The Panofsky-Newman Controversy

Pietro Conte


Starting from Erwin Panofsky’s well-known polemical exchange of letters with Barnett Newman, and taking into account some few hints to contemporary artists which can be found into the Princeton Professor’s private correspondence, this essay deals with the theoretical reasons why one of the most original and influent art historians of the whole 20th Century has never really come to terms with even the notion of “abstract” art. It then focuses on the seemingly paradoxical concept of “abstract sublime” as proposed by Robert Rosenblum and further developed by Jean-François Lyotard in order to show how iconographic-iconological analysis could be fruitfully applied to non-figurative works of art.


Erwin Panofsky; Barnett Newman; abstract art; abstract sublime

Full Text:



Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY- 4.0)

Firenze University Press
Via Cittadella, 7 - 50144 Firenze
Tel. (0039) 055 2757700 Fax (0039) 055 2757712