“L’esprit de Warburg lui-même sera en paix”
A survey of Edgar Wind’s quarrel with the Warburg Institute
Edgar Wind’s intellectual career can be defined as somewhat tragic. Shortly after his demise in September 1971, his colleague Isaiah Berlin commented in a letter: “Poor Wind. In a way, it was a wasted life” (Berlin, Nabokov 1971). For Wind was a celebrated intellectual in his own time. His oxonian lectures amassed vast audiences and his œuvre often transgressed the hermetic borders of academia, making him a public intellectual. Wind’s published writings, however, are somewhat few in number, especially so if we compare him with some of his more prolific art historian colleagues. His widow, Margaret, would comment – some twenty years after her husband’s death – that “the complexities of his [Wind’s] life are not understood” (Wind, Breidecker 1995). Born in 1900, Wind was, after all, part of the German intellectual diaspora, a scholar whose nomadic career spans two continents, three countries, and a many misfortune. It was also Wind who, in mid-1933, travelled to England to begin the negotiations that would result in the transfer of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg (KBW) to London, thus saving Aby Warburg’s books – his mentor’s books – from the looming Nazi threat.
Wind’s academic output – and that of the Warburgians – during the 1930s was uncanny, especially so if we consider the political turbulence of the period and the degree of international engagement required. Moreover, his professional position was relatively stable. It is possible, however, that the émigré scholar retained a modicum of continental apprehension. In 1935, the Nazi periodical Völkischer Beobachter criticised a virulent review of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike, published in 1934 by the Warburg Institute. The article, titled Juden und Emigranten machen deutsche Wissenschaft, denounced, in particular, the introduction written by Wind and the fact that the Warburg Institute had become a haven for exiled Jewish scholars. In May 1940, the SS included Wind in the GB Sonderfahndungsliste (also known as “The Black Book”). This document blacklisted prominent British residents that should be immediately put under investigation if Germany’s invasion of England – codenamed Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe) – was successful. A year before, in 1939, Wind was invited by former colleagues Scott Buchanan and Stringfellow Barr (whom he had met in the United States in the 1920s) to lecture on Italian Renaissance art at St. John’s College. Wind embarked for the United States on 28 August in the famous SS Normandie. This voyage would be the ship’s last before the outbreak of the European conflicts following the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September. “When I sailed in August of that year, I intended to stay for five months. By the outbreak of the war, this period was prolonged to six years”, wrote Wind years later (Wind 1939-1945).
Entering his fourth decade, Wind lived up to the Hellenistic acme with a vertiginous performance as a lecturer across the United States. His fame in the country – which preceded him largely because of his articles in the Journal of the Warburg Institute – grew significantly due to a large academic tour he undertook from 1939 to 1942. Wind travelled endlessly throughout the country during this period, lecturing from the East Coast to the West Coast and from the Midwest to the South. He lectured both at the major centres of learning – Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of North Carolina, University of Chicago, Berkeley, Mills College – and “the most provincial institutions”, such as museums in Worcester, Hartford and Providence (Wind 1939-1945). According to Wind, he did so not to promote himself, but fundamentally in the interest of the Warburg Institute. “When it became evident that I would have to remain longer than I had planned, it was my intention to travel as much as possible and, therefore, avoid becoming affiliated with an institution”, said Wind, “as lectures which I had delivered had met with a response that went far beyond my expectations, and as these lectures were regarded as expositions of the method to which the Warburg Institute in London was committed, I inferred that it would be in the interest of the Warburg Institute if I made this method known in as many parts of the United States as possible” (Wind 1939-1945). By the end of this peripatetic pilgrimage, Wind had held seventy-three lectures, generally devoted to “a work of art of universal interest” or “objects of art preserved in the region” where he was to speak (Wind 1939-1945).
At the invitation of the unorthodox Monroe Wheeler (MoMA’s exhibition director at that time), Wind went to the New York museum in the spring of 1942 to deliver five lectures on “The Tradition of Symbols in Modern Art”. This series – which began with “The Heritage of Baudelaire” and concluded with “Scientific and Religious Fallacies – ‘Our Present Discontents’” – was pioneering for its interpretation of contemporary art from an iconological perspective. Wind caused some controversy when he criticised the marginality of modern artistic experience and its irreversibly centrifugal nature (a critique that was to be the core of his famous 1960s Reith Lectures). For him, Picasso’s Crucifixion (based on Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece) was exemplary of this process of marginalisation, just as much as Rouault’s portraits of Christ in comparison with the dead Christs painted by Mantegna or Holbein. The ebullient artistic society of New York of the 1940s – made up of “artists, scholars, writers, musicians, producers brought together by the hazardous circumstances of the time” (Wind, Harvey 1995) – hailed Wind’s lectures at the MoMA. However controversial (Meyer Schapiro once delivered a counter-lecture impromptu at a nearby cafe) (Gilbert 1988, 242), these conferences elicited exalted positive reactions. The New York intelligentsia was aghast with Wind, an unusual hybrid of erudition and provocative speculation. Glenway Wescott characterised the émigré scholar as “an oceanographer of the ocean of art”, whose perception of subjects would be ineffable to the common folk (Wescott, Wind 1942). Leo Liberthsen even insinuated a certain delight of Wind’s in provoking the contemporary sensibilities of his audience:
[I] could not help wondering whether the twinkle in the lecturer’s eye was not equally significant of something else; to wit, his awareness of the inability of the modem audience to face or accept all the implications inherent in the subject (Liberthsen, Wind 1942).
On 14 May 1942, Wind married Margaret Kellner, whom he had met in 1940. She worked initially as his assistant in New York, helping him produce a book on Italian art. After Wind’s death in 1971, Margaret became her husband’s literary executor. She was the driving force behind the organisation of his Nachlass, and also the keeper of his intellectual legacy. In 1942, Wind also participated for some time in the editorial committee of the incipient Bollingen Foundation. This organisation would become famous not only for printing the complete works of C.G. Jung and Paul Valéry but also for publishing renowned authors associated with the symbolic tradition (such as Jean Seznec and Joseph Campbell) (McGuire 1989, 65). Wind even considered having his work on the religious symbolism of Michelangelo, which, at the time, he envisioned divided into three volumes, published with Bollingen (McGuire 1989, 45-48).
The recognition of the local intelligentsia was not, however, the major cause of Wind’s peripateticism through the American landscape, but rather the propagation of the practices and academic principles of the Warburg Institute and the awareness-raising of its precarious position in England. After the invasion of France on 10 May 1940, Wind received a telegram from his Warburgian colleagues in London advising him to remain in the United States:
In the common interest advise you to stay in the states awaiting further developments if necessary, also next winter. Saxl Wittkower Bing. 1010AM (Saxl et all. 1940).
Wind was to repeat across the Atlantic the procedures carried out seven years before when he began the negotiations in England that would ultimately result in the relocation of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg (KBW) from Hamburg to London. According to the Warburg Institute Report of 1940, “Dr. Wind who was in America when war broke out continues his lecture tour there on behalf of the Warburg Institute. His aim is to form a Society of the American Friends of the Warburg” (Warburg Institute Report 1939-1940).
The result of Wind’s activities was a joint proposal from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library (Bliss Collection), in the summer of 1940, to host and finance the Warburg Institute during the war (Wind, Simmons 1986). The then president of the Institute’s advisory council, Lord Lee of Fareham, refused the offer. In his letter to Wind explaining the refusal, however, Lord Lee acknowledged that “it is largely due to your [Wind’s] solicitude for the Institute that the offer was made, and to the reputation which you have achieved for yourself that American interest in the Institute’s work found expression in the invitation” (Lee, Wind 1940). In the Warburg Institute Report of 1940-1941, Saxl reiterated Fareham’s evaluation, stating that the American offer would not have occurred “if the researches and teaching of its representative [Wind] in America were not so highly appreciated” (Warburg Institute Report 1940-1941). Wind, however, kept open the communication channels in the United States. In 1943, he wrote to Edward Warburg, noting: “In case the English fall, we shall have the choice between a number of institutions in this country, all of whom have expressed the desire to transfer the Warburg Institute to the United States and support it here” (Wind, Warburg 1942). A collateral result of Wind’s actions was Saxl’s strengthened position in the negotiations for the incorporation of the Warburg Institute by the University of London in 1944 (date in which when the one-decade funding provided by Sir Samuel Courtauld would cease). Wind also worked on behalf of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes at that time, organising an edition with articles by American scholars and seeking funds for the periodical from the Rockefeller Foundation (Wind, Warburg 1942).
Such an intense activity, however, took its toll. After “three years of incessant travelling and propagating the [Warburgian] faith” (Wind, Saxl 1943), Wind felt tired. Although he wished “to come back to the Institute which, in [his] personal opinion, [he] had never left,” he assumed a post in the Department of Art of the University of Chicago in October 1942 for an indefinite period. At that time, Wind also negotiated a contract with Columbia’s Department of Philosophy and with the Harvard’s Department of Fine Arts. The decision to go to the University of Chicago, however, gave rise to a series of disagreements that culminated in Wind’s rupture with the Warburg Institute in 1945. For the Warburgians began to imply that Wind’s new professorial position ratified his estrangement from the Institute, thus ignoring their plights while living comfortably in the United States. Wind, on the other hand, resented the way they referred to him in their letters, as if he were some deserter, accusing them of ignoring all the work he did on behalf of the Institute in the United States (see Bing, Wind 1942 and Wind, Saxl 1943). The appointment to the University of Chicago came from a former acquaintance, the American philosopher Richard McKeon. Wind wrote to him a year earlier, inquiring about the possibility of a professorial position at the institution (Zorach 2007, 198). Wind found himself entering a hostile environment: a fierce factional war had just been triggered by the educational reform submitted by the President of the university, Robert M. Hutchins. The proposed restructuring incorporated a critical reaction to the departmentalisation, professionalisation, overspecialisation, and data analytical approach. Hutchins considered these tendencies not only deleterious but also rampant in American academia. The result, he judged, was the loss of critical density in university education. Wind arrived shortly after a tight decision in the university senate, where it was decided to institute a degree in “general education”, which brought about structural changes in the curricula of the Humanities. Wind first intended to remain neutral in this factious dispute. However, his co-optation for Committee on Social Thought’s executive board (led by the economic historian John U. Nef, henceforth his main ally in the university) and his pedagogical posture of a congenial hostility towards disciplinary divisions soon earned him the enmity of Hutchin’s opposition. By default, Wind joined one of the sides of the dispute. The animosities rose to such an extent that the émigré scholar was prevented from lecturing – as a representative of the Committee on Social Thought – on subjects like the Sistine ceiling or the paintings of Tiziano (Wind 1939-1945). Due to his German philosophical training, he was also seen by his opponents as an adept of the Geistesgeschichte (of which he was extremely critical). Besides that, his status as an enemy alien after the attack on Pearl Harbor certainly did not improve his reputation (Wind, Redford 1995). Wind’s partisanship, however, was anything but sceptical: he was not only an adherent of American pragmatic philosophy but somewhat adverse to the Great Books Program, which grounded Hutchins’s agitations and was led by many of Wind’s American colleagues, such as Scott Buchanan and Stringfellow Barr.
In summary, the Great Books Program aimed to provide access to the classical sources of Western knowledge considered exemplars of human thought. The inherent transdisciplinarity of these canonical works was understood as a corrective to the rampant overspecialisation of American academia. This exemplarity, however, was only correlative to its perfection, as the ideas contained in a particular work maintained supra-historical relations with other ideas, to the exclusion of their contingency aspects and the peripheral knowledge of works deemed inferior. The Great Books, therefore, emphasised critical access to methodologies of thought rather than knowledge of specific content. Wind, while agreeing with the pedagogical proposal of direct access to literary sources, was both a reader of William James and a disciple of Aby Warburg. He was, consequently, theoretically averse to intellectual programs hostile to historical connections and which presupposed, albeit surreptitiously, a traditionalistic appeal to the literary canon (Zorach 2007, 197). Wind’s pedagogical posture is best expressed by a proposal of “encyclopedic studies” which he referred to the Committee on Social Thoughts in July 1943. In this memorandum, Wind criticised the field opposed to Hutchins, stating that it is “only with the growth of departmentalism in scholarly studies that the courage to pursue the encyclopedic ideal diminishes and that the ideal has become suspect itself and finally ‘unscientific’”. He also noted that “the mortifying effect of this intellectual self-mutilation is increasingly felt and regretted” (Wind 1943). Wind’s encyclopedic ideal presupposes access to the “unity” of knowledge only through its circularity and the reciprocal illumination of different areas. The myriad of academic disciplines orbited around a common epistemological nucleus; they should, therefore, refer to each other and make use of one another. The proposed encyclopedia, therefore, should not be a merely alphabetically organised tome, but a transversal and creative heuristic enterprise. It should promote a kind of circular thinking that did not neglect access to content. Therefore, among Wind’s proposals for these “encyclopedic studies,” there are titles such as “A History of Scientific Illustration (from Leonardo da Vinci to Darwin)” and “Iconography of the Seven Liberal Arts” (Wind 1943).
The truest source of tension for Wind at the University of Chicago was his relationship with McKeon and with the stringent course he wanted Wind to teach, Humanities II. As an administrator, McKeon accumulated positions and responsibilities, and the hierarchical and doctrinal structure of the Division of Humanities commanded by the philosopher soon provoked Wind’s dissatisfaction, for he judged it to be autocratic and, worse, inept. The tension between the two escalated, and Wind threatened to resign from the university in October 1943. Hutchins dissuaded him, however (Hutchins, Wind 1943). There followed an ill-fated legal action brought by Wind and two other teachers in 1944, aimed at limiting McKeon’s powers. In mid-1944, Wind applied for a license from the University of Chicago, to which he would no longer return. A letter from Wind to McKeon in October 1942, in which he objects to Humanities II, is expressive of the differences between the two intellectuals. In this missive, Wind criticises a conception of humanistic studies blind to the theoretical inquiries about their nature (i.e., a kind of humanistic hypotheses non fingo); the refusal of history while, at the same time, reinforcing its authority through the memorisation of data (e.g., dates of events); a pedagogical methodology focussed on a kind of umbrella exegesis, impervious to the particular needs of each reading (Wind, McKeon 1942). Due to his profound aversion to the conceptual split between form and content, Wind also refused to teach a course called “Introduction to the Literary and Philosophical Interpretation of Art”, a counterpart to “Introduction into the Formal Interpretation of Art” (Wind 1942-1944).
His characterisation of the Italian Renaissance as one among the various periods of cultural revivalism also seems to contain a critique of McKeon’s positions. For Wind states that “the common characteristic of these revivals is that the revolt against a given tradition is coupled with the attempt to re-instate an older, supposedly more ‘genuine’ tradition so that revolution and restitution go hand in hand. To trace the manner in which the traditional and novel features interpenetrate and reinforce each other is the central problem of Renaissance studies” (Wind 1943-1944). Such a conception of the Renaissance opposed the rationalists’ point of view, according to which the period overcame medieval superstition and restituted a more “genuine” literary and philosophical tradition. Wind also taunted:
However, the student of this field will be expected to understand the import of this problem not only in general philosophical terms but to study it in a particular historical manifestation (Wind 1943-1944).
During his intellectual career, Wind would continually retort to the astringent partisans of historiographical method and rationalism that hypotheses non fingo is a fallacy of scientific abstractionism. The currents of the irrational permeate to such a degree human cultural manifestations that systematic/structural methodologies do nothing but skim their surface, for the expressive forms obey, in their formation, the symbolic polarity observed by Wind in his article on Warburg of 1931 (Wind 1931, 163-179). “In the centre of any good symbol there is an opaque core which will not yield to rational analysis”, Wind would write in 1950, “although around this core translucent images may be grouped which draw from it their strength and denseness” (Wind 1950, 349). This understanding of a perpetual aporia in the interpretation of symbols, from which a large parcel of its heuristic vitality derives, can even undermine the rational assumptions inherent to abstract methodologies. These, if dogmatic, must be based on an axiomatic principle that ultimately requires a “faith,” conscious or unconscious. Wind’s material eye seems to speak from a superior position when he contrasts the purist security of the distant and “scientific” observer with the notion of heuristic activity as unstable and insecure, in which tentative truths are found at the end, not at the beginning. In a letter to McKeon, where Wind criticises the pedagogical lines of Humanities II and the need for a theoretical detachment in humanistic studies, he states:
Yet one of the most essential lessons to be taught to young people in the humanities is that they cannot proceed without taking the risk of certain commitments, and the adventurous part of the study is to discover what these risks are (Wind, McKeon 1942).
