Princeton Professor Erwin Panofsky


As one considers the question of how it is that Kurt became the man he was, the figure of Erwin Panofsky looms large. Panofsky was a Jewish/German scholar and art historian who taught at Princeton while Kurt was earning his Ph.D.; Kurt makes reference to him frequently in his writing. At U.C. Berkeley, Kurt originally pursued a degree in International Affairs, but along the way switched his major to Art History. By the time he arrived at Princeton, pursuing Art History was his intent. 
        Panofsky was instrumental in establishing and elevating the field of Art History. One suspects that his focus on iconography and visual symbolism caught Kurt's attention, and the approach Panofsky refined is clearly reflected in Kurt's methodology and approach. Panofksy is credited with codifying a three-system approach to visual analysis:
        1. Primary or natural subject matter: The most basic level of understanding, this stratum consists of perception of the work’s pure form.
        2. Secondary or conventional subject matter (iconography): This stratum goes a step further and brings to the equation cultural and iconographic knowledge.
        3. Tertiary or intrinsic meaning or content (iconology): This level takes into account personal, technical, and cultural history into the understanding of a work. Essentially, this last stratum is a synthesis; it is the art historian asking "what does it all mean?"