Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art and Director of The Italian Academy for
Advanced Studies in America
Art and Neuroscience; Dutch, Flemish, French and Italian Painting
of the 16th and 17th Centuries; 16th and 17th-century History of
Science; Theory and Criticism
D.Phil., Oxford, 1973
Phone: (212) 854-8527 or (212) 854-2306
Offices: 932 Schermerhorn Hall; 606 Italian Academy
David Freedberg is best known for his work on psychological responses to art, and particularly for his studies on iconoclasm and censorship (see, inter alia, Iconoclasts and their Motives, 1984, and The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, 1989). His more traditional art historical writing originally centered on the fields of Dutch and Flemish art. Within these fields he specialized in the history of Dutch printmaking (see Dutch Landscape Prints of the Seventeenth Century (1980)), and in the paintings and drawings of Bruegel and Rubens (see, for example, The Prints of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1989) and Rubens: The Life of Christ after the Passion (1984)). He then turned his attention to seventeenth century Roman art and to the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, before moving on to his recent work in the history of science and on the importance of the new cognitive neurosciences for the study of art and its history. He has also been involved in several exhibitions of contemporary art (eg. Joseph Kosuth: The Play of the Unmentionable (1992)). Following a series of important discoveries in Windsor Castle, the Institut de France and the archives of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, he has for some time been concerned with the intersection of art and science in the age of Galileo. While much of his work in this area has been published in articles and catalogues, his chief publication in this area is The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, his Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (2002). He is now devoting a substantial portion of his attention to collaborations with neuroscientists working in fields of vision, movement and emotion.
Although Freedberg continues to teach in the fields of Dutch, Flemish, French, and Italian seventeenth century art, as well as in historiographical and theoretical areas, his research now concentrates on the relations between art, history, and cognitive neuroscience. For some time now he has been engaged in experimental collaborations with colleagues in the neurosciences, but he continues to hope that one day he will be able to return to his longstanding project on the cultural history of the architecture and dance of the Pueblo peoples. For the last three years, Freedberg has led the campaign to save Liberty Hall in Machiasport, Maine, a major historical building overlooking the site of the first sea battle of the American Revolution.
Much of Freedberg's time is now taken up by his directorship of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America and his commitment to fostering interdisciplinary work across the humanities and the sciences. Since a number of his publications on Warburg, on the Pueblo peoples, and in the field of art and neuroscience have appeared in foreign languages, a selection appears in English under "Selected Publications" below.
Professor Freedberg is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society, as well as of the Accademia Nazionale di Agricultura and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti.