The art historian Frederick Antal wrote in 1949 that “methods of art history, just as pictures, can be dated.” It was obvious to Antal that politics was just as embedded in historical method as it was in the history of art itself.
This embeddedness is not always explicit in the texts themselves. Conservative historians such as Rudolf Wittkower absorbed the lesson of a social history of architecture from Marxists like Antal while publicly dismissing Antal’s work as “dogmatic.” Class became a category in Wittkower’s work while the political origins of its introduction into architectural history were obscured.
It is often from a writer’s biography rather than their bibliography that we can recover their political position. This is all the more the case with conservative historians who were convinced of the apolitical, even ahistorical, nature of their work. Antal’s own actions as a revolutionary in the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic were written into the Marxist art history that he pioneered.
This issue of gta papers is focused on the politics embedded in the writing of architectural history. Contributions to this volume might take the following forms: studies of individual or groups of writers, articles on the politics of a particular field, or studies in historical theory. Architectural history is conceived here in its widest possible sense to include the work of people who are not historians or architects. We are just as interested in travel writers, novelists, politicians, and poets. In the same sense we strongly encourage studies from before the 20th century and beyond Europe and North America.
The editors welcome proposals of 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org.
gta papers is the journal of the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. For more information on the journal and its issues see the website.