Walter W. S. Cook

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  • Walter W. S. CookAuthor(s): Craig Hugh SmithSource: Art Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring, 1963), p. 167Published by: College Art AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/774442 .Accessed: 15/06/2014 05:59

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  • WALTER W. S. COOK WALTER W. S. COOK

    A Citation Read at the CAA Meeting in Baltimore A Citation Read at the CAA Meeting in Baltimore

    Professor Walter W. S. Cook was one of three Honorary Directors of the College Art Association. This honor was bestowed on him in 1947. He had earned it partly by his serv- ices to the Association itself. In 1938 he be- came its first new President in many years. His first act was to put through the transformation of the whole board of trustees at a single meeting, a classic example of the Cook style of directness and dispatch. "Then," as Peter Magill, who was manager, puts it, "things began to move." The Association was in debt and faltering. Walter Cook breathed life into it and started it on its way again.

    But the College Art Association's honorary directorship was given to Professor Cook for much more than this. It was also a recognition of his role in the development of art history in this country, of his vision and dedication, and of his selfless concern for the welfare of other scholars and of students.

    He stands out above all for having brought the Institute of Fine Arts into being at New York University. There had existed a Depart- ment of Fine Arts. But the Institute was founded by Walter Cook. It was unique in that it offered only graduate study in the history of art and archaeology and that its faculty was made up largely of European scholars. The Nazi persecution was then in progress, and the scholars were men whom Wal- ter Cook had labored himself to save and bring to a new life in this country. Their influence on the development of art history here has been vast. He has a faculty to capture the imagina- tion; and it was brought together and held to- gether in the face of great obstacles, chief among them the slimmest of university support. Be- tween 1932 and 1939, when Walter Cook became head, he took his department, in quick stages, from a three-room apartment, where the bathtub housed the files, to the Warburg house on East 80th Street. And there in the follow- ing decade he made his new Institute grow

    Professor Walter W. S. Cook was one of three Honorary Directors of the College Art Association. This honor was bestowed on him in 1947. He had earned it partly by his serv- ices to the Association itself. In 1938 he be- came its first new President in many years. His first act was to put through the transformation of the whole board of trustees at a single meeting, a classic example of the Cook style of directness and dispatch. "Then," as Peter Magill, who was manager, puts it, "things began to move." The Association was in debt and faltering. Walter Cook breathed life into it and started it on its way again.

    But the College Art Association's honorary directorship was given to Professor Cook for much more than this. It was also a recognition of his role in the development of art history in this country, of his vision and dedication, and of his selfless concern for the welfare of other scholars and of students.

    He stands out above all for having brought the Institute of Fine Arts into being at New York University. There had existed a Depart- ment of Fine Arts. But the Institute was founded by Walter Cook. It was unique in that it offered only graduate study in the history of art and archaeology and that its faculty was made up largely of European scholars. The Nazi persecution was then in progress, and the scholars were men whom Wal- ter Cook had labored himself to save and bring to a new life in this country. Their influence on the development of art history here has been vast. He has a faculty to capture the imagina- tion; and it was brought together and held to- gether in the face of great obstacles, chief among them the slimmest of university support. Be- tween 1932 and 1939, when Walter Cook became head, he took his department, in quick stages, from a three-room apartment, where the bathtub housed the files, to the Warburg house on East 80th Street. And there in the follow- ing decade he made his new Institute grow

    and flourish. It exists today because of his vision, his energy, his tenacity and enthusiasm -and the money he raised.

    Professor Cook's own work as an art his- torian was devoted especially to Spanish me- diaeval art. A preeminent scholar has described it in the following way: "His work was con- sistent,. exact, and useful. . . . He belonged to that generation who blocked out the main out- lines of mediaeval art, and his devotion to Spain never wavered. The precision and com- pleteness with which he made the inventory of Catalonian altar frontals will in all likeli- hood never be surpassed." (These are the words of George Kubler.)

    Let me add that Walter Cook was passionately concerned with making the material for study- ing Spanish art available. Hence the photo- graphic campaigns in Spain that he inspired and hence the leading role he played over many years in building the photographic archive of Spanish manuscripts at the Frick Art Reference Library. Partly from this same concern for the study of Spanish art stemmed his ceaseless ef- forts to provide opportunities for American graduate students to study in Spain and for Spanish scholars to visit collections in the United States.

    As a teacher, he did not go in much for analyzing style or explaining iconography. But he marshalled the monuments in such an admirably clear and complete way, he spoke of them with such familiarity, and told of discovering or publishing some of them for the first time so vividly that he gave pleasure in the subject and a strong invitation to pursue it, in full reliance on his lucid organization. No wonder he was successful in bringing students into the Spanish field.

    It has been said of Walter Cook that as head of the Institute he was always on the student's side, that one could come to him with a hopeless problem and discover that there was a loophole, which he had made. His

    and flourish. It exists today because of his vision, his energy, his tenacity and enthusiasm -and the money he raised.

    Professor Cook's own work as an art his- torian was devoted especially to Spanish me- diaeval art. A preeminent scholar has described it in the following way: "His work was con- sistent,. exact, and useful. . . . He belonged to that generation who blocked out the main out- lines of mediaeval art, and his devotion to Spain never wavered. The precision and com- pleteness with which he made the inventory of Catalonian altar frontals will in all likeli- hood never be surpassed." (These are the words of George Kubler.)

    Let me add that Walter Cook was passionately concerned with making the material for study- ing Spanish art available. Hence the photo- graphic campaigns in Spain that he inspired and hence the leading role he played over many years in building the photographic archive of Spanish manuscripts at the Frick Art Reference Library. Partly from this same concern for the study of Spanish art stemmed his ceaseless ef- forts to provide opportunities for American graduate students to study in Spain and for Spanish scholars to visit collections in the United States.

