Art History
About me

Gerhard Bissell

Born and brought up in Nuremberg, Germany, I studied art history at Erlangen University. After a first research and study period in Rome, I obtained an M.A. degree at Erlangen and went on to teach there as a lecturer in the late 1980s. Subsequently, I moved to Rome and, based at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, conducted research for my Ph.D. as a Gerda-Henkel-Fellow. In 1993, I moved to Britain and started extensive work as a freelance editor and author for Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (AKL - World Biographical Dictionary of Artists), an ongoing encyclopaedic enterprise to which I am contributing a great number of articles to this day. I am currently also an Honorary Fellow at the University of Reading.


My well founded knowledge of European art and architecture of all ages led me to in-depth studies on post-mediaeval art from the Renaissance to the present day. While mostly concentrating on 17th and 18th century Italian and French sculpture, I have also published on other subjects and periods. My central concern is to understand the artist as a creative genius, placing a close analysis of individual works of art and their visual impact at the heart of my research. Further to this, I conduct comprehensive archival investigations which lead to considerations of historical circumstances, exploration of artistic relationships and practices, the influence of the patron etc. Considering the ever changing context in which works were displayed, I frequently reconstructed original settings and documented historic situations and environments up to the present.

In particular, I researched two artists working in Rome, the Maltese Melchiorre Cafà (1636-1667) and the Frenchman Pierre Le Gros (1666-1719). Both eminent sculptors of the highest rank who left behind a considerable legacy and greatly influenced contemporaries as well as successive generations, they are today, alas, virtually unknown to the general public and even shamefully ignored by most art historians. Among other topics I also studied some Michelangelo sketches for the tomb of Pope Julius II, and artistic exchanges between Antonio Canova and John Flaxman. In connection with the 2007 Sculpture in Arcadia symposium, which I co-organised at the University of Reading, I conducted research into garden sculpture, particularly at the landscape gardens of Rousham and Stowe.

Many of my AKL contributions focus on British and US artists of the 18th to 21st century. Within this context, photographers and contemporary architects figure prominently, mirroring my personal interest in these art forms. Often lengthy and far more detailed than other standard encyclopaedia entries, many articles go beyond mere biographical data and provide a scholarly sound assessment of the artist, including a critical interpretation and thorough discussion of their development and legacy.

go to: List of Publications

Statement on my art practise

Visually highly educated but self-taught as an artist and photographer, I employ many styles, aesthetic approaches and subject matters, inspired by a variety of artistic traditions. To describe this, I coined the term Art Informed Photography. My first attempts were closely linked to documenting sculptures I was studying at the time. With the new century I started to use photography as a means of artistic expression in its own right ...
Read the full statement here

Contact: gerhard@gerbis.net