Warburg Institute  

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The Warburg Institute is a research institution associated with the University of London. A member of the School of Advanced Study, its focus is the study of the influence of classical antiquity on all aspects of European civilization.



The Institute was founded by Aby Warburg (1866-1929), a student of Renaissance art and culture. Warburg became dissatisfied with a purely stylistic approach to art history and grew interested in a more interdisciplinary approach. While studying the culture of Renaissance Florence, he grew interested in the influence of antiquity on modern culture, and, while a professor at the University of Hamburg, built up his personal library around the question.

Warburg was joined by his fellow professor Fritz Saxl (1890-1948), who transformed Warburg's collection into a scholarly institute, the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, affiliated to the University of Hamburg. In 1934, under the shadow of Nazism, the institute was relocated from Hamburg to London. In 1944 it became associated with the University of London, and in 1994 it became a founding institute of the University of London's School of Advanced Study.


The Institute occupies a large building in the University of London's Bloomsbury campus in the central London Borough of Camden. Built in 1957, and adjacent to the University of London Student Union, School of Oriental and African Studies, and Christ the King Church, the building is also the home of the Slade School of Fine Art.

The Warburg Institute maintains a research library of more than 350,000 volumes. These volumes, except for a small number of rare and valuable books, are kept on open shelves and are accessible to all. The Institute also holds a large photographic collection and the personal archives of Aby Warburg. The Institute is notable for its unusual and unique reference system: the Institute's collection is arranged by subject according to Warburg's division of human history into the categories of Action, Orientation, Word, and Image.


In addition to its primary purpose as an academic reference library, the Institute accepts a small number of graduate students each year. The Institute awards the degrees of Master of Arts in Cultural and Intellectual History and Doctor of Philosophy; the former is a one-year degree with taught and research components while the latter is a three-year terminal research degree. The emphasis of these programs is on developing interpretative skills in a number of different academic subjects, which follows from the Institute's interdiscplinary mission. Considerable attention is devoted to improving language skills and knowledge of primary sources; the Institute believes that these areas are unjustly neglected by aspiring academics in order to focus on secondary scholarship and critical theory. The MA program is one of the few non-Classics graduate programs in the United Kingdom which requires fluency in Latin.

Students and faculty

Well-known scholars associated with the Warburg Institute include Ernst Cassirer, Henri Frankfort, Arnaldo Momigliano, Ernst Gombrich (who served as director from 1959 to 1976), Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, Frances Yates and Anthony Grafton. The current group of scholars continues the Institute's tradition of interdisciplinary research into history, philosophy, religion, and art. The permanent staff is enriched by a sizeable number of academics and graduate students who hold short and long-term fellowships. Due to the small number of staff, students, and regular users, the Institute prides itself on a friendly and informal teaching and research atmosphere.

Together with the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Institute publishes The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, a well-known annual of about 300 pages.

Directors of the Institute

2001- Charles Hope
1990-2001 Nicholas Mann
1976-1990 J. B. Trapp
1959-1976 Ernst Gombrich
1954-1959 Gertrud Bing
1949-1954 Henri Frankfort
1929-1949 Fritz Saxl

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