluded that Belting's book is valuable "for its novel view of a much-discussed painting."

Belting has also contributed to books by other authors. In Thomas Struth: Museum Photographs, Belting penned an essay that Doug McClemont of Library Journal termed "outstanding." Struth is an artist from the esteemed Dusseldorf School who studied under conceptualists Bernd and Hilla Becher. McClemont explained, "Struth's work excavates the nature of photography itself." Belting also contributed to Sigman Polke: The Three Lies of Painting, which Library Journal's Eric Bryant considered the "catalog to the largest Polke retrospective ever undertaken. . ." that "reproduces more than 250 works spanning thirty-five years output in many media."



The Invisible Masterpiece: The Modern Myth of Art, translated by Helen Atkins, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.


American Prospect, March 11, 2002, Julie Ardery, review of The Invisible Masterpiece: The Modern Myth of Art, pp. 35-38.

Central European History, January, 2001, review of The Germans and Their Art: A Troublesome Relationship, p. 83.

Economist, September 22, 2001, review of The Invisible Masterpiece, p. 98.

German Studies Review, May, 2000, David Ehrenpreis, review of The Germans and Their Art, pp. 395-397.

Library Journal, April 15, 1987, p. 76; September 15, 1993, p. 39; February 1, 1998, Eric Bryant, review of Sigmar Polke: The Three Lies of Painting, p. 83; July, 2001, Doug McClemont, review of Thomas Struth: Museum Photographs, p. 82; December, 2002, Kathryn Wekselman, review of Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, p. 115.

New Republic, March 25, 2002, Christopher S. Wood, review of "Not Yet the End," p. 40.

New York Times Book Review, August 7, 1994, p. 23.

Parachute: Contemporary Art Magazine, April, 2002, Stephen Wright, review of The Invisible Masterpiece and the Madonna of the Future, pp. 123-125.

Reference and Research Book News, February, 2002, review of The Invisible Masterpiece, p. 187.

Sunday Times, June 17, 2001, Frank Whitford, "Art; At a Glance," p. 38.

Times, June 27, 2001, Ian Brunskill, "Portrait of Modern Art," p. 12.

Times Literary Supplement, September 18-24, 1987, p. 1015; August 3-9, 1990, p. 826.

The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2002, Eric Gibson, review of Garden of Earthly Delights, p. W12.*