Wise words on Connoisseurship

February 6 2013

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Picture: BM

A reader writes:

A little something on the running connoisseur / art-historian topic. I have just chanced upon a sentence in Helmut Ruhemann's book The Cleaning of Paintings:

'Any candidate for the post of apprentice restorer at the London National Gallery has to prove first that he can see and paint. (If the present lack of connoisseurs among art historians is to be cured, undergraduates ought to be set similar tests before being admitted to the faculty of art history.)'

And he has a footnote at this point -

'Michael Levey, Keeper at the National Gallery, wrote in the The British Journal of Aesthetics (April 1963, p.188) 'Today's art history students are all-knowing and non-seeing.'

Ruhemann, at the time chief Consultant Restorer at the National Gallery, published his book in 1968 - so nothing new then! 

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