Wind’s failing relationship with McKeon, aggravated by a profound pneumonia crisis that hospitalised him for months in 1943 (a period in which, according to Wind, McKeon acted exceptionally unethically), made him take a temporary leave of absence from Chicago at the beginning of 1944. Wind then accepted an invitation from Herbert Davis, president of the Smith College, to assume the William Allan Neilson Research Professorship for the fall term. Such a position, in an exclusively female liberal arts college, required little dedication from its incumbent. The news sent by the Warburgians in London at the time informed Wind of the final incorporation of the Institute by the University of London (Saxl, Wind 1944). These developments implied sufficient political and financial stability for Wind to abandon the American front and resume his role in England. Smith College extended Wind’s professorship to one-year, thus allowing him sufficient time to prepare his return to England. He was expecting to return as Deputy Director with the promise of assuming the directorate after Saxl’s retirement. In reaction to these events, Wind officially resigned his position at the University of Chicago in October 1944 (Wind, Hutchins 1944). After a constant epistolary exchange between Wind and Saxl during the first half of 1945, they finally reunited in mid-June, first in New York and then in Northampton. At these meetings, they discussed four main subjects: Wind’s professorial position and salary in London, the proposal for an encyclopedia to be organised by the Warburg Institute with American support, Wind’s publications and the future of the Institute (Wind, Saxl 1945).
Shortly after this reunion, Wind expressed his displeasure with Saxl in a letter to Bing. Haunted by his colleague’s manners and attitudes, Wind was perplexed: “He has changed remarkably little. […] It seemed as if the intervening six years had not existed. I can’t quite understand it, for these years must have changed both him and me immeasurably. I know that they have changed me and that I have grown very much older. But he looks to me not a day older than when I saw him last”; in this regard, he added – perfidiously – that Saxl: “seemed a tiny little bit deaf toward arguments which did not quite suit his preconceived plans, and changed the subject whenever they occurred; but this will not deter me from presenting them to him” (Wind, Bing 1945). Profoundly dissatisfied with the meeting, Wind sent a letter to Saxl on 9 July informing the Viennese scholar that he would not return to London, adding that the fundamental differences between the two prevented future collaborations (Wind, Saxl 1945). Therefore, Wind officially broke ties with the Warburg Institute at the end of 1945. The official reason was his disagreement with Saxl’s project for an encyclopedia of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance modelled on the Pauly-Wissowa. That was the reason why the Viennese art historian went to the United States in the first place, for he expected to establish a transatlantic academic collaboration and secure some American funding. Saxl also expected Wind to captain the project after his retirement, a prospect that the latter abhorred.
Wind himself, however, had proposed a series of encyclopedic studies for the Committee on Social Thought. One must consider – thus ignoring a possible hypocrisy of his – that his fears were of a more deep-rooted, stemming from profound epistemological divergences he had with the director of the Warburg Institute. Regarding the encyclopedias proposed by Saxl, he asserted that these, “instead of leading to the sources, […] have a tendency to supplant them”, adding that the “Pauly-Wissowa should be a warning rather than a model. Ever since this wonderful instrument became available, classical studies have been on the decline” (Wind, Bing 1945). Nevertheless, what Wind feared most was the encyclopedia as lexicography, that is, the indexing of facts and sources that would ultimately restrain creative access to original documents by imposing a cataloguing authority, which merely remits. This sentinel placed at the garden doors opposed the classical-renaissance ideal of “cyclical education” (gr. Ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία), the basis for Wind’s research on the iconographic program of the School of Athens.
Wind’s interpretation of the typological structure of the Raphaelite fresco presupposed the orientation of the program by a humanist close to the artist, whom he believed to be Celio Calcagnini. Heir to the philosophy of the princeps concordiae, Pico della Mirandola, Calcagnini would have proposed a composition that expressed both Mirandola’s Concordia Platonis et Aristotelis and the encyclopedic ideal as conceived by Renaissance humanists. According to Wind, the encyclopaedism of the period was a supplementation and antidote to scholastic hierarchical formalism. The sciences should be reorganised in an innovative fashion, one in which the vast expanse of learning engendered by the Renaissance frenzy remained linked to the Ancient presupposition of a spherical unity of knowledge. The many sciences – dots interconnected around the same sphere – would in this dialogue confront their own principles and illuminate each other. The historian of religion, who investigates the nature of the Trinity, should require the assistance of the theologian, who in his turn needs to consult the geometer, the algebraist and so on. The student, therefore, who began his studies in a relatively circumscribed province of knowledge, finds himself obliged to incorporate different knowledge and, due to the interconnected nature of the procedure, illuminates them reciprocally in their course. From this perspective, the dialectical disposition of the groups depicted in the School of Athens must be understood in their final circular articulation. Its fundamental conflict, the Platonic specular unity in opposition to the Aristotelian knowable multiplicity, is radiated through the marginal debaters, thus ensuring, when the intuition of its globality is reached, the fresco’s harmonic resolution. Each philosophical current maintains its autonomous value while being, concomitantly, subsumed in a hybrid harmony: for the enthusiast under Apollo becomes a rationalist, and the rationalist under the aegis of Athens morphs into an inspired being.
The inseparability between form and content, however, brings us once more to the encyclopedic divergences of Wind and Saxl. If the School of Athens is considered a great work, argues Wind, it is not merely on the basis of a “great idea” (Wind  1985, 49ff). Its conception required a pictorial genius like that of Raphael, able to harmonise the plethora of meaning proposed in a way that does not ground the energetic vivacity of the contenders, which traverses the image as a high-tension cable. Wind regarded this articulation between order and variation, between figuration and meaning, to be of such a high degree that he suggested to the student of Italian Renaissance philosophy the School of Athens as a guide to its labyrinthine meanderings (Wind  1985, 59ff. Moreover, he argued, if Rafael distinguishes himself from other pedagogical painters by his capacity for the harmonious integration of multiple elements, this was based by his transgressive propensities rather by his stringent adherence to rules. Concerning the partial affiliation of Raphael to the idealising abstraction of the Ciceronians, Wind stated that “his innate purism (if the phrase be permitted) was attracted to their cult of abstract perfection. But his curiosity supplied an antidote of intellectual vagrancy and adventure, which led him to explore the composite and the scholastic”. He also noticed that: “there were moments in Raphael’s development when his style wavered between the academic and the capricious […] But in 1509, when Raphael began painting the Stanza della Segnatura, he held these forces in perfect balance” (Wind 1954).
For Wind, such a transgressive attitude – one which engaged creative faculties – was also necessary for academic enterprises. In his view, every intellectual project demands risk if they are to be worthy and fruitful. When Wind questioned Saxl’s project, he noticed that it would have to “mobilise all the forces available, with the result that the energies, particularly of the younger generation, which ought to be free for constructive research and produce new results, would be channelled into the unconstructive labour of compiling, and that for a period of at least two decades” (Wind, Bing 1945). In such a way, “if [Saxl’s] plan were to succeed, it would reduce a whole generation of scholars into compilers” (Wind, Clark 1948).
It may be objected, however, that the epistemological divergences between Wind and Saxl could be resolved, that they express only the “official” reason for a more ingrained antagonism. Although the theoretical-methodological dissent of these two individuals – who devoted themselves to intellectual investigations even in the face of serious political turmoil that would have touched less obstinate personalities – cannot be dismissed as a flimsy justification, the fact is that Wind also opposed financial policies of the Institute and his future position in it. His criticism precedes the tension emerging in 1945 and goes back to the state of the institution after the German financial crisis of the 1920s. In this period, according to Wind, the Institute mixed in a confused way the functions of a humanistic research centre with those of an institution of academic charity (assisting financially unstable scholars). Judging that the Institute’s demands on its associates were far superior to its financial returns, Wind accused Saxl and Bing of intellectual larceny:
By your ambiguous and self-deceptive policy in these matters, both you and Saxl have substantially contributed to the increase of the intellectual proletariate. And in my opinion this is a crime (Wind, Bing 1945).
Wind wanted, roughly speaking, a compact and extremely proficient group – grounded, for example, in a Wind-Seznec-Wittkower triad – rather than an oscillation of diverse academics, a “floating population”. Wind described the problems of this model to Bing as:
The old policy of minimum salaries for those who work, little pittances here and there for those who suffer, and lucrative gifts for those who visit, is to be continued in the old style (Wind, Bing 1945).
Another key issue for Wind was his future position at the Institute. Although formerly its Deputy Director, he was then faced with the possibility of becoming a mere aggregated scholar:
I must also confess that I was shocked by the disclosure, as unexpected as the academic pidgeon-holes, that the post of Deputy-Director has been abolished without telling me a word, and that you have resumed your old role under a new name (Wind, Bing 1945).
In his view, the hierarchical structure proposed by Saxl and Bing violated the collegial nature of the Institute. It also placed him in a situation of hierarchical inferiority that he deemed unjust and unworthy. Wind’s salary was also a point of contention: he would receive less than half of what Smith College had paid him ($ 8,000 per year) (Wind, Bing 1945). Wind considered such a reduction an unreasonable sacrifice, thus comparing Saxl to “an old-clothes dealer who tries to find out what is the cheapest price at which I will sell him my suit. I have therefore forced him to make the one decent offer which he should have made from the beginning, and then told him that I was too disgusted to accept it” (Wind, Wittkower 1945). In an energetic letter sent to Wittkower in June 1945, in which he flatly asserted that he would no longer be returning to London, Wind attributed to Saxl and Bing “rotten instincts” (Wind, Wittkower 1945). He also speculated that, in the case of his return, “there would be incessant friction and since I do not have your [Wittkower’s] patience, it would lead to a row of such proportions that it would be damaging to all of us. I want neither a row, nor do I want to be an accomplice. So, there is no choice but to stay out; which is the only decent form of protest that I happen to have at my disposal” (Wind, Wittkower 1945).
Wind accused Saxl and Bing of intellectual and moral dishonesty. This kind of assertion burned the bridges between him and the Warburg Institute. Notwithstanding Wind’s strong condemnation – and despite his paranoid tendencies and bitterness – Saxl did, in fact, believe he was the scholar most qualified to be the next director. “There is nobody except you (and perhaps Gombrich) who has ever been touched by Warburg’s personality and understood what he meant by founding the Institute”, wrote Saxl to Wind in March 1943, “but the Institute as a centre of Kulturwissenschaft in Warburg’s sense will collapse without you. I think I need hardly say these things; you are as much aware of them as I am. But the form which your collaboration will take depends, of course, on you. I have also often told you in the past that I am burning to retire” (Saxl, Wind 1943a). In a draft of a letter sent to Max Warburg in August 1943, Saxl commented on Wind’s possible wage and suggested that he could seek another wage for himself since the Institute’s budget (£10,000) was not able to afford two large salaries (his and Wind’s). The final version of the letter, even if omitting this salary issue, commented on the issue of Saxl’s succession, noting not only that he was exhausted, but that “Wind who has had experience in Germany, in France, in England, and in the United States is the ideal director for an international institution as ours has always been, and I know that he still regards the Institute as his spiritual home. Whatever happens, we must have him” (Saxl, Wind 1943b). In his response in late November, Max Warburg refused to conceive of Saxl’s retirement: “I write too, to tell you that your idea to work less for the Institute than up to now is impossible and can never be carried out as long as I am living”. Max did not trust Wind, and in another letter to Saxl one year later, he stated: “Panofsky is egotistical and thinks only of his own interests and Wind is not reliable. He is what I call a windhund. I do not say that they should be totally ignored, but anyhow they do not merit special consideration” (Warburg, Wind 1944). On the same day, Max also wrote to his son, Eric Warburg, denigrating Wind and counselling him not to “give this man a position of influence in the Warburg Institute. His manners are really too bad and you cannot rely on him” (Warburg, Warburg 1944). Eric shared his father’s opinion, and in a letter to Bing in January 1946, in which he commented on Wind’s refusal to pay some money that he allegedly owed the Institute, Eric described him as egocentric and insensitive to the difficulties faced by the institution (Warburg, Bing 1946). As for Wind, he abominated this branch of the Warburg family, portraying Eric as “detestable”, and Max, whom he “disliked profoundly,” as “foolish and arrogant”, noting, in particular, his terrible judgment in political affairs (Wind, Grange 1969).
Wind’s disagreement with Max Warburg has motives both superficial and profound. Regarding the encyclopedia, the criticisms of Saxl’s project were ultimately based on a perceived oversimplification of the philosophical nature of all academic endeavours (see Rampley 2001, xxv ff.). In the case of his position at the Warburg Institute, a dispute over remuneration was compounded by sharp disagreements as to the Institute’s financial attitude, for Wind felt that Saxl and Bing managed it in an almost criminal fashion. Wind’s letters of this period, however, reveal another issue, more overarching. When he criticised Saxl’s encyclopedia, Wind accused his elder colleague of conventionality and of lacking the courage to be “an intellectual outcast […] which […] is today the only honourable position” (Wind, Bing 1945). He added that “if this tendency of Saxl’s prevails, the moment may come when the Warburg Institute is no longer the most suitable place for developing Warburg’s methods and ideas” (Wind, Bing 1945). The “ghost” of his mentor was a constant source of concern for Wind, and Warburg’s Nachlass haunted him as an authentic Nachleben. It is difficult to assess the extent to which Wind’s later writings stems from Warburg’s legacy since the former rarely quotes the latter. However, if we evaluate the range of Wind’s Warburgian heritage not by mere conceptual emulation, but by the perspective of incorporation and transgression, it is possible that his silence in this matter reveals, paradoxically, the presence of Warburg. In this regard, Wind’s œuvre is a reference to his mentor: the title of the work that secured Wind’s reputation, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, was only formulated thanks to the opening of intellectual horizons promoted by Warburg.
It is in Wind’s personal documents that the “immense intellectual debt” (Wind, Warburg 1946) that he felt he owed to Aby Warburg is explicitly stated. In a poignant letter to Seznec written in August 1954, Wind describes the relationship between the two in the most intimate terms. In a crossed-out sentence, for example, he states that Warburg treated him “non seulement comme élève mais comme fils” (Wind, Seznec 1954). Wind also states that: “Dans nos conversations régulières et très étendues il m’a fait voir et comprendre des phénomènes étranges dont aucun autre de mes maîtres n’a jamais parlé” (Wind, Seznec 1954). He even recalled that he had been called one afternoon to Warburg’s office. Finding the older scholar in a good mood and willing to chatter, Wind asked him what the true subject of that conversation was. Warburg then replied: “‘C’est simple. J’avais toujours peur de mourir, et vous savez pourquoi. Mais depuis que vous êtes dans cette bibliothèque, je n’ai plus peur; je sais que tout ira bien quand je serai parti’” (Wind, Seznec 1954). Warburg passed away a month later, in late November 1929. In an entry on the KBW’s Tagebuch a few days before his death, Warburg states: “mit Wind weithin blickende Männerworte geredet” (Warburg, Bing, Saxl 2001, 553).
Warburg held Wind in high regard. Mentions to the latter in the Tagebuch are often positive: “Herr Wind ist eine Denktype bester Sorte” (Warburg, Bing, Saxl 2001, 104) or “sehr intensiv die anknüpfenden Probleme der Philosophie besprochen, wobei sich Edgar Wind immer mehr als Vordenker und Zurechtordner ausweist” (Warburg, Bing, Saxl 2001, 546). Other members of the School of Hamburg reinforced the view of Wind as a sort of intellectual heir to Aby Warburg. Saxl, for example, thought that Wind was Warburg’s best interpreter. On the other hand, Panofsky in 1939 defined his former student as “certainly the one man who has developed the ideas of the late Professor Warburg in an entirely independent spirit and is able to carry them on in a most stimulating form” (Panofsky, Boas 1939, 219). The fact that Wind judged himself Warburg’s natural successor, coupled with his propensity to overwhelming criticism, would result in what would be his last published writing, a review of Gombrich’s intellectual biography of Warburg. Considered by many to be a baleful critique, aimed purely at demolishing him, Wind accuses Gombrich of fundamental misunderstandings of Warburg’s life and style. In addition to that, he also railed against his ignorance of fundamental theoretical issues. This text, however, is ultimately a critical testament by Wind, one that goes beyond academic analysis and his very personal dislike of Gombrich. It is above all a criticism of the Warburg Institute as a whole, recalling previous quarrels while exposing unexplored possibilities. Wind’s death shortly after the publication of this review made it a Parthian shot, unanswerable.
A series of minor strifes followed the rupture between Wind and the Warburg Institute. Wind later accused some of the Institute’s members of plagiarism, challenged his alleged financial debts and demanded the transfer of his books and documents. He had left those to the care of the Institute when he left for the United States in 1939. This request soon escalated juridically. After the death of the archaeologist Henri Frankfort in 1954, who succeeded Saxl after Gombrich’s demise in 1948, Wind made one last attempt at reinstatement. He wrote to Bing, expressing his condolences and asking if his candidacy was appropriate (Wind, Bing 1954). A neutral response by Bing followed with a disparaging conclusion: “I am wondering whether or not there are such things as irreversible processes” (Bing, Wind 1954). Wind’s decision in 1945 not to return to England and to break ties with the Institute involved a profound abdication: that meant refusing Warburg’s request to take care of the library and being away from British bibliographic and artistic collections (as well as the easy access to continental Europe). In the following years, Wind would have to sustain himself intellectually with the more modest resources of local libraries – with the notable exception of Harvard’s collections – and with his books.
