Aby Warburg

I went to a film by Judith Wechsler, a Harvard-based filmmaker, about Aby Warburg which marked the opening of a major conference organised by the Warburg Institute about his work and life.   The film demonstrated how brief Warburg’s active working life was:  time spent researching in Florence, influenced by Burkhardt;  a visit to the Hopi and Zuni Indians following his brother Paul’s marriage in 1895 (Warburg hated American telephones);   living in Florence and then collecting his library in Hamburg, interrupted by the first world war;  diagnosis after the war as a schizophrenic (a second opinion, demanded by his brother Max, suggested manic depression);  incarceration for a period of three years from 1921 to 1924 in a Swiss clinic;  release after he demonstrated his intellectual faculties by delivery of a public lecture;  the Great Crash, followed by his death in October 1929.   Yet his ideas about the origins of images and their motifs, expressed in his incomplete photographic project Mnemosyne, have become increasingly influential.   Today was the 150th. anniversary of his birth.

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