Alois Riegl (1858-1905) was one of the premier art historians at the turn of the century and a founder of the Viennese School of art history. He and two of his colleagues, the Swiss Heinrich Wölfflin and the German Aby Warburg, forged the three main methodological avenues of twentieth-century art-historical scholarship. By and large, the research programs of Wölfflin and Warburg are already familiar to the English-reading world: beginning in the 1930s, Wölfflin’s main works became available in translation and Warburg’s renowned library was transplanted to London. For decades, these two great scholars, their works, and their disciples commanded wide attention.

Riegl has not been so fortunate. He has been viewed as an idiosyncratic scholar whose rarefied if encyclopedic interests and peculiar literary style were intelligible only to the most devoted students of the spicy Zeitgeist of...


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