May 21, 1940 | Fritz Saxl, Rudolph Wittkower, and Gertrud Bing to Edgar Wind
Telegram, May 21, 1940
In the common interest advise you to stay in the states awaiting further developments if necessary also next winter. Saxl Wittkower Bing. 1010AM.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1).
December 24, 1940 | Lord Lee of Fareham to Edgar Wind
24th December 1940
Dear Dr. Wind,
As Chairman or the Advisory Board of the Warburg Institute I wish to thank you most sincerely for your efforts in the United States on behalf of the Institute. The Board have asked me to express their special appreciation of the part which you played in connection with the invitation to the Institute which reached us from Washington. They realise that it is largely due to your solicitude for the Institute that the offer was made, and to the reputation which you have achieved for yourself that American interest in the Institute’s work found expression in the invitation. We therefore feel that we owe you an explanation for our refusal, which we had reluctantly to give. You will understand that we cannot shoulder the risk involved in sending our valuable collections across the ocean at the present time, and also that it would, as Sir Robert Witt pointed out, not be advisable to compromise the future, which we all hope the Institute will have in this country, by sending them abroad while the legal implications are not at all clear.
This, however, has nothing to do with the satisfaction which we feel at the establishment of such a valuable contact with American scholars and institutions which we hope will augur well for the future.
With good wishes and renewed thanks.
Lee of Fareham
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1).
April 27, 1942 | Gertrud Bing to Edgar Wind
27th April 1942
My dear Edgar,
I have been wanting to write to you for a very long time, ever since we got your messages regarding your appointment at Chicago and your various letters following it. We read them all with one weeping and one laughing eye, the reasons for which I need not explain. It is, I feel, a very momentous development, and I hope it will all work out in the best possible manner. It is a great thing for us to have you on such a post, and I hope you will enjoy the large opportunities for research and teaching that Chicago affords. You hold out a very pleasant prospect for the Institute too, and if things work out as you now visualize it will be a great chance for Saxl and Wittkower and the students that the Institute might have after the war.
I do not know whether anybody has written to you about the arrangement with Sir Allen Mawer. He did not hesitate to say that he himself did not see the slightest objection to your remaining on the teaching staff of University College, but that he wanted to put the question before his Committee before he gave a definite and formal answer in writing. It seems, however, that there will be no difficulties in arranging this matter. On the other hand, you must allow me to say that I feel very very sorry that we shall have to forgo the constant and steady collaboration with you to which Saxl and I had been looking forward, and I may even say for which we had been longing to be re-established after the war. I cannot imagine the future of the Institute to be quite as satisfactory as we had all hoped, without your presence.
I personally feel your absence more than I care to tell you, and even when I try to realize all the advantages that will certainly grow out of a transatlantic collaboration, I feel deprived of a large bit of my personal happiness.
As it is, I try to do without all that our friendship had meant for me, just as one has to do without certain other amenities in war time, but it is very sad to think that it will not be easily re-established when peace comes. I cannot even quite explain to you why your absence from the Institute seems so particularly regrettable to me apart from the personal side, because this has to do with certain developments here which do not seem very satisfactory to me, may be you will guess them, but you would have to see for yourself in order to understand the situation. It is no use my writing any more about it, because in the first place you could not help, and secondly you never know what the future may have in store and whether some of the things that worry me now may not be counter-acted later when things become normal again and more of our former collaborators will again be available for work at the Institute. In any case I am very pleased that we agree about the desirability of the Institute remaining in this country. I very hope that nothing will prevent this plan being realized.
The reason why I did not tell you all this when or shortly after the news of your appointment reached us, is that I have been trying to arrange your personal matters here in a way that would best serve your interests and those of the Institute, and at the same time not impose any hardships on your aunt and Miss Greenway. This took quite a long time, many ideas came up and were dropped, and it now seems that if I have as I hope, succeeded in the first part, I have not quite succeeded in avoiding to hurt the feelings of the two old ladies a little. If that is the case, I hope you will believe me that I tried my best and that any ill-feeling that may have risen is not entirely due to my lack of consideration of them, but also a little to their own entirely unrational behaviour. I will spare you the long tale of the conversations and correspondence which I had with them and with Mr. Lurion. The outcome was that although I had tried to avoid a panic, they in the end decided to leave the house at about a fortnight’s notice which of course would not at all have been necessary. But I now hear that they are quite satisfactorily and I hope happily installed in the quarters which they left when they joined you, and that Heidi has taken 28, Westmoreland Road and found apparently very nice tenants for the ground-floor rooms. This means that from the 1st of May onwards the Institute will not be responsible for the expenses connected with it. It also means that Heidi will keep your furniture with the exception of the books, which, as you know, are partly stored at the Imperial Institute and partly in use at the Lea. It will, therefore, not be necessary either to move or to store your furniture, and it will be properly looked after.
There are only two of your liabilities on the continuation or discontinuation of which I should like to have your opinion, i.e. your life insurance and your commitment in respect of the Society for Protection of Science and Learning. These amount to £4.10.0 per month which up till now have automatically been paid by the Bank from out of your aunt’s contribution to the household. Please tell me what you wish me to do about those two payments. I enclose two forms in respect of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning which you will have to sign and return. As regards last year’s claim, you will see that I tried to sign for you, but the Collector of Income Tax would not acknowledge it. I also-enclose for your information-a statement of the expenses which the Institute paid for you during the last two and a half years; perhaps you do not want to be bothered with it, but perhaps you want to see it. I feel very annoyed that you should have had any difficulties with our friend Eric. I can imagine that you will be pleased to get rid of the necessity to have any financial dealings with him.
Your criticism of our Annual Report belongs, I am afraid, to those things which can only be dealt with by word of mouth. If I were less deeply convinced of its quality it would be quite easy for us to brush it aside in view of the impression which the Report made in this country, and I do think a little of the divergences between your attitude and ours may be put down to the fact that we have been living under abnormal conditions for two years and that during part of the time it has been extremely difficult to go on working at all. This certainly also explains the measure of success which the activities of the Institute have had over here; but I hope you know me well enough to believe that nothing frightens me more than the idea of easy success due to the lowering of our standards, and in that respect your criticism has certainly struck home with Saxl and me. I also feel that we may have made mistakes in what we said regarding our American connections. On the other hand, I am sorry that you did not give more particulars in your letter about what we should and should not have mentioned. The instances that you gave can, I feel, be argued away, and I am afraid that you omitted mentioning some of your more essential objections, probably out of consideration for our feelings. We had, moreover, some very kind letters regarding the Report from friends in America, and Krautheimer, whose opinion you mentioned in your later letter to Wittkower, is very often according to my experience a little apt to agree with whom he talks at the time. But please do not think that we want to make things too easy for ourselves. Your letter, even if it hurt when we got it, has certainly had the effect of making both Saxl and me more alert and more wary of the mistakes which we may be liable to make under present conditions.
I am afraid this letter may sound very vague to you – it cannot be helped. If you still know us as you used to do you may be able to read between the lines. But the effect of such a protracted separation, without much correspondence, and the entire loss of personal contact with things as they happen and personalities as they develop is bound to result in misunderstandings (and long sentences such as this one are bound to fall out of gear).
Life at the moment is very much easier than it was last year. The weather is lovely, and our country residence is looking its best. We are all busy working in the garden in our spare time, and besides making us independent of green-grocers and nurserymen this had a very good effect on the team spirit and general temper of the community. The internal affairs of the Institute are not quite as neglected as you seemed to believe. An enormous amount of arrears are being brought up to date, and in the matter of cataloguing and pressmarking the thousands of books that were shelved over since 1933, Buchtal is the new broom that sweeps well. Time will show whether he will prove of the same durable [...] as Meier. I doubt it. I am now working on something entirely out of my line – illustrations of the Apocalypse, in connection with a paper on the Welcome ms. which Saxl is preparing for the journal. I happen to be quite successful at it, and am feeling quite amused of at taking a leaf out of Panofsky’s book. I have also been working on Warburg’s Atlas, and have arrived at a stage where I need much criticism and some help in fixing the material down to make sense as a book. This will be this summer’s job for both Saxl and me, and I hope Saxl’s collaboration will be a guarantee of its being done within a limited period. At any rate it is understood that the Atlas must have appeared by the time our present arrangement expires. The schedule was fixed before your letter arrived but your admonition helped to make Saxl realise that now was the time for him to take a hand in it. I do not dare suggesting the material should be sent to you when it nears its final shape – I cannot quite imagine that it will be possible for you to devote the necessary time and concentration on it let alone the difficulties of communication. But if you think it can be done no one would be happier than I.
I also think that under the new understanding – that you will remain one of us while building up an existence quite apart from what will be happening to us – we should keep up a regular correspondence. But even this minimum is hard to reach. I promise to reply elaborately whenever you write, but I cannot promise to write without regard to the echo from your side. It is impossible to talk into a void without being able to visualize the probable reaction to what one says. This very letter proves how unsatisfactory it is. You will probably feel my diffidence in every word of it.
Still – very much love and do not despair of us.
Yours as always,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1).
June 13, 1942 | Edgar Wind to Eric M. Warburg
13th June 1942
Dear Mr. Warburg,
Since I know heavy demands are being made on your time and since I myself am about to leave New York, I would like to put down in writing the conclusions we reached in our last conversation about the Warburg Institute.
In the first place, let me repeat that by the end of the year 1943 all commitments of the Warburg Family toward the Institute are concluded. It will be then for the English sponsor to show whether they are willing and able to take over the support of the Institute in its entirety. In case they do (and I personally believe they will make every effort), I shall try to persuade institutions in this country to establish a sister Institute on the same model so that the type of research initiated by your uncle will be as fully represented in America as in England.
In case the English fall, we shall have the choice between a number of institutions in this country, all of whom have expressed the desire to transfer the Warburg Institute to the United States and support it here. You will remember that Francis Taylor outlined a plan of this sort in your presence; but when we left him, I took the occasion to tell you that, in addition to the Metropolitan Museum, the National Gallery in Washington and the University of Chicago each independently of the other, had expressed a similar interest. In fact, the National Gallery, in conjunction with the Library of Congress and the Bliss Collection at Dumbarton Oaks, had already issued a formal invitation to the Warburg Institute which, as they told no, they were prepared to repeat at any time. My own appointment in Chicago was also attended by very specific expressions of interest in this direction, since Richard McKeon, the dean of the Division of Humanities, who watched the development of the Institute for many years and is possibly better informed than any other scholar in America about the scope and method of our research.
In view of all of these facts, I can once again assure you that by the end of 1943 the unbelievable situation will arise that the Warburg Institute will cease to be a financial worry to your family. Unfortunately, until that date, close though it is, the worry remains, and to put it quite plainly (I know you will forgive my crudities), the worry amounts to 4000 or 5000 £, that is, between $16,000 or $20,000 at the present rate of exchange, I need not tell you that the Institute is struggling very hard at this moment, continuing its publications and exhibitions in spite of the rising costs of printing, etc. You know best how greatly this work is appreciated both in England and here, and you will feel with me that it would be a great tragedy if, because of the inability to raise the limited and final sum I have mentioned, the Institute would have to fall below its standards just before reaching its goal. I know that you will not want this to happen.
With many kind regards and all good wishes,
Yours very sincerely,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1).
March 19, 1943 | Fritz Saxl to Edgar Wind
19th March 1943
I want to keep you informed about the things which are happening here to secure the future of the Institute.
The matter has been taken up by our Board, and particularly by Lord Lee and Clark (with the help of Mr. Courtauld). The President of the Board of Education has been approached, and the present plan is that we should be affiliated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Maclagan is in favour of this plan. I was asked to see the President twice, once alone and once together with Maclagan and Clark; and we now have to wait for further developments.
There are many pros and contras in this plan, but as there is no hope of Mr. Courtauld continuing his contributions this seems to me to be a solution which, if offered, we could accept.
I have of course from the beginning made it clear that you are an essential part of the Institute, and Maclagan and Clark realize this. And you know from all the talks which we have had in the past how I personally feel about this. I remember so well the two of us pacing down the long corridor in the Imperial Institute. There is nobody except you (and perhaps Gombrich) who has ever been touched by Warburg’s personality and understood what he meant by founding the Institute, what he meant by saying things like “dass der primitive Mensch den inneren Masstab beibringt für das was in der sog. höhen Kultur als scheinbar aesthetischer Vorgang dargestellt zu werden pflegt”.
Wittkower, Buchthal, Demus, Kurz, are excellent (Wittkower gave a lecture the other day on Michelangelo as architect which was the perfect model of history of art). But the Institute as a centre of Kulturwissenschaft in Warburg’s sense will collapse without you. I think I need hardly say these things; you are as much aware of them as I am. But the form which your collaboration will take depends, of course, on you. I have also often told you in the past that I am burning to retire. I have been with the Institute for thirty years, and this is an unhealthy state of affairs. I am wearing out, and at the moment I am inclined to produce more and more outside activities; but I want to be able to concentrate on my old astrological stuff. In a few years’ time I shall try to get a small pension for Bing and myself so that finance should not force us to retain our present positions very much longer – this is of course as little settled as the whole future of this Institute. But I felt I had to tell you all these things, and I hope I shall hear from you what you think about them.
Needless to say, I’m doing my best to preserve the autonomy of the Institute, and also its budget which I am trying to fix at £10,000.
Would you mind addressing your letter (or letters) on this subject to 162, East Dulwich Grove, London, S.E. 22?
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
April 10, 1943 | Edgar Wind to Fritz Saxl
My dear Fritz,
Thank you very much for your letter. I was delighted to get it, especially as I am at present in the University Hospital trying to recover from some after-effects of pneumonia. Please don’t be frightened by this news. I am definitely on the way to recovery.
The proposal to become affiliated with the V. and A. Mus. [Victoria and Albert Museum] and the B. of E. [Board of Education] sounds to me excellent. Naturally, there are pros and cons to every proposal and from the distance it is even more difficult to judge than from nearby. But it seems to me that this is the type of plan we had always hoped for. Will the funds come from the V. and A. and the B. of E. combined, or only from one of these agencies? The combined form would appear to me preferable. However, beggars cannot be choosers.
The words you said about me I can reciprocate in every line. That you know, and I do not need to stress it. I would like nothing better than to come back to the Institute which, in my personal opinion, I have never left. My entire work here has been done for the Institute and with the Institute in mind, even so obviously that some of our good friends (I need not mention them) periodically accused me of being a fool and jeopardizing my own chances. For this very reason it was very painful – when after three years of incessant travelling and propagating the faith, I felt it beyond my strength to continue in this particular form and found it also against the interests of the Institute to repeat the same pattern for too long – it was very painful when I changed the position and associated myself with an institution from where I could continue in work in safety, to receive letters from you, from Bing, and from Wittkower which gloomily suggested that this was an act of desertion, and to be sent at the same time letters from the Warburgs in which both you and Bing bemoan “the loss of Wind”.
Well, that is past, and as you see, I am not lost. I would think our best method of procedure would be to see whether and how it will work out while I stand by and keep things ready on this side in case anything should go wrong. (One never can tell). As you know, I would think it far more advisable for the Institute to remain in London than to enter into any new adventures. But I don’t think we should fear them if they become necessary.
As for myself, you know that I have always liked living in England, and liked it far better than anything else. Therefore I should be delighted if matters could be so arranged that I can stay with you during the whole year. On the other hand, I shall soon be (as you know) a man of 43; as you also know, though I have never spoken about it, I am married. This implies that my total upkeep might be a considerable burden to the Institute, and I don’t want that for my sake anyone else should suffer. It might be necessary therefore to make such an arrangement that I stay half of the year or 3/4 of the year in London, and supplement my needs for the rest of the year over here. Again, you will understand that I should prefer it differently if the budget of the Institute permits; for it is not good to live persistently on too many continents at the same time. However, here too we should do what the situation demands and we had best decide this question when your budget it settled.
I have complete freedom on this side to stay, to leave, or to reduce the period of my activity to half a year. The Pres. of the University, Robert Hutchins, is a man of singular intelligence, imagination and daring, very young for his post (just 43), and for reasons which he declares he knows, one of the most loyal, enthusiastic and far-sighted supporters I have had in this country. He has acted in critical situations in an exemplary manner. I shall tell you the details when I see you for it is difficult to write about them. Without having seen me very often, he is convinced that I am one of the most valuable members of his faculty, and has been very vocal on the subject. There is another man here, this time a really close friend on whom I can rely and who is, at the same time, a friend of Hutchins. His name is John U. Nef and he is Professor of Economic History. As for McKeon, through whom I thought I had been appointed here (which may or may not be true), he has been extremely ambiguous ever after my arrival here and our collaboration has not been too successful, a development which is of no great importance and which our friends at St. John’s (Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan) predicted, though I would not believe them since I regarded them as biased. They think this is a great joke. In any case there are many strings ready on this side which need only to be pulled if you give me a signal. There are two main possibilities to be considered: either the whole Institute to be transferred which, I pray, will not be necessary, and in which case I would regard Chicago less suitable than New York or a place in or near Washington (all of which can be managed since we have more offers than we need, the Metropolitan Museum being the most recent bidder); or, it becomes advisable to retain on this side a sort of pied-à-terre to which I or sometimes you may return periodically. Again, this need not be Chicago.