    As a teacher, he did not go in much for analyzing style or explaining iconography. But he marshalled the monuments in such an admirably clear and complete way, he spoke of them with such familiarity, and told of discovering or publishing some of them for the first time so vividly that he gave pleasure in the subject and a strong invitation to pursue it, in full reliance on his lucid organization. No wonder he was successful in bringing students into the Spanish field.

    It has been said of Walter Cook that as head of the Institute he was always on the student's side, that one could come to him with a hopeless problem and discover that there was a loophole, which he had made. His

    Walter W. S. Cook Walter W. S. Cook

    concern for others touched students and fac- ulty, colleagues elsewhere, friends, and mere acquaintances. Lives were changed by it and on some occasions virtually hung upon it.

    What I know best of Walter Cook at first hand is his behavior to me as his successor at the Institute. The relationship of predecessor to successor is not apt to be an easy one. He man- aged his part of it superbly. He gave indispensi- ble advice without ever interfering. He was al- ways encouraging, always ready with a word of approval. I think he was incapable of anything approaching jealousy, and I can only describe what I saw of him in this relationship as saintly. The same was surely true in many other aspects of his life that I know less well. It is difficult to imagine a more straightforward, direct, and selfless man. He was truly altruistic, he was incapable of bearing a grudge, and he was with- out guile.

    CRAIG HUGH SMITH Institute of Fine Arts New York University

    concern for others touched students and fac- ulty, colleagues elsewhere, friends, and mere acquaintances. Lives were changed by it and on some occasions virtually hung upon it.

    What I know best of Walter Cook at first hand is his behavior to me as his successor at the Institute. The relationship of predecessor to successor is not apt to be an easy one. He man- aged his part of it superbly. He gave indispensi- ble advice without ever interfering. He was al- ways encouraging, always ready with a word of approval. I think he was incapable of anything approaching jealousy, and I can only describe what I saw of him in this relationship as saintly. The same was surely true in many other aspects of his life that I know less well. It is difficult to imagine a more straightforward, direct, and selfless man. He was truly altruistic, he was incapable of bearing a grudge, and he was with- out guile.

    CRAIG HUGH SMITH Institute of Fine Arts New York University

    PAUL FRANKL PAUL FRANKL

    Paul Frankl, who died on January 30, 1962 at the age of 82, was born at Prague, the de- scendent of an old Jewish family of scholars. He studied architecture and gradually trans- ferred his interest to the history of art and started his teaching career in 1913 at the University of Munich under Heinrich Wolfflin. Called to the University of Halle-Wittenberg in 1921, he oc- cupied that chair until 1933 when he was forced out by the racial laws of the Nazi regime. In 1939, he came to this country and after a short while settled in Princeton where, until his death, he was connected with the Institute for Ad- vanced Studies. He died at his desk in the midst

    Paul Frankl, who died on January 30, 1962 at the age of 82, was born at Prague, the de- scendent of an old Jewish family of scholars. He studied architecture and gradually trans- ferred his interest to the history of art and started his teaching career in 1913 at the University of Munich under Heinrich Wolfflin. Called to the University of Halle-Wittenberg in 1921, he oc- cupied that chair until 1933 when he was forced out by the racial laws of the Nazi regime. In 1939, he came to this country and after a short while settled in Princeton where, until his death, he was connected with the Institute for Ad- vanced Studies. He died at his desk in the midst

    of his work, the way any scholar would like to go.

    From the beginning, Paul Frankl's scholarly work centered in large degree on problems of Kunstwissenschaft. His major publications in that branch of our discipline are well known: Die Entwicklungsphasen der neueren Baukunst, 1914; Das System der Kunstwissenschaft, 1938; The Gothic, 1960. Throughout, Paul Frankl in these works searched for the principles and cate- gories, visual and otherwise, which realize and determine artistic creation and perception: the work of art; the artist; the patron and the viewer; and all these in relation to their time

    of his work, the way any scholar would like to go.

    From the beginning, Paul Frankl's scholarly work centered in large degree on problems of Kunstwissenschaft. His major publications in that branch of our discipline are well known: Die Entwicklungsphasen der neueren Baukunst, 1914; Das System der Kunstwissenschaft, 1938; The Gothic, 1960. Throughout, Paul Frankl in these works searched for the principles and cate- gories, visual and otherwise, which realize and determine artistic creation and perception: the work of art; the artist; the patron and the viewer; and all these in relation to their time

    and place. That his thought was not always easy to follow never perturbed Paul Frankl. He wanted to find out, as he said, only half in jest, "how the Good Lord had made all this" and deeply-though informally religious as he was -he was carried by the conviction that he had been shown the path which led to a true under- standing of the Creation.

    But this was only one side of Paul Frankl's whole. His philosophy of art rested on solid ground. It was always based on an exact anal- ysis of the individual work of art and of its place within history.

    Kunstwissenschaft and Kunstgeschichte were

    and place. That his thought was not always easy to follow never perturbed Paul Frankl. He wanted to find out, as he said, only half in jest, "how the Good Lord had made all this" and deeply-though informally religious as he was -he was carried by the conviction that he had been shown the path which led to a true under- standing of the Creation.

    But this was only one side of Paul Frankl's whole. His philosophy of art rested on solid ground. It was always based on an exact anal- ysis of the individual work of art and of its place within history.

    Kunstwissenschaft and Kunstgeschichte were

    167 Obituaries 167 Obituaries

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