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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 their mentor und tireless patron

Professor 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, long-standing head and editor of the Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany, was Professor of History of Art with particular regard to Bavarian art history at the Institute of Art History of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich from 1994 to 2009, after holding positions in Würzburg and Kiel. In 2006 he was appointed full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Humanities. That same year, he was among the founding members and elected president of the research group on Baroque Ceiling Painting in Central Europe.   

In 1994, Frank Büttner took over the responsibility as project director of the Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany, founded by his predecessor in Munich, Prof. Dr. Hermann Bauer, and Prof. Dr. Bernhard Rupprecht. From 1998 to 2010 Frank Büttner edited the volumes 6–15 of the Corpus and in this way brought the significant portfolio of ceiling paintings in Upper Bavaria to a successful conclusion. Additionally, he was striving towards a continuation of the project that would widen the perspective towards a complete corpus of mural painting in Germany, as originally envisioned. In 2012, Frank Büttner successfully applied for a new Corpus project, together with his successor at the Munich Institute, Prof. Dr. Stephan Hoppe, as well as Prof. Dr. Hubert Locher and Dr. Christian Bracht of the Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg. This plan was approved by the Academies’ Programme of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and the Humanities.

The new Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany started work on April 1st 2015, with offices at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and the Philipps-University in Marburg, and a conceived duration of 25 years. This project represents the highlight of Frank Büttner’s life work. In 2015, he presided the founding committee, which has been followed by the Project Advisory Board 'Kunsthistorische Forschung' due to the recent reorganization of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Humanities.

Ever since he started his academic career, Frank Büttner laid the foundation for new approaches to research in the field of Baroque and Early Modern mural painting. In 1980 already, he published a significant monograph on the frescoes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in the Würzburg Residence. The works of Tiepolo as well as Cosmas Damian Asam continued to occupy him. But his main focus was on questions of a more general, wider impact regarding painting in the Early Modern period: iconography and typology, the significance of rhetoric and ceremony for the argumentative strategies of images, the aesthetic illusion and its reception by the beholder, the cultural transfer between Bavaria and Italy or the influence of the Enlightenment on the change of visual concepts during the second half of the 18th century.  

A major topic of Frank Büttner’s research was the interaction between the development of optics and perspective and the perception of paintings by the contemporary viewer. As project manager of a sub-project on forms and functions of Early Modern painting, he was able to place this subject into a larger interdisciplinary frame. This project was part of a major collaborative research scheme at the LMU Munich, the Sonderforschungsbereich 573: Pluralisierung und Autorität in der Frühen Neuzeit, 15.–17. Jahrhundert. Frank Büttner´s sub-project focussed on aspects of the reception of reality and the visualization of knowledge (2004-2007) and Novità,  the transformation of the ancient and the conception of the novel (2008–2011, together with Ulrich Pfisterer as co-project manager).   Büttner’s monograph on Giotto und die Ursprünge der neuzeitlichen Bildauffassung. Die Malerei und die Wissenschaft vom Sehen in Italien um 1300, published in 2013, was a result of these undertakings.

Furthermore, Frank Büttner made his comprehensive knowledge available to a larger audience in several publications, which have already gained the status of reference works, such as the volume on Baroque and Rococo in the series Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland (2008), edited together with Meinrad von Engelberg, Stephan Hoppe and Eckhard Hollmann, or his introductions to painting (2012) and iconography (2006, newly edited in 2013), co-authored with Andrea Gottdang.

With his wide-ranging interests, Frank Büttner gave essential  impulses to the research of  painting and especially mural painting, from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance and Baroque periods – additionally to his second field of expertise, 19th century painting.  The new Corpus of Baroque Ceiling Painting in Germany has got the chance to build on Frank Büttner’s ideas and to continue his work. We, the team members of the Corpus, will always remember Frank Büttner as our mentor and spiritus rector. We do miss him as colleague and teacher, with his open-mindedness and his supportive and challenging personality.

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