I have seen a good deal of the Frankfurts and like him as much as ever, although I am sometimes distressed by her, particularly in relation to him.
Perhaps I am over-critical on that subject, as I find myself in the opposite situation and regaining my roots largely through marriage. I think you will like my wife. As I feel sure you have received numerous descriptions from other people, I shall refrain from giving my own.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
June 1st, 1943 | Gertrud Bing to Edgar Wind
My very dear Edgar, your air-mail letter to Saxl, dated l0th April arrived here to-day, and makes me feel I want to answer at once. I am very sorry to hear that you were ill, and pneumonia being a nasty word I could not help being worried – though I hope, after the event. I trust you are up and about, and not finding your teaching obligations too heavy at a time when you probably ought to have a thorough rest. Still, thinking of you, the advice to “take it easy” seems singularly inappropriate.
I also felt sorry and ashamed when I read that our letters made you feel hurt and misinterpreted. Nothing was less intended, dear, and it seems that the last three years have given rise to a good deal of misunderstandings both ways. Perhaps you will find extenuating circumstances for us in certain small oddities of your own make-up – such as being constitutionally unable to write letters unless you are “roused”. No doubt we have given you reason enough for it, but we were separated from you not only by some thousand miles of ocean and slow transport, not only by the changed conditions of a country at war, but also by the absence of any news from you except when you were dissatisfied by something we had done. It is not at all easy to keep another person’s picture unblurred and undistorted before your mind’s eye under these circumstances. Your appointment at Chicago seemed so definite, and such a logical sequence to your preceding three years’ work that it was difficult not to feel the Institute would needs have to take second rank, at least in your performance, if not in your affections. Do you realise you told us so little about the conditions of your appointment, and of your life at Chicago, that we do not even know exactly what you are teaching?
Anyhow, this is all past history, and not even worth an explanation in retrospect. I am very relieved that you think the B.o.E. plans sound promising, and quite remarkably glad of what you write about remaining in England. Of details we know nothing more than we did when Saxl wrote to you. The matter is before the Treasury (from where incidentally all funds will be coming except those which we may be able to obtain ourselves from other sources to supplement the official income), and quoting Mr Churchill, God’s mills grind slowly. Still, the first stages of internal criticism and licking into shape at the Board itself are past, and we are told it is not likely that the plan should have gone even this far unless the Board felt they had a good case to submit, and a fair chance of its being approved. Of course there remains the uneasiness on the subject of the “Ausführungsbestimmungen”. Even if the plan as a whole should be approved there are traps and pitfalls galore, and none of us, including such devoted, unbiased and independent friends as we might command (and there are not too many if you come to look at it closely) is clever enough to match the experts of the Civil Service at their own game. Exchanging security for freedom means certainly also giving up a good deal of the fun and the adventure that it has been all along, in spite of adversities. But if it comes to choosing between a new start in yet another country, and an adjustment to conditions which after all we have almost created ourselves, we should not be too squeamish. Should the plan turn out to spell survival by mummification Saxl can be trusted to revolt at the right point, and for this emergency it is good to know you are keeping things fluid over there. What you wrote about there being more offers than we can accept will be a tremendous moral support for him when detailed negotiations start. And as to freedom, its limits are in any case fairly soon reached, be they drawn by red tape, by the arbitrariness of private benefactors, or by the compromises which lack of funds, or insufficient funds, impose. We have had quite enough, of the latter variety during the last years, and it will be a relief when the possession of a fixed income will be dissociated from the necessity of proving one’s worth. All told I feel that, other things being as evenly balanced as they are, the advantage of keeping the Institute in Europe should reconcile us with the concessions we shall have to make.
All this is said under one condition, Edgar dear, and what misgivings I may have felt on that account in moments of despondency, are dispelled by your letter. The condition is that you are going to take over when Saxl’s term of office comes to an end. You know how fond I am of the Institute, and how much I hope it will go on to play its part. But I feel saving it now is not worth much trouble unless its inner meaning is ensured. You have never wanted to hear anything of this as long as you were here. You may feel differently about it now. For one, Saxl is getting older, and the last years have, for private as well as for general reasons, laid a very heavy burden on him. I should be very glad if he would not have to carry it very much longer once the future of the Institute is assured, and, let us hope, the war over. The other reason why I feel this may be discussed between us three is that, the last years, and also to a certain extent the particulars experiences of the common household have convinced me that the present team would be a hopelessly pedestrian and uninspired assemblage without somebody like you or Saxl to stir them up. I know everything there is to say against making such a sweeping statement at the present time, but believe me I am right. I was duly shocked and hurt whenever one of your furious letters came but I knew all the time what you objected to, and agree with you. The only difference is that I believe I also see why there is not very much to be done against it for the time being. When we meet again I think I can make you realise what material and psychological obstacles we are up against all the time. I am already getting quite light-hearted at the thought that you will again be available in a comparatively short time to help pull all the dead weight out of the ruts in which it is in danger of getting stuck.
As to the practical things which you mention, we have no very clear idea yet what our budget will look like in the most favorable circumstances, still less how big the staff will be, and what salaries will be paid, the latter question will anyhow want some special consideration because of the comparison with the opposite charges of the Civil Service with whom we shall be on an equal footing. It would therefore be futile to indulge in day-dreams at this stage. But I am quite sure that there can be no question of making “any one suffer for your sake” as you express it. If, as may be possible, the salaries offered are too small for what you need it may become expedient for you to spend part of the year regularly in America. But neither can there be the slightest doubt that your living here all the year round is what we should like best and that our negotiation must henceforth be conducted on that assumption. It should not be too difficult to pull through now that we know exactly where we are, and what we aiming at.
It is a good thing that you are free to curtail or extend your commitments at Chicago as you think fit. By the strangest of coincidences Annemarie Meyer brought me this morning, even before your letter had arrived, a pamphlet of a series called The Changing World Publications, which she had bought because of an article which she thought would interest Saxl. The article is called Recent Changes in the Direction of American Education, its author is John U. Nef, and its subject the reform in educational methods proposed by the President of Chicago University, Robert Hutchins. If that is not providential arrangement I do not know what is, especially as Annemarie had not seen what exactly the article was about, and the co-ordination was only brought about by your letter. The Committee on Social Thought sounds as if its aims were allied to Warburg methods; except for the fact that one has grown wary of attempts to integrate the results of researches which have not had a common denominator while they were being carried out. What interested me was that Dr. Hutchins is also responsible for the experiments in teaching made at St. John’s, and I liked to read in your letter that you are still in contact with Scott Buchanan.
Saxl and I (especially he) have lately been reading a good deal on modern research in psychology, anthropology, and education. Partly because there is a great deal of discussion on future education going on in this country, and because the possibility of a direct affiliation with the Board of Education had turned Saxl’s thoughts in that direction. And lately, because the old idea of a book on Warburg has taken a new shape. It might be the psychological moment for such a book. It might sum up and conclude the phase in the development of the Institute during which it existed under private tutelage, finance and administration; and it might also serve to state clearly for what type of history writing the Institute stands. The idea was started by several people asking Saxl to write a history of the Institute. I am not at all certain that it will come to anything. If not, it will bring us a step nearer to the completion and publication of the “Mnemosyne”, which Saxl is finding increasingly difficult to do. We are hearing quite often from the Frankforts, and I am glad that you reciprocate the friendship which they feel for both of you. He is, I admit, the incomparably more likeable personality of the two. But do not be harsh on her. Life is so much easier for him than it is for her that she deserves a little more indulgence and a little more assistance from her friends than he. She would probably never talk to me again if she knew that I were writing this to you. But I am certain that she values the good opinion of both of you, and your company, more than anything else in Chicago. You were right to assume that we had some descriptions of your wife, but none was more welcome, and none more convincing than your own, that you were “regaining your roots through marriage”. It could not be better. I wish you would give her my warmest love and tell her that I am already looking forward to seeing her.
All my love, dear, and thanks for your simple “confessio fidei” which your letter contained. Good wishes and all that, and is it too much to hope that you will write again in a measurable time?
Yours as always,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
October 1st, 1943 | Fritz Saxl to Max Warburg
Dear Mr. Warburg,
Thank you for your letter. I am at last in a position to see more clearly in Institute matters. The old plan to incorporate the Institute in London University has now assumed a concrete shape. In consequence of the strong interest which Mr. Butler, President of the Board of Education, has taken in the matter of the Treasury seems willing to assume financial responsibility for the Institute’s maintenance be means of an annual grant. You will remember that in the past the University was unwilling to incorporate the institute because no funds were available for this purpose. On the strength of the favourable attitude of the Treasury, however, the University Grants Committee declared themselves in favour of the project; and the academic authorities will now have to decide whether the Institute is a desirable asset to the University from the point of view of academic studies. As the financial question is settled I do not think we shall meet with any difficulties from that side. The project is to go through three more University committees which will meet in October and November. The annual sum for which we have asked is £10,000 which will include the purchase of books.
The Courtauld Institute will have a building of its own within the University precincts behind the British Museum; and Mr. Courtauld, Lord Lee, and the principal of London University are of opinion that the now building should have a separate wing for the Warburg Institute. This resolution has also gone before the University, and if it goes through – all the parties concerned are very keen that it should – the new institute will certainly be one of the best equipped in the world. The building would contain 1) the Warburg Institute (as an institute for allgemeine Kulturgeschichte) with its own collection of books and photographs, which would be run independently as a post-graduate research centre with a limited number of students. 2) The Courtauld Institute, for the training of undergraduates and some graduates in the field of history of art. 3) The great collection of photographs of Sir Robert Witt, to supplement ours and those of the Courtauld Institute. 4) A picture gallery of old and modern masters containing the pictures of Lord Lee and Mr. Courtauld.
As regards the question of property, you will remember the letter addressed by you to Lord Lee on 24th August 1936: “…There is agreement within our family that the library is to remain in England after that period of sever years provided that adequate facilities will be available…”. With the Government financing the Institute and the Institute becoming part of the London University, the conditions are as well fulfilled as could ever have been expected, and I think that the situation in which it was envisaged that the Institute should be transferred as a gift has now arisen. I do not believe that under these circumstances one can talk about a period covered by the contract: we shall become a regular part of the University, to enjoy any amenities and to suffer any disadvantages to which any part of the University may be exposed in the future.
As regards Point (5) of your letter, there would be no question of rent, as we should be a University institution housed in a University building. The Building Fund at present available for the Courtauld and Warburg Institute amounts to £90,000, and we are now experimenting how far this sum will go. It was originally destined for the Courtauld Institute only, but Mr. Courtauld is, as I have said, very eager to have the two Institutes under one roof. However, it is not expected that the building will be erected until five years after the war as in consequence of the Blitz so many other institutions will have priority. It is extremely difficult to speculate on how far the Building Fund will see us by then.
I have very great hopes for a combination with the United States, especially if the Institute has such standing and accommodation as the present plans seem to warrant. Wind has offered to come back if we want him. I very much desire to have him as soon as possible. I have always told you that of all my collaborators Wind is the most important. You will have seen from his success in America that my judgment in this case was right. What he is doing now for the Institute is invaluable; and we shall do our utmost to continue the collaboration between Chicago and London. Wind’s plans were that one of us should regularly go to Chicago to lecture and a Chicago man come over here [...] that the personal contacts between the two institutes would be kept alive. Wind cannot make any more precise plans as long as things are so much in the balance, but I am sure that he will include the Institute and its standing in the United States in whatever plans he makes and that Anglo-American collaboration would find every support from the English side. As soon as things are settled – and if there is no unexpected hitch (I am an old pessimist, so I always expect one) the mains issue will be decided by November or December – we could start making plans for the form which collaboration with America should take.
Personally I feel rather overwhelmed by this sudden boom and grandeur of the Institute, and I hope and pray that the inner work of the Institute will not be weakened by the outer ease which seems suddenly to dawn on us (Es wird schon nicht so glatt gehen).
As regards my personal position, I feel that I should not be too long in the way of my successors. I have been with the Institute for thirty years. I still remember with great pleasure how kind you were to me when I came in 1913 as the protégé of the Professor, but now I feel that it is very unhealthy that the same worn-out brain should go on directing the Institute for nearly forty years. Wind who has had experience in Germany, in France, in England, and in the United States is the ideal director for an international institution as ours has always been, and I know that he still regards the Institute as his spiritual home. Whatever happens, we must have him.
Dear Mr. Warburg, I hope you and the members of your family will feel as hopeful about these projects as I do – in spite of my deep-rooted pessimism. What could be done in these ten years of Hitler has I think been done. We have found a footing in America through Wind, and we have helped to build up an organization here which as regards its equipment has only very few competitors in the world.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 4).
October 27, 1943 | Max Warburg to Fritz Saxl
Dear Dr. Saxl,
I received your letter of October 1st, but did not answer until today as I wanted to discuss it with Eric.
In principle, as I wrote to Mawo on October 20th, I agree, and am happy, but I had so many ambitious plans for this child – the Courtauld and Warburg Institutes. I still have these plans in mind – really they are only wishes – and as I wrote to Mawo, if the plans are carried out as sketched by you, I shall be happy.
I write too, to tell you that your idea to work less for the Institute than up to now is impossible and can never be carried out as long as I am living.. After having worked so wisely and courageously for the Institute, you must have the pleasure of working there when things will go more smoothly. Do not believe that because you get older, your power becomes less; on the contrary I believe that with age and experience, one becomes more valuable. So accept my view – it will be good for the Institute and good for you, as the very moment you give up even only a part of the work you have done hitherto, you begin to collapse like a frog who has lost his breath. As you have more or less always followed the advice of your old friend Max Warburg, you must do so now too. I am sure that all those who are concerned with the Institute feel as I do – that the Institute without Saxl is like a horse without legs! I hope you and the whole crowd are in good health.
Cordially Max Warburg.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 4).
Edgar Wind, Memorandum on Encyclopaedic Studies to be edited by the Committee on Social Thought, 1943
The general public and the majority of scholars are equally unaware of the great tradition associated with the institution and the very name of Encyclopaedias. Contrary to the common belief that an encyclopaedia is nothing but a handy though somewhat bulky instrument of reference, consisting of articles alphabetically arranged and therefore without any connection between them, the word encyclopedia originally meant “education in a cycle (or circle)” and referred to a harmonious organization of knowledge in which the different disciplines, reflecting and utilizing one another, were grouped around a common center. From classical antiquity down to the early Nineteenth Century this encyclopaedic tradition (in the original sense of the word) underwent a great variety of transformations but persistently reasserted, throughout all its changes, the underlying principle of a common ‘universe of knowledge’.
It is only with the excessive growth of departmentalism in scholarship that the courage to pursue the encyclopaedic ideal abated and the ideal itself became suspect and was finally discarded as ‘unscientific’. There are, however, strong signs in all the departments of scholarship today that the deadening effect of this intellectual self-mutilation is increasingly felt and regretted. Yet regret alone will not help to overcome the impasse. It is necessary to revive the knowledge of those intellectual procedures, too willingly abandoned in recent years, which have produced encyclopaedic results in the past. By re-appraising their historical function and philosophic value, it is possible to train the mind in encyclopaedic thinking, thus helping to reawaken what might he called the encyclopaedic imagination.
The association of the Encyclopaedia Britannica with the University of Chicago might he a suitable occasion for planning a series of monographs to he published under the title of Encyclopaedic Studies. Some of these studies ought to be frankly antiquarian and make accessible the more remote material which has been lost sight of. Others might be conceived in a lighter vein, showing that the encyclopaedic pursuit has not only burdens but also charms. The following list of subjects is merely meant to indicate the possible scope of such an enterprise. To some of the titles I have added the name of a scholar who might be suitable to handle the subject; and in several cases (no. 5, 10, 11) I happen to know the respective scholars are actually engaged in the work mentioned. In some instances (as in no. 8a), it might be advisable to re-edit in an English translation the forgotten work of a foreign author.
