ART HISTORY WITH A CAMERA
The photography of Ralph Lieberman
An Online Exhibition of the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut
The significance of photography in the field of art history is well known. Photographs not only provide art historians with working material but have also made an important contribution to the development of methodological issues and the establishment of the canon of art history. Each and every photograph is, in itself, the photographer’s interpretation of the depicted work. Art historians are often able to find several images of a work taken by a variety of photographers in photo collections such as the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut. That is also an indication of the relevance of collections of this kind. Different photographs reveal completely different perspectives on a work as a starting point for scientific investigation.
Ralph Lieberman is one of the photographers represented in the Photothek, who is also an art historian. Perhaps for this very reason, he cultivates a more personal approach in his photographs than a restrained, documentary style. In this online exhibition, we present photographs by Lieberman primarily from the Photothek's holdings. Lieberman’s photographic career began when he produced his own images for his dissertation. Since then, he has continuously contemplated both the possibilities and limitations of photography in the field of art history. This is reflected also in his teaching activities and in many of his publications. The Photothek holds more than 2,000 prints of his photographs that – in keeping with the focus of the Florentine collection – mainly show buildings and artworks from North and Central Italy. With the kind permission of the Institute of Fine Arts of Harvard University, which acquired a part of Lieberman’s archive of analogue negatives several years ago, it became possible to digitise our prints which are now accessible for researchers via the Digital Photothek.