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Henri Frankfort, Aby Warburg and ‘Mythopoeic Thought’

Citation: Taylor, Paul (2011) Henri Frankfort, Aby Warburg and ‘Mythopoeic Thought’. Journal of Art Historiography (5). pp. 1-16. ISSN 2042-4752


Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

This is the text of a lunchtime lecture given at the Warburg Institute in the spring of 2004. It formed part of a series given by current members of staff which were devoted to the work of past Warburg scholars, and was intended to introduce the audience - fellows, students and readers at the Warburg - to the work of Henri Frankfort, Director of the Institute from 1949 to 1954. Since Frankfort's interests were very distant from those of the Institute today, his life and work had largely been forgotten by modern Warburgians, and the first third of the lecture was of necessity a rapid account of his career. The remainder of the lecture is an analysis and criticism of the concept of 'primitive thinking' in the work of Frankfort and Aby Warburg. To have rewritten the lecture as an article, taking into account the voluminous literature on Warburg, would have taken more time than I currently have available, and I thank Richard Woodfield for allowing me to publish it in this unrevised form. While the Warburg literature continues to expand apace - see Warburg 2010 for recent references - Frankfort is still undeservedly neglected; the most substantial study to date is Wengrow 1999.

Creators: Taylor, Paul (0000-0002-9461-9765) and
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Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
  • December 2011 (published)


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