- 1. The Greek Symposion and its relation to the Encyclopaedic Tradition ……… (Cornford)
- 2. Isidore of Seville and the origins of the Medieval Encyclopaedia ……… (McKeon)
- 3. Theory and History of the Medieval Summa ……… (Maritain, Adler)
- 4. Theory and History of the Medieval Speculum
- 5. The Pictorial Illustrations of Medieval Encyclopaedias ……… (Saxl)
- 6. The Sculptured Encyclopaedias on French Cathedrals ……… (Panofsky)
- 7. Iconography of the Seven Liberal Arts
- 8. Micro- and Macrocosm (in the philosophical, medical and pictorial tradition) ……… (Temkin)
- 9. Plan, Use, and History of the Ars Memorativa ……… (Artin)
- 10. Pico della Mirandola’s Nine Hundred Theses and Politian’s Pan-opistemon ……… (Kristeller)
- 11. The Renaissance Encyclopaedia in Raphael’s Frescoes ……… (Wind)
- 12. The Academies of Henri III ……… (Yates)
- 13. The ‘School of Night’ and other Elizabethan Academies ……… (Chew)
- 13. Encyclopaedic Patterns in English Political Clubs (Kit Cat Club, Bolingbroke’s Circle, etc.)
- 14. The Encyclopaedia of the Arts in the Circle of Samuel Johnson (Reynolds – Garrick – Goldsmith)
- 15. Archeological Research end Conviviality in the Society of the Dilettanti
- 16. Italian Academies and their Encyclopaedic Plans in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Crusca, Lincei, Virtuosi, etc.)
- 17. Universal History in the Seventeenth Century ……… (Mommsen)
- 18. Leibnitz Methesis Universalis in its Relation to his Doctrine of Pre-established Harmony
- 19. The Magic Flute: Free-Masonry in the Eighteenth Century
- 20. Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique, its Purpose and Historical Mission
- 21. Plan and History of Diderot’s great Encyclopédie
- 22. Encyclopaedic Novels from Wilhelm Meister to Bouvard et Péchuchet ……… (Seznec)
- 23. Humboldt’s Comos ……… (Nichols)
- 24. The Growth of Lexicography and the Decline of the Encyclopaedic Ideal
- 25. A History or Scientific Illustration (from Leonardo da Vinci to Darwin)
The majority of these studies would he illustrated. I would think that, if one were to publish two or three studies each year, the annual cost would be approximately $12,000. It would be desirable to put aside this sum each year irrespective of the actual output; for it is certain that the number of studies finished in different years will vary considerably, and the more prolific seasons might profit from the money saved during the more barren periods.
In my opinion, a fixed author’s fee of, say, $600, doing away with royalties, should be paid for each book irrespective of length. I fell certain, from my experience as editor at the Warburg Institute, that the payment of such a fee is essentia1 for obtaining good manuscripts with a fair degree of punctuality.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 136, file 2).
December 11, 1944 | Max Warburg to Fritz Saxl
My dear Professor Saxl,
I received your letter of November 27th and I thank you very much for all you wrote.
As you get older you can see by an by how much of the work you have done is pioneer work and how much is really constructive work, which could at least be partly finished. Much of what I tried to do in my lifetime has been destroyed; I am sorry, but I have no melancholy. If the pioneer work is not lost, it is at last a step in the right direction. As my predecessor Moses did not reach the Holy Land, but only saw it from a distance, I cannot ask more for myself! One of the few things where I really can say that there was success, where there would not have been success if I had not been behind it, is my brother Aby’s library. But I was only able to help effectively because I had so many others, especially my brothers and Eric, and Aby’s staff, in the forefront of which were you and Dr. Bing. I must say that I consider the result of the Warburg Library very great and I must always think of one of my brother’s dicta: ‘my library will live when your firm is no longer in existence’. He did not live to see what happened, but he was in fact right.
I hope you and Dr. Bing will quickly finish his biography which I admire so much, and that perhaps as soon as everything is in order in England, you can find a combination with America. You know my idea. There are really many friends here who could help us. By the way, you know that Ernst Cassirer is now at Columbia University. There [Princeton] are some men like Panofsky whom I really do not want to consider. Panofsky is egotistical and thinks only of his own interests and Wind is not reliable. He is what I call a Windhund. I do not say that they should be totally ignored, but anyhow they do not merit special consideration.
I am still working on my book and it causes me a lot of trouble. I do not do it again!
Be healthy and strong; do not lose faith, neither you nor Dr. Bing, in our work and continue as up to now. I am more than happy that you have help in Eric who is doing now – and will do longer than I – all that is necessary for the library.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 5).
December 11, 1944 | Max Warburg to Fritz Saxl
I do not know whether you know that Edgar Wind is no longer at the University of Chicago but at Smith College since September. I hear by chance that he has told others that he will go back to the Warburg Institute. Wind has miserable manners, we know that. Of course he ought to have told us about any change in activities and also when he thinks to pay back his debt. I know you have other things in mind, but I write you this only to be very careful that we do not give this man a position of influence in the Warburg Institute. His manners are really too bad and you cannot rely on him.
In the same letter, Eric Warburg made additional handwritten comments addressed to Fritz Saxl:
Dear Dr. Saxl: –
Thank you very much for sending me the perfectly splendid paper clippings regarding Warburg Institute.
About Wind Father is – I am afraid – right and I am sending it to you so that you know how the “wind” is blowing.
Yours as ever,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 5).
June 15, 1945 | Edgar Wind to Gertrud Bing
15h June 1945
This letter is very difficult to write, and I therefore best begin with the weather. After an exceptionally cool spring, for which I thanked heaven in Saxl’s name, the temperature has now risen to its accustomed tropical height of over ninety degrees, and the poor man is travelling somewhere between New York and Princeton. The worst part is that he seems to enjoy it. Or does he merely feign it?
He has changed remarkably little. I went to New York to meet him, and we spent a number of pleasant days together before he went off to Harvard, Washington, etc. etc. It seemed as if the intervening six years had not existed. I can’t quite understand it, for these years must have changed both him and me immeasurably. I know that they have changed me and that I have grown very much older. But he looks to me not a day older than when I saw him last. It must be a delusion, what with all that has happened. The only trace that I could detect – and this in its turn may be a delusion – is that he seemed a tiny little bit deaf toward arguments which did not quite suit his preconceived plans, and changed the subject whenever they occurred; but this will not deter me from presenting them to him. We have arranged that he will come to us quietly for a rest after he is through visiting and conferring with the “stuffed shirts” (Bonzen), of whom he sees in my opinion far too much and far too many.
How he will react to my proposals I don’t know; for I am not absolutely happy about the plans which he has set for himself and the Institute. The “Encyclopaedia” frightens me. There are too many encyclopaedias already. Instead of leading to the sources, they have a tendency to supplant them; and I dislike the idea that we should add to their number. Moreover, Pauly-Wissowa should be a warning rather than a model. Ever since this wonderful Instrument became available, classical studies have been on the decline. I have no authority to speak on medieval studies. Maybe they have reached the Alexandrinian stage and are ready for a great funerary monument in the style of Pauly-Wissowa. I know that this is not the case with Renaissance studies. They are not yet ready for the embalmer.
Furthermore, assuming that the “stuffed shirts” agree with Saxl – and there is a good chance that they might, for the Medieval Academy, of which I have the questionable honour of being a member, is so utterly dead (witness Speculum) that it might welcome a proper memorial – assuming that they agree with Saxl and decide to carry out the plan together; who are the people that will write the articles? You will know better than I how many or few there are in England. I can assure you that there are very few in America. To make the enterprise work at all, it would be necessary to mobilize all the forces available, with the result that the energies, particularly of the younger generation, which ought to be free for constructive research and produce new results, would be channelled into the unconstructive labour of compiling, and that for a period of at least two decades.
I should be more easily reconciled to the plan if I were convinced that it was a logical or imaginative expansion of Warburg’s work and would serve the purpose for which the Institute was founded. I think it is the opposite – an expression of the centrifugal forces in Saxl and a flight into conventionality. Perhaps I should have been more insistent in dissuading him after his arrival. But he had written in advance to quite a number of people so as to interest them in his plan, and his gesture of consulting with me ex post turned out to be something of a fiction. Moreover, when I saw how much work and what excellent work of its kind had already been put into the preparation and how intensely he was preoccupied with the idea, I felt that I had no right to deprive him of what had certainly become to him a psychologically indispensable program. And I thought the thing ought to be given a fair chance even If I did not like it.
You know that I am the last to belittle the value of Saxl’s urge to bring people together and make them work at a common task. But his missionary instincts sometimes mislead him, perhaps because he is too distrustful of the safety within and unduly yearns for safety from without. As a result, he has been repeatedly attracted by “projects” which were grand in plan but timid in invention. By timidity I mean that they followed a pre-existing pattern. Others had thought of producing an Aristoteles Latinus so we followed suit and proposed a Plato Latinus. Others had thought of producing a Pauly-Wissowa for classical antiquity so we follow suit and propose a Pauly-Wissowa for the middle ages and the Renaissance. I need not elaborate this with regard to Bartsch’s Peintre Graveur or the Klassiker der Kunst, to which Saxl would now like to publish improved counterparts. There is a tendency in all of this toward the conventional – and away from the discomfort of being an intellectual outcast (which, I hope you will agree with me, is today the only honourable position). If this tendency of Saxl’s prevails, the moment may come when the Warburg Institute is no longer the most suitable place for developing Warburg’s methods and ideas.
I have seen this danger approaching for many years, and you know that I have done my best to counteract it. I shall do so again if it is decided that I am to return to London. This “if” will shock you, and it shocks me too. But ever since my conversation with Saxl I have been in doubt whether it is right for me to return to London at this particular juncture. The decision to the contrary would be very hard for me, and no less for Margaret who has prepared everything for our departure for more than a year. Our furniture has been in storage in Chicago, and we have been living here in a single furnished room in anticipation of our leaving. Not only Margaret’s sister in London but everyone here has been told of our impending departure, and you know best how much I like living in London. But nothing of this will deter me from making the reverse arrangements if necessary. Perhaps my doubts will be dispelled when Saxl is here and we discuss in detail the future organization of the Institute. Perhaps, when he hears my reasons, he will decide himself that it is better for me to stay here.
At the root of the problem is the old question which I put to Saxl some years ago when he visited me in Devon and which I have kept repeating ever since. Is the Warburg Institute to be run primarily as a charitable institution for relieving – by more or less small pittances – the plight of distressed scholars? Or is its primary aim the development of a particular scientific method by scholars committed to this form of research, whether distressed or not. Both aims are honourable if they are kept apart. My criticism has been that they were persistently mixed – to the detriment of the integrity of the Institute whose forces, as you know best from yourself, have been distracted from their assigned tasks, and to the detriment also of the so-called beneficiaries who felt abused by the expectation of high returns from absurdly small investments. Too many of them have felt – not unjustly – that the assistance given to them was not sufficiently disinterested. In the words of the old Fontane: “Deine Wohltätigkeit ist mir zu geschäftstüchtig”. By your ambiguous and self-deceptive policy in these matters, both you and Saxl have substantially contributed to the increase of the intellectual proletariat. And in my opinion this is a crime.
You see, I am still ranting in the old style. The reason is a somewhat humorous one. Saxl has already found – on these richly endowed shores – a sufficient number of distressed people to whom he has made promises which he shall probably not be able to keep. I foresee the usual sequences: (1) Resentment by these people because Saxl does not keep his promises; (2) Resentment by Saxl because these people are ungrateful; (3) Resentment by Gertrud Bing because people are so indecent as to induce Saxl to make irresponsible promises; (4) Attempts by Edgar Wind to silence the resentful people of the first mentioned group; (5) Outcry of these people in combination with Saxl against the brutality of Edgar Wind; (6) Ineffective protest against this outcry by Gertrude Bing; (7) Pele-Mele. Am I exaggerating?
The tragedy is that some of the opportunities for thoroughly strengthening the staff of the Institute might be missed by these sentimental distractions. There is a good chance – and Saxl discovered it – that Seznec might join the Warburg Institute. He would be a superb addition, the most valuable that could be conceived; for Rudi, he, and I would supplement each other to perfection. But he has a good position at Harvard, and Saxl regrets any generous expenditure on the permanent staff because he would like to reserve sufficient funds for the support of a “floating population”. It is an old song, and you know what I think of it. Given the choice, I am not sure that he will not rather sacrifice Seznec.
My own case – and I feel certain, that of Rudi also – is of exactly the same order. I was dumbfounded to learn that we are to be put into academic pigeon-holes and classified as “professors”, “readers”, and God knows what. Saxl never mentioned a word of this in his letters, and neither did you. I think it is a very regrettable development since it impairs the collegiate character of the Institute. If we have to be called names, it should be “Fellows”. On the other hand, I can understand that the officers of London University might insist on applying their categories, if merely for the sake of estimating the appropriate salaries. In that case, Saxl should have made it clear that a research Institute of this caliber, in order to be effective, requires either several professorships or none. The officers of London University, I am sure, would be the first to understand that people of professorial status (that is their term, if I am not mistaken) will not accept appointments if they are demoted, and their esteem for the Warburg Institute will only be heightened if several people of that status are prepared to join it.
Now Saxl knew that I have held in short succession two professorships in this country, the one in Chicago, which was a full professorship in the Art Department, and the other that I am now holding here, which is the William Allan Neilson Professorship, formerly held by G. E. Moore, Carl Becker, D. Wilson, etc., and happens to be the highest paid in the College. It carries an annual stipend of $8000. I know that the Warburg Institute cannot pay me the equivalent, and I think I have always made it clear that I do not expect it. But the financial sacrifice should be reasonable. A reduction by one-half or more, which Saxl seems to regard as equitable, will not be so regarded by any impartial judge. Moreover, if academic classifications have to be made, which I would regret, I must remain in the same class in which I am here. Anything else would be interpreted as a public disavowal on your part of the recognition I have received here. Moreover, I have no intention of playing the role of an ungrateful fool; and I would deserve this appellation, and offend the sensibilities of those to whom I am indebted here, if I rewarded their generosity by preferring an inadequate appointment in London.
I regret that I have to explain these things to you and Saxl. I think it is the kind of argument which should have come from Saxl’s side, not from mine. But I have found on former occasions that he waits for people, even If he claims they are his friends, to demand the things which he should have offered.
I enclose the text of a report which Saxl asked me to write about the last six years. I hope it will amuse you.
30th June 1945
P.S.: I have delayed sending off this letter. In the meantime, Saxl has visited us for a week. I think he has enjoyed his stay and had a good rest. However, my doubts have only been deepened by our conversations, and I have decided not to return to England. There is no intention on Saxl’s part to give up his old habit of playing the benefactor at the expense of the permanent staff of the Institute. Though he knows my views, he has no scruples in speaking to outsiders in my own presence of the Institute as a charitable “institution”. He is adamant in his refusal to strengthen the permanent staff both scientifically and financially so as to give the Institute a healthy constitution. The old policy of minimum salaries for those who work, little pittances here and there for those who suffer, and lucrative gifts for those who visit, is to be continued in the old style. Under these conditions, Saxl’s complete concession of my own demands has no attraction for me. Nor was the process very engaging by which he tried to test my resistance. While he began by declaring that the budget could not possibly provide for me more than 950 pounds and that the post of a reader would be the maximum that the University would concede, he ended by assuring me that I would get a full professorship but turned a deaf ear to my suggestion that all such titles, including his own, should be abolished in favour of a community of fellows.
I must also confess that I was shocked by the disclosure, as unexpected as the academic pigeon-holes, that the post of Deputy Director has been abolished without telling me a word, and that you have resumed your old role under a new name. This proves to me that you are both incorrigible. I shall not waste another word on this matter, but you might as well know that you have substantially contributed to my decision not to return.
Other reasons are of a more secondary kind. The many ‘mistakes’ which Saxl has made on this trip – errors of fact, lack of patience, servility alternating with overbearing, but above all ambiguities and supposedly shrewd double-dealings – have convinced me that I should not relinquish prematurely the things which I have carefully built up in these years, and abandon all this work to the kind of foolish predatory raid which Saxl has undertaken so irresponsibly. My function here is perhaps more important, or at any rate more personal, than I myself had assumed; and I shall therefore not relinquish it until I find that it is sensible and safe to do so. While I cannot expect these arguments to have your assent, I know that they would have Warburg’s.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
June 30, 1945 | Edgar Wind to Rudolph Wittkower
I am sending you this letter through Mr Halpern because it contains rather private matters.
Saxl asked me to write a report which he may, or may not, present to the Board. You will find a copy enclosed. Another copy is being sent to Bing. About this, there is no particular secret. My sending it to you separately is a mere act of precaution. Saxl is displeased with some of the phrasing, particularly the humorous passages about Chicago, and has asked me to make alterations. But I think I must retain the right to express myself in my own way on matters which concern me rather personally. I have no objection if Saxl refrains from showing this paper to the board. But I must insist that, if it is shown, the wording remains unchanged and uncut. Furthermore, this report is not intended for public circulation. I have strong objections against its being mimeographed and distributed for propaganda purposes either in extracts or in its entirety. I should be very grateful if you would watch that no such misuse is made of it.
