Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768)

German art historian, archaeologist, and aesthetics philosopher, Johann Joachim Winckelmann was the leading proponent of neoclassicism. He is a founder of modern art history and archaeology methodologies.

Portrait of Winckelmann (after 1755) by Raphael Mengs.
Portrait of Winckelmann (after 1755) by Raphael Mengs

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About His Life

Johann Joachim Winkelmann was born in 1717 in Stendal in Prussia. After early training in Stendhal and Berlin, he received classical and theological education at the University of Halle. Then, in 1741, he entered the University of Jena, where he studied mathematics and medicine. In 1748, he worked as a secretary of von Bünau’s library in Nöthnitz, near Dresden. Next, in November 1755, Winkelmann worked in Rome as a librarian for various church authorities. In 1758, he took part in the development of guidelines for excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Further, in Trieste, he was stabbed to death for some jewelry he had in his hotel room.

Portrait of Winckelmann - etching (1783-1784) by Girolamo Carattoni (1757 or 1760-1809) -Exhibition 'Winckelmann and the collections of Archaeological Musem of Naples' up to September 25, 2017 - Naples, Archaeological Museum.
Portrait of Winckelmann (1783-1784) by Girolamo Carattoni

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Winckelmann’s Major Works

Winckelmann’s genius works aroused huge public interest in classical art and significantly influenced the formation of the neoclassical movement.

Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture: A philosophical definition of Greek aesthetics. The work discussions the connection between art, literature, and emotions. Further, Winckelmann often quotes the dictum regarding the “noble simplicity and quiet greatness” of Greek sculpture. Also, he describes the statue of Laocoon, which had a significant influence on the German playwright and critic of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture by Winckelmann.
Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture by Winckelmann

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  • History of Ancient Art: Though now long antiquated, is significant for its depiction of art foundations and scientific methodology.
Book Cover of The History of Ancient Art, by Winckelmann.
The History of Ancient Art, Winckelmann

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