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Frank Büttner: An Obituary by the Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany

Researchers and staff of the Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany mourn the loss of Prof. Dr. Frank Büttner

* 26th July 1944
† 14th May 2016

Find a bibliography of his works on the art of painting in the Early Modern Period, Renaissance and Baroque (PDF)

Frank Büttner, a distinguished figure in the field of art history, left an indelible mark on the study of Baroque and Early Modern mural painting. As Professor of History of Art, specializing in Bavarian art history, at the Institute of Art History, Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich from 1994 to 2009, Büttner's contributions were invaluable. His academic journey began with positions in Würzburg and Kiel, leading to his appointment as a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Humanities in 2006. In the same year, he co-founded the research group on Baroque Ceiling Painting in Central Europe and served as its elected president.

In 1994, Büttner assumed the role of project director for the Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany, succeeding his predecessors, Prof. Dr. Hermann Bauer and Prof. Dr. Bernhard Rupprecht. During his tenure, from 1998 to 2010, he oversaw the editing of volumes 6–15 of the Corpus, successfully concluding the extensive documentation of ceiling paintings in Upper Bavaria. Büttner's aspirations extended beyond this achievement, aiming to broaden the project's scope to encompass a comprehensive corpus of mural painting throughout Germany. In 2012, Büttner, together with Prof. Dr. Stephan Hoppe, his successor at the Munich Institute, Prof. Dr. Hubert Locher, and Dr. Christian Bracht of the Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg, secured approval for a new Corpus project from the Academies' Programme of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and the Humanities.

On April 1, 2015, the new Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany embarked on its journey, with offices at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and the Philipps-University in Marburg, envisioned to span a remarkable duration of 25 years. This project stands as the culmination of Büttner's life's work. In 2015, he chaired the founding committee, paving the way for the Project Advisory Board 'Kunsthistorische Forschung' following the reorganization of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Humanities.

Throughout his academic career, Büttner laid the groundwork for innovative research approaches in the realm of Baroque and Early Modern mural painting. His monograph on the frescoes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in the Würzburg Residence, published in 1980, marked a significant milestone. Büttner's fascination with Tiepolo's and Cosmas Damian Asam's works persisted, but he also delved into broader themes relating to painting in the Early Modern period. His explorations encompassed iconography, typology, the influence of rhetoric and ceremony on visual argumentation, the aesthetic illusion and its reception by viewers, the cultural exchange between Bavaria and Italy, and the impact of the Enlightenment on evolving visual concepts in the second half of the 18th century.

One of Büttner's key research interests revolved around the interplay between optics, perspective, and the perception of paintings by viewers of the time. As the project manager of a sub-project on the forms and functions of Early Modern painting, he integrated this subject into a larger interdisciplinary framework. This sub-project formed part of the Sonderforschungsbereich 573: Pluralisierung und Autorität in der Frühen Neuzeit, 15.–17. Jahrhundert, a major collaborative research scheme at LMU Munich. Büttner's sub-project focused on aspects of reality perception and the visualization of knowledge (2004-2007), as well as the transformation of ancient concepts and the conception of the novel (2008–2011, co-led by Ulrich Pfisterer).

In 2013, Büttner published his monograph on Giotto und die Ursprünge der neuzeitlichen Bildauffassung. Die Malerei und die Wissenschaft vom Sehen in Italien um 1300, a culmination of his endeavors in this domain. Moreover, Büttner shared his extensive knowledge with a wider audience through several publications, which have gained recognition as reference works. Notable among these are the volume on Baroque and Rococo in the series Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland (2008), co-edited with Meinrad von Engelberg, Stephan Hoppe, and Eckhard Hollmann, as well as his contributions to painting (2012) and iconography (2006, reissued in 2013) alongside Andrea Gottdang.

Büttner's scholarly interests extended beyond mural painting, encompassing 19th-century art as well. The new Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany now has the opportunity to build upon Büttner's ideas and continue his legacy. As team members of the Corpus, we fondly remember Büttner as our mentor and guiding force, deeply missing his collegiality, mentorship, and his unwavering support, which challenged us and inspired us to push the boundaries of our research.

Prof. Dr. Stephan Hoppe, München
Prof. Dr. Hubert Locher, Marburg
Prof. Dr. Andrea Gottdang, Salzburg
Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Kramer, München
PD Dr. Ute Engel, München
Dr. Christian Bracht, Marburg
Dr. Angelika Dreyer, München
Dr. Heiko Laß, München
Dr. Susan Tipton, München
Franziska Kaiser M.A., München
Katrina Weißer M.A., München
Almut Berchtold M. A., Marburg
Michael Buchkremer M. A., Marburg
Susanne Dörler M. A., Marburg
Wiebke Hoffmann M.A., Marburg
Werner Köhler M.A., Marburg