The second enclosure is the copy of a letter I wrote to Bing. This is a secret, and I should prefer if neither you nor Margot mentioned to anyone that you received it. My reason for sending it is that you are entitled to known the full truth; and Bing is not likely to inform you candidly. A copy of my letter seemed to me the simplest and most reliable way of letting you know the facts. Please make full use of that knowledge as you see fit, as long as you do not mention the particular form in which I conveyed it to you. Assume that I wrote you all of this in a completely separate letter. That will save embarrassment on all sides. You understand, I am sure, that I could not write this deplorable story twice.
The major part of the letter was written a few days after I met Saxl in New York, and you will see that I expressed my apprehensions in as conciliatory a form as possible. The postscript was added after Saxl had visited us in Northampton. I saw no reason to veil the severity of my conclusions. Contrary to all the plans I had made before Saxl’s arrival, I have decided not to return to London. What this means to me – and to Margaret also, who has a sister in London and to whom I had described the prospect in the most glowing terms – you and Margot will best judge by yourselves. If you are shocked and hurt and saddened, I assure you that you could not be more so than we. But nobody will understand the reasons better than you, particularly if you read them in full. False reports about my reasons for staying here are certain to be circulated, for example, that I was not willing to renounce the comforts of so-called good living. These are sly and very dangerous lies, and I know that you will protect me against them. Perhaps it will be useful for you to know that our furniture has been stored in Chicago for a year, that we have been living in a single furnished room in the anticipation of leaving, and that I accepted the appointment at Smith College with the understanding that I would leave as soon as we could get to England. All this has now to be changed.
You probably know that Saxl’s trip to America was announced to me as a fait accompli. I was given no chance to prepare it; it was all arranged behind my back. When I warned him not to come in the worst possible season and rather let me arrange for the autumn a tour in which he could quietly explore the country, he would not take the advice and cabled that he would come according to his own plans. So he arrived with a suit case full of ready-made samples which he tried to sell in six weeks to a country he had never seen before. A very effective and polite way of visiting a new continent. My own role was to be that of a stepping stone. Following a pattern with which you are only too familiar, he tried to both utilize and by-pass the work that had been done before him. I let him do as he pleased. The result is that none of his great projects have materialized. In meeting resistance, he has offended three-quarters of the people he has seen, and made friends with only three or four, one of whom is a notorious anti-semite and can make good use of a Renommierjude, particularly one who does not live in this country. The more modest plans which I suggested he should take up, he has dismissed as not sufficiently spectacular and therefore not worthy of his attention. He could have received financial help from New York University for the next volumes of the Poussin drawings; the National Gallery would have published together with the Warburg Institute a study on Bellinis Feast of the Gods which they will now publish alone. Harvard offered to publish together with us a study by Hofer, Seznec, and Cohen on scientific illustration in the Eighteenth Century. But Saxl did not even have the politeness to discuss these proposals with the people who were interested in them. Aut Caesar, aut nihil. So the result is nihil. The British-American exchange of scholars which he was supposed to foster, has been confined by him to German refugees. So far, not a single American has been invited. When I pointed this out, he replied that the British would not mind; and when I told him that the Americans might, this did not impress him.
When he leaves, there will be an incredible mess which it will be my pleasant duty to clean up. The damage to the Institute may be considerable; for I am afraid there will be a tendency to say that I am the exception and Saxl the rule. It may therefore prove of Importance that you come for a quiet and extended visit to this country so that they realize that Saxl is the exception.
His negotiations with me concerning my personal settlement in London were incredible; and I shudder at the thought of them. Although he has known me for twenty-five years and claims to be my friend, he proceeded like an old-clothes dealer who tries to find out what is the cheapest price at which I will sell him my suit. I have therefore forced him to make the one decent offer which he should have made from the beginning, and then told him that I was too disgusted to accept it. You will see in the letter to Bing the more detailed reasons why I refuse to come. I will not play governess of policeman to two people whose instincts are rotten. If I were to return, there would be incessant friction and since I do not have your patience, it would lead to a row of such proportions that it would be damaging to all of us. I want neither a row, nor do I want to be an accomplice. So there is no choice but to stay out; which is the only decent form of protest that I happen to have at my disposal.
I hope that you do not interpret this as “letting you down”. I think, on the contrary, that my action strengthens your hand. Saxl cannot afford to lose you also. You have therefore greater power to dictate your own terms. It is of course difficult for me to advise you from such a distance. You will judge better than I can whether the whole structure of the Institute is so corrupted that there is no chance of salvaging it within our generation. In that case, nobody can blame you for leaving – or quietly looking for a place in which you can work with people of integrity. But perhaps you can weather the decay that surrounds you better than I could. That is a question of constitution. If you think you can, you should stay by all means and secure for yourself the position which you deserve and which alone might save the institution. But if you do this, be merciless. If you are in the least mild, you will be abused, and your strength will be wasted. But you know this anyhow, and I need not write about it. And you also know that whatever decision you make, you can reckon on my help and on my friendship.
My love to Margaret and Mario, in which Margaret joins me.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
July 9, 1945 | Edgar Wind to Fritz Saxl
I sent the letter to Gertrud of which I spoke to you. You probably guessed that the decision would be negative.; for you must have felt that there is an incompatibility between your ways and mine, which is far more fundamental than you care to admit. I think it is better to face it.
When you leave this country, you will have produce, in some of the regions through which you passed, an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust which it will not quite easy to dispel. If only you could be persuaded to desist from meddling with other peoples’ affairs, and from believing that you can profit with impunity from their distress or confusion. You seem to regard me as an ideal agent for mitigating the effects of what you optimistically call your “mistakes”, and you have admitted with unflattering candour that that would be one of my functions in London; but you seem unable to understand that there is a great difference between an intellectual error, which anybody is ready to forgive, and the miscarriage of a human stratagem which is morally suspect. Forgive me for being so frank in return. The matter is basic to our differences of method and opinion, all other differences follow from this one, and I have no hope of straightening it out, for I am convinced that you are subjectively quite honest in believing that you are straightforward. This does not mean that I give up all hope for the future development of the Institute. It has survived so many confusion that it may survive them forever, and this is what I pray should happen. But I know that my own function is somewhere else.
All this sounds too dramatic for my taste. It was intended as a simple statement, and I hope you will take it as such.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 4).
July 27, 1945 | Rudolph Wittkower to Edgar Wind
I got your letter with the various enclosures only to-day and hasten to answer it. Let me first say that I regret immensely your decision although I fully appreciate your motives. I had been looking forward to the old collaboration and to an exchange of views with you which, I need hardly mention, I missed very much all these years. Our newcomers – Yates, Mitchell – seem to me quite promising; they are people to your taste and it is a very sad thought that you will be missing to complete the team.
I do not want to discuss with you at length any disputable points such as the Encyclopaedia. All your arguments against it may be right. And yet I have always been of the opinion that an institute of this kind, after its private and very personal juvenilia, must settle down to more permanent tasks, if you don’t want the haphazard output of the post-Hitler period. With this point of view in mind I had suggested as a possible task the “illustrated Bartsch”. What I had been thinking of was, of course, a solid contribution to the iconography of the 16th and 17th centuries. As you know the whole material needs revision and think of the importance of a proper Marc Anton! In fact, Mitchell wanted to start work on him after his release from the Navy. But I think we agree that these things are at present debatable side-issues.
The crucial point is, what you call, Saxl’s and Bing’s questionable integrity. We lived under one roof together for more than four years and I had plenty of opportunities of studying the inmates of the place. Saxl is, in spite of his often peculiar handling of people and situations, not as morally debased as he appears to you now. Through his fatal handling of your affairs all your old bitterness has come back and I can quite understand that you feel sick at the thought of working with him again. However, I will drop Saxl for a moment and turn to Bing who seems to me the real crux. It begins with that she regards the Institute as a nice sinecure. Unless she is pushed by Saxl or me she does not do a stroke of work. Add to this laziness a highly developed egoism and the jealousy for Saxl which makes discussion or criticism in her presence almost impossible – and you have the perfect deputy director. The prehistory of our incorporation into the University was, of course, punctuated by many common discussions. But at a certain point the curtain was drawn and when it was raised again, Bing emerged in her present position. I became aware of this catastrophe just before Saxl’s journey and a short discussion I had with him before he left ended with a few niceties. Of course, I was never prepared to let the matter rest at that. Quite apart from you and myself we have at present in the Institute three people who are good and serious scholars and would have more right to the deputizing than Bing has. You know that I am the last who is interested in titles and degrees but if such things have to be (maybe the board wanted it, may be that it is the rule), this appointment throws an entirely wrong light on me and also on the three others. The consequences are only too obvious – when Saxl goes the direction of the Institute will be taken out of our hands. So far the position of the Institute.
Now to myself. Meanwhile I have seen what Margot has written to you and I think she put my case better than I can do it. You must not forget that I am not in a very strong position for at present I have no alternative and Saxl knows it as well as I do. But quite apart from this, I was and am by no means unhappy, and I wonder whether I could ever find a post in America where I can work as undisturbed as in my present position. In addition, my collaboration with Saxl during these years was quite harmonious and I wouldn’t bear him a grudge without these latest idiocies.
At the end I want to say a word about you. I interrupted the writing of this letter mainly because I raked my brain whether a way could not be found for you to keep a link with the Institute. After all, the Institute has a kind of objective existence and function quite apart from Saxl and Bing and you cannot step aside and contemplate about its possible decay. Perhaps you could officially remain a member of the Institute and come over here as a regular “Visiting Professor”. For the present I shall try to prevent any drastic steps before the Board.
I was, of course, duly impressed by your memorandum (on which I shall keep watch), and as we won’t meet for some time, I thought I might one day answer it by a similar report for you; but I fear it would make a poor show beside yours.
I expect Saxl back in a few days and I shall keep you informed about further events.
Give my regards to Margaret.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
November 5, 1945 | Edna Purdie to Edgar Wind
Dear Professor Wind,
The Committee of Management of the Warburg Institute have learned with deep regret of your decision to sever your connection with the Institute. My Committee wishes me to express to you their sense of the great loss which the Institute has suffered, and their grateful appreciation of the services which you have rendered to the Institute in Germany, in this country, and in America. We realize that it is largely due to your efforts that the Institute is now in England and a part of this University; what you achieved while on the staff of the Institute will remain as a permanent influence on its future development.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
December 11, 1945 | Edgar Wind to Edna Purdie
Dear Professor Purdie,
I was very much touched by your letter of November 5th and should be grateful if you would convey to your Committee my sense of their kindness and generosity. The decision to give up my connection with the Warburg Institute, and relinquish my hope of returning to England, was extremely painful for me to reach. Very much against Mr. Saxl’s and my own will, it became apparent during his recent visit to the United States that our views concerning the function of the Institute could no longer be reconciled. We found that we held opposite opinions on such important questions as whether or not the Warburg Institute should be primarily a charitable institution, and whether it should become an agency for the kind of cumulative research that results in encyclopaedias, manuals, etc. I felt that if I returned to London I would either have to obstruct Mr. Saxl’s plans, which in fairness I could not do, or assist him in carrying out a program in which I personally disbelieve. Under these circumstances, it seemed to me that I had no choice but to step aside. I shall continue to take the greatest interest in the progress of the Institute which, I feel could not possibly have found a better place for its work than within the liberal setting of London University; and I should be happy if your Committee would not regard me as a stranger but make use of my services whenever they think I might be of assistance.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
January 9, 1946 | Edgar Wind to Eric Warburg
Dear Mr. Warburg:
Thank you very much for your letter of January fifth, concerning $700. that are booked to my debit. On his recent visit to the United States, Saxl gave me the impression that he had settled this settled with your father, and I should be very sorry if this were not the case.
In writing your letter, you probably did not remember that I have worked for the last six years in the Interest of the Warburg Institute without presenting them any account whatsoever of my expenses. The only contribution I received were the $180. monthly which you paid for a fraction of that period and which were intended as a substitute for my salary. The frequent travels and negotiations that I undertook on behalf of the Warburg Institute (not to speak of my work as co-editor of their Journal) entailed expenses which far exceed the sum which you were so kind as to advance to me when I was ill in the hospital. If you think that the remainder of this sum should be repaid, I shall put in my claim with the Warburg Institute, from which I shall easily be able to refund you. Such a settlement would be to my advantage, but I fear it would further drain the slender resources of the Institute and I hope we can agree to regard the matter as settled.
There has been a good deal of confusion in the financial policy of the Warburg Institute towards its members. Ever since the period of the German inflation, the financial plight of European scholars has been so great that the Warburg Institute has been able to employ fully-trained scholars on grounds of charity with salaries that lay below the existential minimum. It might be argued that this helped the scholars to survive, but there can be no doubt that the Warburg Institute has greatly profited from their plight; and the number actually employed by the Institute was never large enough to make up for the obvious disadvantages of this method. My chief reason for not returning to London is that Saxl is determined to carry on this policy of benevolent exploitation. I enclose the copy of a letter which I wrote to the chairman of the Board at the time of my resignation. Though I, naturally, did not state the case as plainly as I do to you, you will be able to read between the lines.
It is with some amusement (in retrospect) that I recall that in April 1933 – when, after five years of service at the Warburg Institute, I received a monthly salary of 300 marks – I went at my own expense to London to negotiate the transfer of the Institute. This seemed a natural thing for me to do, considering the immense Intellectual debt that I owed to your uncle, from whose example alas, during only little […].
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
Edgar Wind, Report 1939-1945
My first visit to the United States began in the spring of 1924 and lasted four years, the major part of which I spent at the University of North Carolina as an Instructor and Assistant Professor in Philosophy. A group of young scholars whose acquaintance I made in these years, were later entrusted with the re-organization of St John’s College In Annapolis, Maryland, and made an attempt to transform the college into a school for the study of the humanities. In 1939 Mr Barr and Mr Buchanan invited me to return to America as a guest of St. John’s. When I sailed in August of that year, I intended to stay for five months. By the outbreak of the war, this period was prolonged to six years.
When it became evident that I would have to remain longer than I had planned, it was my intention to travel as much as possible and, therefore, avoid becoming affiliated with an institution. As the lectures which I had delivered had met with a response that went far beyond my expectations, and as these lectures were regarded as expositions of the method to which the Warburg Institute in London was committed, I Inferred that it would be in the interest of the Warburg Institute if I made this method known in as many parts of the United States as possible. I lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, New York University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Dumbarton Oaks, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Carnegie Corporation in New York, the Fritz Collection, the Morgan Library, and the Medieval Academy. I also spoke at the universities in the South: the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University; in the Midwestern States, at the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, and the Cleveland Museum of Art; and in the Far West at the University of California at Berkeley, Mills College, the San Francisco Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Huntington Library. I made a particular point of visiting the more provincial institutions, the Museums in Worcester, Hartford, Providence, and Buffalo; the colleges of the Connecticut Valley; and of recent years I have been occasionally a guest at Groton School.
I had the satisfaction that less than a year after my arrival, in the summer of 1940, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery, and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library issued a joint invitation to the staff of the Warburg Institute to settle in the United States for the duration of the war.
To give a full account of these years would be impossible as well as tedious. In planning the lectures, it was my aim to discuss either a work of art of universal interest (for example, Raphael’s School of Athens), or to adjust the theme of the lecture to the objects of art preserved in the region where I was speaking. The appended list which comprises series of lectures only, will show that in several instances the lectures were accompanied by specially arranged exhibitions. I have not listed single lectures because, to my horror, they number seventy-three and their subjects, with only a few exceptions, were either variants or parts of the larger series. A lecture on Bellini’s Feast of the Gods will be published by the National Gallery, and a study on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
After three years of this kind of activity, and with the knowledge that the war was far from ending, I felt that my strength would not permit me to continue the same course indefinitely. I therefore accepted in the autumn of 1942 an appointment by the University of Chicago as a full professor in the department of Art, an appointment which entailed the rights of permanent tenure, old age insurance, and a seat in the University Senate. Although my colleagues at the Warburg Institute expressed severe disappointment at my accepting this post, I feel certain that if they had been present, they would have recognized this development as inevitable.
At the time when I accepted the appointment in Chicago, two other Institutions had approached me with tentative suggestions that I join them. The Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University inquired whether I would join in order to conduct general undergraduate courses in the humanities and an advanced seminar of Renaissance Studies in which several members of the faculty would take part. The program appealed to me very much, but when we began to discuss details, it became apparent that the amount of teaching would be so large as to prevent me from continuing my research.
Also, Professor Sachs, then Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University, and Mr John Thacher, acting director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Institute, which had become part of Harvard University in the autumn of 1940, discussed with me informally whether I would consider joining even though I was not a Byzantinist. I remember with gratitude the zest and gallantry with which both Mr Sachs and Mr Thacher fought for the inclusion of what they generously called a “humanist” in the research staff of the new Institute. It was certainly not due to any reticence or omission on their part that the “departmental mind” won out on that occasion.
My work in Chicago coincided with one of the great upheavals by which that institution has been visited at fairly regular intervals. When I arrived, the cleavage between President Hutchins and the majority of his faculty had been complete for some time. The University was split into two hostile camps, both bristling with plans to outwit their opponents, and the newcomer found himself surrounded by an atmosphere of martial violence.
I thought at first that I could quietly work as a member of the Department of Art to which I had been appointed, and keep out of the range of the Homeric battles that were raging pleasantly around me. Being averse to the type of historical thinking which traces a motif à travers les ages and ends by becoming lost in the mazes of its own relativism, my interest lay in giving monographic courses which would bring the student face to face with a few great objects and a few great men. I gave a course on Michelangelo, a course on Raphael, a seminar on Leonardo da Vinci, another course on Eighteenth Century England, a seminar on the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds. However, it was soon discovered that my method of approach was apt to cut through departmental boundaries, and before I knew it I was regarded as a dangerous man – “a menace” was the official designation – and publicly branded as an “obscurantist”. To make matters worse, Mr Hutchins Invited me to serve on a special committee which he had formed for the fostering of inter-departmental studies and of which he himself was a member. The other members were Mr Redfield (anthropology), Mr Nef (economics), Mr Knight (political theory), Mr Schwab (biology), Mr Katz (Jurisprudence), Mr Wilder (theology). I remember the regular meetings of this committee as my most pleasant experience in Chicago. Discussion was as sharp, and division of opinion as relentless, within this committee as without. My only regret was that a series of public lectures that I gave under the auspices of the committee on such inoffensive subjects as Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling and Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, aroused such violent resentment on the part of “the enemy”, that the latter made an organized attempt, under the cover of a “committee on policy”, to prohibit me from speaking in public on subjects relating to the humanities. The succeeding debates in the University Senate, in which Mr Hutchins was attacked as a “revolutionary”, have given me an idea of the extremes to which unbridled passion can drive the misuse of intelligence; and while in retrospect it strikes me as humorous that the debate had to be carried on under police protection, I am happy to say that this particular struggle ended with a victory, however narrow, on the side of academic freedom.
I was not displeased to leave Chicago, though a limited number of my colleagues regretted it.
Smith College, which appointed me to the William Allen Neilson Research Professorship in the autumn of 1944, has proved refreshingly undramatic. The terms of the professorship are so liberal as to relieve the incumbent from any teaching obligation, although occasional lectures and seminars as well as consultation by students and faculty are admitted, though not required. President Davis was charmingly outspoken at my arrival and positively requested me not to assume any tacit obligations which were explicitly excluded by the terms of my appointment. As a result I have been as free as I have hardly ever been in recent years to pursue my own studies and to work at the completion of two books begun long ago, The Religious Symbolism of Michelangelo and Philosophical Iconography of the Renaissance, and also a group of long delayed studies on the English Eighteenth Century.
The little lecturing that I have done in the last year – a series on English Art in the Eighteenth Century, a small group of lectures on Pico della Mirandola, an occasional seminar on Michelangelo, a single seminar at Harvard University on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and a lecture at Dumbarton Oaks on The Return of the Palaeologi – has stimulated rather than interfered with my research; but I have made it a rule to decline more ambitious assignments of this kind, such as the Lowell Lectures in Boston which I was invited to give in the autumn.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2).
August 28, 1948 | Edgar Wind to Kenneth Clark
[…] I was very much touched by what you wrote about the Warburg Institute and wish I could have heard your broadcast. Your anxieties correspond very closely to mine: I also see the writing on the wall – ‘an ordinary learned body’. Attempts on my part to resist this development proved so unsuccessful and Quixotic that in the end it became impossible for me to return, although I longed to be in England again and had, in fact, made all preparations for coming back. I left the University of Chicago with that intention. But when I saw Saxl here it became apparent that our views about the Institute’s function had become quite incompatible. He was then full of plans for an “Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance”, and seemed unfrightened by the prospect that, if the plan were to succeed, it would reduce a whole generation of scholars into compilers. As other projects have revealed the same tendency, I sometimes fear the Institute has never quite rid itself of certain vestiges of the German Inflation – the period in which it was born. In the present calamity, perhaps nothing would help it more to overcome the effects of bed growing pains than a director bred in the humane tradition of English letters.
Warburg himself used to feel that certain phases of his work might not be at their best if they became codified in an orthodox fashion. Though you may not like this suggestion, I am certain that the proof of this will one day be seen, ex contrario, in the sequel to “The Gothic Revival”.
With kindest regards to you and Lady Clark,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3).
August 12, 1954 | Edgar Wind to Gertrud Bing
I heard, from a stranger, that Frankfort died, and am so appalled by his death, and by this series of calamities which have been assailing the Warburg Institute, that I am afraid my letter will make little sense. Yet at this particular moment, sense is perhaps more in need than sympathy (of which mine is not lessened by the fact that I have deliberately made myself a stranger). My first impulse after momentarily being numbed by the shock, was a feeling that I ought to put my name on the list of candidates; and perhaps one should trust these impulses. At any rate, on cooler reflexion, I think that this may be right, and that I ought to do it. As you know, I do not covet this office; but my name might possibly help (I say this without conceit) to drive the list upward; that is, to find a man who is better than I, or at least no worse and with more palatable failings, and to exclude the kind of makeshift solution which sheer tiredness might otherwise impose.
Please let me know in case I should do anything “formal” about this matter. I do not know whether the University invites applications, whether there are Boards, Committees, etc. to decide, or whether you possibly have already found a director to tide you over, or to take over for good. In that case, you must take this letter as a sign that the ghost of Warburg still rumours in me, and I know you will take this as a good sign.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3).
August 12, 1954 | Gertrud Bing to Edgar Wind
Thank you for your letter. I am sure that the news of Frankfort’s death must have appalled you. It was a thunderbolt out of a blue sky, and it will take us all some time to pull ourselves together.
As to your wishing to be considered a candidate for the succession, there is no reason why you should not write to Professor Purdie (Bedford College) who is still the Chairman of our Committee of Management. The vacations have given us a breathing space, but at the beginning of October the machinery will be set in motion with, I presume, the establishment of a subcommittee appointed to survey the field.
I do take your letter, as you suggest, as a good sign; but I am wondering whether or not there are such things as irreversible processes.
Yours, with kind regards,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3).
August 25, 1954 | Edgar Wind to Jean Seznec, letter draft
Vous nous manquez beaucoup. Non seulement que votre visite était bien trop courte, elle était incomplète parce que vous étiez seul. En [...], vous viendrez avec Simone, et je vous prie de nous annoncer la date de votre visite aussi tôt que possible, pour que, cette fois ça, nous soyons sûrs que vous ne nous échappez pas!
Peut-être retournerons nous de l’Angleterre ensemble, car mon bateau, le [blank space] , part de […]. je dois partir vers le décembre. J’étais bien furieux envers vous
Quand j’ai appris que vous étiez venu en Amérique sans me le dire, que vous vous étiez marié sans me l’annoncer, que vous avez cru pouvois retourner en Europe sans me donner signe, [...], et j’avais commencé [...] de vous écrire, de [...], la lettre suivante:
Scélérat, Malin, Malicieux, Homme Fatale, Assassin, Créature, – en deux mots: cher Ami! nous avons au de vos nouvelles par la source la plus
disgracieuse abominable – Philipe Hofer!
La raison que je n’ai pas continué, était l’arrivé d’un visiteur (le jeune [...], du Metropolitan Museum), qui m’a parlé de la mort de Frankfort, dont personne ne m’a pas averti. Comme je vous l’ai dit, il y a des moments où vous m’apparaissez trop “occasionaliste”, trop [...] faut est aussi la mienne, puisque j’ai appris de notre conversation que vous ne connaissiez pas l’essentiel de mes relations avec l’Institute Warburg. C’est une histoire macabre, dans laquelle il y a un sort de revenant, et cher ami, peut-être vous pouvez m’aider de me débarrasser de cette présence équivoque.
J’ai connu Warburg [de] très près pendant les dernières années de sa vie. J’enseignais alors [instead of J’étais “docent”] à l’Université de Hambourg, et il m’avait demandé de devenir un membre de sa petite équipe. Je le voyais presque tous les jours,
il me traitait non seulement comme élève mais comme fils et je dois dire que cet homme, qui avait la renommée d’un tyran, m’est toujours apparu l’homme le plus aimable que j’ai jamais connu. Dans nos conversations régulières et très étendues il m’a fait voir et comprendre des phénomènes étranges dont aucun autre de mes maîtres n’a jamais parlé. Peut-être le fait qu’il avait passé par une maladie mentale, lui avait donné une don spéciale une sensibilité accrue ouvert certaines perspectives par laquelle il faisait peur aux [...] gens qui le comprenaient mal, mais en laquelle il possédait un instrument unique pour interpréter [...] des phenomènes étranges un historien de l’imagination humaine.
Un soir, en 1929, quand j’étais dans une petite chambre qu’il m’avait donné à la bibliothèque pour
étudier travailler, la porte s’ouvrit et je vis le valet de Warburg entrer pour une seconde et se retirer très vite. J’étais en train d’écrire, et il me faisait signe qu’il ne voulait pas me déranger. Mais j’insistai, et il me dit avec quelque embarras: ‘Eh bien. Monsieur Warburg m’a envoyé; il voudrait vous parler; mais il m’a spécialement chargé de ne pas voir d’abord si vous travaillez ne pas vous interrompre si vous êtes à votre travail” (Je me disais: ‘Voilà le type d’un tyran!’), et je descendis.
C’était une heure très avancée du soir, et j’étais étonné de trouver Warburg encore à son bureau. Il était dans un état de lucidité extraordinaire, [...] et d’une bonne humeur presqu’enfantine.
En me rappelant les bonmots qu’il produisait Après 25 ans, il m’est difficile de supprimer un rire en me rappellant les bon mots qu’il produisait à cette occasion. Mais puisqu’il était un homme malade (dyspepsie et maladie de coeur), j’étais un peu inquiet; et enfin je lui dis en riant: ‘Je sais que vous ne m’avez pas appellé ici pour bavarder. Qu’aviez-vous à me dire?’ Il me répondit: ‘C’est excessivement simple. J’avais toujours peur de mourir, et vous savez pourquoi, mais je n’ai pas plus peur. Depuis depuis que vous êtes dans cette bibliothèque, je sais que n’ai plus peur; je sais que tout ira bien quand je serai parti.’ Il est mort un mois plus tard. – dans un lit. Les histoires dramatiques qu’on raconte de sa mort, et dont Heise ne s’est pas gêné d’imprimer la plus dégoutante sont complètement légendaires. Il avait l’habitude de se coucher l’après-midi (les médecins le voulait); et un de ces après-midi, il ne s’est pas réveillé. C’est tout. Vous savez (et il faut m’excuser de vous en parler)
Je ne vous parlerais pas de certains
J’aimerais ne pas parler des
mes relations entre Saxl e Mlle. Bing [...], mais il est nécessaire d’éclairer un seul point: Warburg savait ce qu’il se passait entre eux, et il m’en a parlé. Il a fait tout son possible pour le bien de la bibliothèque et pour leur propre bien, de leur faire voir leur manque de goût et de tacte [...], mais il n’a pas réussi. Quant à moi, [...] je n’ai jamais compris comment tous les deux gens qui se croyaient pourraient être tellement endurcis et [...] insensible, que de se permettre [...] à la dépense d’une institution qu’ils prétendaient croyaient servir, et devant le nez d’un vieillard dont la santé mentale était toujours en depression dans une maladie nerveuse. Étant plus jeune qu’eux, je n’ai jamais essayé de les éclaircir,
Je vous avoue que j’ai trouvé très difficile de supporter le fardeau que Warburg a mis sur mes épaules.
De 1929 à 1933 et J’ai essayé, de ma façon, de trouver un modus vivendi, en évitant le contact personnel avec Saxl et Mlle. Bing autant que possible, sans sacrifier mes devoirs envers la bibliothèque. Vous vous rappelez peut-être de vos visites à Hambourg et à Londres que au-dehors de la bibliothèque, vous m’avez vu rarement (peut-être jamais) dans leur compagnie. J’ai préféré être seul. J’ai aussi [...] toujours à retenir une position qui me [...] indépendant d’eux trouver moyens que garantirait mon indépendance. À Hambourg, j’étais attaché à l’Université; à Londres, j’appartenais à University College, qui payait (par la grace de les Rockefeller Foundation) la moitié de mon salaire.
Néanmoins, l’arrivé de Hitler, en 1993, m’a forcé de m’occuper
de la bibliothèque de leur avenir d’une façon très active. Il était clair à tout le monde (excepté à la famille des Warburg, qui, étant banquiers, avaient des informations spéciales que […] cauchemar que de quatre mois) qu’il fallait sauver la bibliothèque en l’exportant. Saxl fit un “voyage officiel” en Hollande, pour parler à Huizinga et voir si on pourrait trouver une place pour la bibliothèque là-bas. Moi, j’avais des amis en Angleterre, et j’y mis allé (à mes propres frais, sans aide de la part de la bibliothèque ou de la famille Warburg) en avril 1933. Puisque personne ne savait d’avance que les Allemands [...] un jour occuper envahir l’Hollande, c’est un accident bien heureux je le considère comme une providence du ciel que Saxl a mal réussi en Hollande, et que j’ai bien réussi en Angleterre. [...] ces négociations, vers la fin desquelles j’ai télégraphié à Saxl de venir me rejoindre en Angleterre à Londres. Quelques-uns ont survis la guerre et connaissent des faits. Et cela explique peut-être pourquoi Mlle. Purdie, que je n’ai jamais vu que je ne connais pas, a trouvé bien, comme ‘Chairman of the Board’, de m’écrire une lettre de remerciement, en novembre 1945, quand je me suis décidé de ne plus retourner à l’institute, dont je cite: “We realize that it is largely due to your efforts that the Institute is now in England and a part of this University”. La seconde En effet, le refuge de l’institut en Angleterre n’était pas le seul refuge que je lui avait procuré. L’institut Financé par des sources privées Anglaises, le premier contrat faisait provision pour trois ans, le second pour sept ans de plus; mais cette la fin de cette période approchait, sans aucune université Anglaise ayant offert d’adopter l’Institut. C’était pendant la guerre; le danger d’une invasion Allemande était grande, et les Anglais avaient d’autres soucis que de s’occuper de la preservation survivance d’un institut semi-étranger. J’étais en Amérique, où je recevais de Saxl des lettres extrêmement pessimistes. C’est alors que je lui ai indiqué que j’essayerais de persuader un groupe d’institutions américaines d’inviter l’Institut Warburg en Amérique, de garantir les dépenses de transport , de recevoir et les salaires des employés, et de lui offrir une place permanente ici – en cas que les Anglais n’en voulaient plus. J’ai parlé à Archibald MacLeish qui était alors “Librarian of Congress”, aux Bliss qui possédaient encore venaient de commencer avec Dumbarton Oaks, et à Finley, qui était le directeur de la Nat. Gallery à Washington. Ces trois institutions ce sont réunies, et pour démontrer qu’on était sérieux, on a demandé l’ambassadeur Anglais, Lord Lothian, de transmettre cette invitation à Lord Lee, qui étaient alors le “Chairman le prédécesseur de Mlle. Purdie comme “Chairman of the Board”. L’effet était immédiat. Les Anglais découvrirent leur désir de retenir l’Institut; et c’est alors sur cette base que l’incorporation dans l’Université de Londres eu lieu. Lord Lee m’écrivit une lettre, dont je cite:
The Board have asked me to express their special appreciation of the part which you played in connection with the invitation to the institutes which reached us from Washington. They realize that it is largely due to your solicitude for the institute that the offer was made.
Je me rappelle assez vivement le jour où Mr. Forster, premier secrétaire de l’Ambassade Anglaise, me demanda les détails qu’il
et la devait introduire dans la lettre, qu’il dicta en ma présence.
Et pour vous amuser, je vous cite aussi d’une note de Max Warburg, l’aîné des quatre frères de Aby; mais pour vous épargner son Allemand, je traduis: ‘C’était une enterprise très hardie, qu’en temps de guerre, seulement des gens enthousiasmés comme vous aurait osé essayer. Je vous remercie au nom de la famille’. – Quand un banquier dit ‘enthousiasmés’, il veut dire ‘fou’. Il me reste de vous rappeler les façons un peu drôles par lesquelles Saxl et Mlle. Bing ont exprimé leur gratitude. L’institut ayant été incorporé dans l’université, Saxl m’informa que mon poste de ‘Deputy Director’ serait aboli, que Mlle. Bing prendrait ma place comme ‘Assistant Director’, que meilleure position qu’on pouvait m’offrir ‘sous eux’, serait celle d’un ‘Reader’ avec un salaire de 950 livres, mais qu’on serait très content de me voir ‘diriger les étudiants’, et que je pouvais toujours compter succéder Saxl après sa mort ou son ‘retirement’. Je m’en suis remercie.
[...] Après cela, négociations interminables, dans lesquelles j’ai dû employer l’aide d’un avocat Anglais, pour regagner mes
biens papiers et matériaux déposés à l’institut. Et pour comble, j’ai eu le choc et le chagrin, dont vous étiez témoin, de voir apparaître dans les publications de l’Institut Warburg, fourmillantes de citations et de références [...], certains résultats inconnus de mes propres recherches sans indications de leur auteur! [...]
Vous connaissez le fin. Saxl est mort; et Mlle. Bing, comme “Assistant Director”, appartenait au comité pour choisir sons successeur. Elle a menti en disant qu’elle m’avait demandé d’accepter le poste et que j’avais refusé; et elle a inventé le même mensonge au sujet de Wormald (qui me l’a confirmé lui-même). À sa recommendation, on a nommé un homme qui dépendait d’elle parce
qu’il connaissait pas le sujet que la matière de l’institut n’était pas de son métier. La justification primaire de ce choix était que lui et sa femme avaient été amis intimes de Saxl e Mlle. Bing. Pauvre Frankfort! Je suis sûr qu’il a bien regretté sa faiblesse de prendre un poste sous des conditions pareilles. Et maintenant il est mort aussi; et son successeur sera proposé par Mlle. Bing! Vous comprenez (elle ne m’a [...] écrit un mot) bien pourquoi je lui écrit que je me proposerai moi-même comme successeur!!
Mais ne vous inquiétez pas! Je n’ai plus l’intention de rentre en relation avec des caractères pareils; et je suis sûr que Warburg lui-même ne voudrait plus que je le fasse.
Cher Jean: Excusez-moi de ce long récit.
Mais je vous dois Mais il était nécessaire pour vous répondre à la question qui nous troublait l’autre jour: ‘Quelles sont mes relations avec l’Institut Warburg?’ La réponse est simple: Vous connaissez la réponse: Je n’en ai aucunes. L’idée de appartenir à une institution, au centre de laquelle se perpétuait une corruption profonde, était une Don Quichotterie folie. Du moins, c’était au-dessus de mes forces, et Warburg s’est profondément trompé en croyant que tout serait bien parce que j’étais là. Il me reste de vous demander de faire tout ce que vous pouvez pour trouver un directeur pour cet institut délaissé qui se rapprochera du style Warburg, et non du style Bing. Du moment qu’un homme vraiment bien, un homme qui connait le sujet, et qui a un esprit indépendant, se chargera de diriger l’institut, je sais que ce “revenant” cessera de me troubler, et l’esprit de Warburg lui-même sera en paix. Évitez Méfiez-vous des Allemands, et méfiez-vous surtout des Autrichiens (ils trichent), mais tâchez de trouver un Anglais, parmi lesquels il y a bien des bons classicistes et médiévalistes. Et n’oubliez pas que, si vous pouvez aider à résoudre ce problème, vous me rendriez un service d’ami, en me délivrant de ce cauchemar.
Toujours votre, Edgar.
(Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 7, file 5).
September 25, 1954 | Jean Seznec to Edgar Wind
Le 25 septembre 1954
Je réponds bien tard à votre longue et bonne letter. Pardonnez-moi. J’attendais de pouvoir vous répondre à loisir [...] dans une paix relative de l’esprit. Mais j’ai été bouleversé par le départ de Simone – qui est retrouvé mardi aux États Unis; et maintenant [...] en Bretagne, près de mon père très gravement malade, et que je crains de ne pas revoir vivant.
Je vous remercie de m’avoir écrit, en détail, l’histoire de vos relations avec l’Institut Warburg; vous avez pleinement répondu à la question que je vous posais à Northampton, et qui me tourmentais depuis longtemps. Vous m’avez appris beaucoup de choses que j’ignorais, et je vois le problème dans sa vraie perspective. Si la direction de l’Institute – sa direction totale, effective – vous avoir été offerte (comme je l’avais cru) au lendemain de la mort de Saxl, tout aurais pris un cours très different – et l’âme de Warburg eut été consolée. Mais c’est Frankfort qui s’est fourvoyé à l’Institut – et sa mort rouvre la question dans tout son acuité.
Je voudrais savoir, avant toute chose, si vous avez reçu de Mlle. Bing une réponse à la lettre où vous vous mettiez à la disposition de l’Institut – la lettre que vous dictait le souvenir de Warburg et votre fidélité à son esprit. J’ignore, par ma part, ce qui va se passer, et je ne crois pas, mon cher Edgar, pouvoir influencer les événements, ni les décision: vous me prêtez généreusement une autorité que je n’ai pas auprès d’un comité dont je ne fais pas partie. Ce que je puis vous dire c’est que le comité será [...] divisé, comme je vous l’ai rapporté à Northampton: les uns [...] un directeur choisi dans le “inner circle” de l’Institut; les autres (tel Tom Boas, par exemple) réclameront un anglais: et il ne manque pas en effet, en Angleterre, d’excellents “classicistes”, parmi lesquels ils pourraient choisir. Ce n’est qu’au hasard des conversation que je pourrai moi-même (si on me la demande!) formuler une opinion.
Ce qui je veux, en tout cas, c’est vous revoir en Angleterre – et vous garder. A cela je travaillerai, de cela nous parlerons bientôt à All Souls. Si j’entendes à mon retour à Oxford des nouvelles interessants, je vous en ferai part, soyez-en sûr; et ne m’accusez jamais, mon ami, d’être ambitieux ou “politique”. Nous avons été, l’un et l’autre, coupables de silence dans les dernières années; mais je crois que nous ne sommes, ni l’un ni l’autre, coupables de désaffection. Laissez moi vous [...], à Margaret e à vous, la joie profonde que j’ai éprouvée à vous retrouver tous les deux; et toutes les joies qui je me [...] dans le prochain avenir, de ces réunions où Simone aussi sera présente. Il y aura encore de beaux jours – les plus beaux, les plus riches – pour notre amitié.
(Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 7, file 5).
March 22, 1969 | Edgar Wind to G.J. Grange
Dear Mr. Grange,
Please forgive me for being so late in saying how pleasant it was to see you here and how much I hope that you have followed your wife’s excellent advice.
I am a little embarrassed by the funny book which you kindly sent me because I normally do not read that sort of literature. A glance at what is said about the Warburg family, whose members in Hamburg and in New York I have known for two generations, was sufficient to convince me that the writer is unreliable in the extreme. Max Warburg did not negotiate with the allies in 1918; this is a confusion with Dr. Melchior, who was a member of the Warburg firm. Ingrid Warburg was not born in Stockholm but in Hamburg; she was the daughter of Fritz, whose Swedish wife gave her that Nordic name. Aby Warburg did not believe in astrology but, on the contrary, exposed the fallacies of that superstition and of many others, as part of a great campaign which he humorously called Kritik der Reinen Vernunft. Neither the amiable Mary Warburg (Aby’s widow) nor the detestable Eric Warburg (Max’s son) had any share whatsoever in initiating the very precarious negotiations for the transfer of the Warburg Institute from Hamburg to London in 1933. As I was rather deeply involved in this affair, I know the facts. Unquestionably Max Warburg, whom I disliked profoundly (almost as profoundly as I respected Aby) was foolish and vain and misjudged the German situation completely, but to claim that he tried to become Hitler’s personal Jew is coarse defamation. The book is sprinkled all over with shabby remarks against dead men, who cannot answer, among them James Loeb and Howard Goodhart, whose genuine scholarly attainments have completely escaped the compiler of all this rubbish. You really should not distribute such stuff.
This is surely a most unconventional way of thanking for a present!
With best wishes to you both,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 3, file 2).
Cfr. E. Wind, Carta 22 mar. 1969, S.l. para G.J. Grange, S.l., 2 f., in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 3, file 2.
 For Wind’s introduction, see Einleitung, Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike, Erster Band: Die Erscheinungen des Jahres 1931, ed. H. Meier, R. Newald, and E. Wind (Leipzig-Berlim: B.G. Teubner, 1934), V-XVII. For the Nazi review, see M. Rasch, Juden und Emigranten machen deutsche Wissenschaft, “Völkischer Beobachter”, 5 January 1935. A specific mention to Wind is made on p. 5: “Herr Edgar Wind in seiner Einleitung fühlt sich selbst dabei etwas ungemütlich und ergeht sich in langatmigen und fremdwortgespickten Ausführungen über die Berechtigung dieser neuer Bibliographie”.
 In a note, Margaret Wind speculates three reasons for Wind’s inclusion in the SS black list: (1) Wind’s signing of the protest against the arrest of leftist editor Carl von Ossietzky in 1931; (2) Wind’s role in the relocation of KBW in 1933; (3) Wind’s introduction to the Kulturwissenschaft Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike and his critique of the Hygienikers (i.e., Nazis). Cfr. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 6, file 2.
 There are many letters from Saxl and Bing hinting that Wind’s succession as the director of the Warburg Institute was an assured development. In a letter from June 1st, 1943, for example, Bing states: “All this is said under one condition, Edgar dear, and what misgivings I may have felt on that account in moments of despondency, are dispelled by your letter. The condition is that you are going to take over when Saxl’s term of office comes to an end. You know how fond I am of the Institute, and how much I hope it will go on to play its part. But I feel saving it now is not worth much trouble unless its inner meaning is ensured. You have never wanted to hear anything of this as long as you were here. You may feel differently about it now. For one, Saxl is getting older, and the last years have, for private as well as for general reasons, laid a very heavy burden on him. I should be very glad if he would not have to carry it very much longer once the future of the Institute is assured, and, let us hope, the war over. The other reason why I feel this may be discussed between us three is that, the last years, and also to a certain extent the particulars experiences of the common household have convinced me that the present team would be a hopelessly pedestrian and uninspired assemblage without somebody like you or Saxl to stir then up. I know everything there is to say against making such a sweeping statement at the present time, but believe me I am right. I was duly shocked and hurt whenever one of your furious letters came but I knew all the time what you objected to, and agree with you”. Gertrud Bing to Edgar Wind, June 1st, 1943. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
 Wind’s review was first published anonymously as On a recent Biography of Warburg, “The Times Literary Supplement”, 25 June 1971, 735-736. It was republished ten years later in Eloquence of the Symbols (cfr. ed. 1993, 106-113).
- Berlin, Nabokov 1971
I. Berlin to N. Nabokov, September 21, 1971, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Berlin 271, fol. 76.
- Bing, Wind 1942
G. Bing to E. Wind, April 27, 1942, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1.
- Bing, Wind 1943
G. Bing to E. Wind, June 1st, 1943, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Bing, Wind 1954
G. Bing to E. Wind, August 12, 1954, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3.
- Gilbert 1988
C. Gilbert, Edgar Wind as man and thinker, in The New Criterion Reader: The First Five Years, ed. H. Kramer, New York 1988.
- Hutchins, Wind 1943
R.M. Hutchins to E. Wind, telegram, October 9, 1943, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 8, file 2.
- Lee, Wind 1940
Lee of Fareham to E. Wind, December 24, 1940, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1.
- Liberthsen, Wind 1942
L. Liberthsen to E. Wind, April 10, 1942, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 162, file 1.
- McGuire 1989
W. McGuire, Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past, Princeton 1989.
- Panofsky, Boas 1939
E. Panofsky to G. Boas, October 5, 1939, in E. Panofsky, Korrespondenz 1910 bis 1968, vol. 2, Wiesbaden 2001-2011.
- Rampley 2001
M. Rampley, Introduction, in E. Wind, Experiment and Metaphysics. Towards a Resolution of the Cosmological Antinomies [Das Experiment und die Metaphysik: Zur Auflosung der kosmologischen Antinomien, Tübingen 1934], Eng. trans. by C. Edwards, Oxford 2001.
- Saxl et all. 1940
F. Saxl, R. Wittkower, and G. Bing to E. Wind, telegram, May 21, 1940, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1.
- Saxl, Wind 1943a
F. Saxl to E. Wind, March 19, 1943, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Saxl, Wind 1943b
F. Saxl to E. Wind, October 1, 1943, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 4.
- Saxl, Wind 1944
F. Saxl to E. Wind, telegram, December 16, 1944, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Warburg, Bing 1946
E.M. Warburg to G. Bing, January 10, 1946, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 5.
- Warburg, Bing, Saxl 2001
A. Warburg, G. Bing and F. Saxl, Tagebuch der Kulturwissenschaftlichen Bibliothek Warburg, ed. K. Michels and C. Schoell-Glass, Berlin 2001.
- Warburg Institute Report 1939-1940
Warburg Institute Report: September 1939-June 1940, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Warburg Institute Report 1940-1941
Warburg Institute Report, June 1940-September 1941, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1.
- Warburg, Warburg 1944
M.M. Warburg to E.M. Warburg, December 11, 1944, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 5.
- Warburg, Wind 1944
M.M. Warburg to E. Wind, December 11, 1944, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 5.
- Wescott, Wind 1942
G. Wescott to E. Wind, April 9, 1942, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 162, file 1.
- Wind 1931
E. Wind, Warburgs Begriff der Kulturwissenschaft und seine Bedeutung für die Ästhetik, “Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft” XXV (1931).
- Wind 1939-1945
E. Wind, “Report 1939-1945”, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Wind 1942-1944
E. Wind, “Supplementary Report”, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 8, file 2, 1942-1944.
- Wind 1943
E. Wind, Memorandum on Encyclopedic Studies to be edited by the Committee on Social Thought, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 136, file 2, 1943.
- Wind 1943-1944
E. Wind, Renaissance Studies, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 8, file 2, 1943-1944.
- Wind 1950
E. Wind, The Eloquence of Symbols, “The Burlington Magazine” XCII (1950).
- Wind 1954
E. Wind, Art and Scholarship under Julius II, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 216, file 4, 1954.
- Wind  1985
E. Wind, Art and Anarchy [London 1963], Evanston 1985.
- Wind, Bing 1945
E. Wind to G. Bing, June 15, 1945, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Wind, Bing 1954
E. Wind to G. Bing, August 12, 1954, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3.
- Wind, Breidecker 1995
M. Wind to V. Breidecker, September 6, 1995, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 46, file 7.
- Wind, Clark 1948
E. Wind to K. Clark, August 28, 1948, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 3.
- Wind, Harvey 1995
M. Wind to B. Harvey, April 10, 1995, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 23, file 1.
- Wind, Hutchins 1944
E. Wind to R.M. Hutchins, October 19, 1944, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 8, file 2.
- Wind, Grange 1969
E. Wind to G.J. Grange, March 22, 1969, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 3, file 2.
- Wind, McKeon 1942
E. Wind to R. McKeon, October 12, 1942, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 8, file 2.
- Wind, Redford 1995
M. Wind to B. Redford, September 19, 1995, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 50, file 1.
- Wind, Simmons 1986
M. Wind to J.S.G. Simmons, February 12, 1986, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 12, file 1.
- Wind, Saxl 1943
E. Wind to F. Saxl, April 10, 1943, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Wind, Saxl 1945
E. Wind to F. Saxl, July 9, 1945, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 241, file 4.
- Wind, Seznec 1954
E. Wind to J. Seznec, letter draft, August 25, 1954, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 5.
- Wind, Warburg 1942
E. Wind to E.M. Warburg, June 13, 1942, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 1.
- Wind, Warburg 1946
E. Wind to E.M. Warburg, January 9, 1946, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Wind, Wittkower 1945
E. Wind to R. Wittkower, June 30, 1945, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 7, file 2.
- Zorach 2007
R. Zorach, Love, truth, orthodoxy, reticence; or, what Edgar Wind didn’t see on Botticelli’s Primavera, “Critical Inquiry” 34/1 (2007).
In August 1939, Edgar Wind (1900-1971) – then Deputy Director of the Warburg Institute – departed from London towards the United States, intending to stay for five months. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, this journey would last sixteen years. Wind’s transatlantic career spanned lectures across the United States and employment in prominent academic institutions, at times acting as an ambassador to the Warburg Institute and as an overseas herald to Aby Warburg’s intellectual legacy. However, while Wind’s North American status flourished, his relationship to the Warburg Institute foundered, leading to a series of disagreements that would ultimately result in a falling-out; a watershed, both for Wind’s late career and for the subsequent heuristic goals of the Warburg-Kreis. This article aims to portray Wind’s activities in the United States from 1939 to 1945 and elaborate on the reasons behind Wind’s severance of ties with the Warburg Institute in 1945, the background to such a decision and the consequences it entailed. As a complement, an extensive appendix of letters follows, detailing the transatlantic discussion between Wind, Saxl, Bing, Wittkower, and members of the Warburg family.
keywords | Edgar Wind, Warburg Institute, Aby Warburg, London.
To cite this article: I. Takaes, “L’esprit de Warburg lui-même sera en paix”. A survey of Edgar Wind’s quarrel with the Warburg Institute, “La Rivista di Engramma” n. 153, febbraio 2018, pp. 109-182 | PDF