Gerhard Bissell


Art Historian


Gerhard grew up in the historic German city of Nuremberg and studied Art History and History at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen. After a first research period in Rome, he obtained an M.A. and went on to teach at Erlangen as a lecturer. For his Ph.D. research, he again moved to Rome as a Gerda-Henkel-Fellow based at and supported by the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History.

With his move to Britain began his decade long and ongoing work as a freelance editor and author for the academic encyclopaedia Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (AKL - Artists of the World) to which he contributed some 2,900 biographical entries to date.

Parallel to this activity, Gerhard published independent research, was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Reading and involved with the National Recording Project of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.


Gerhard’s principal ambition is to understand the artist as a creative genius. Thorough analysis of individual works and their visual impact is crucial to his approach, keeping in mind their ever changing display situations through the ages. He is equally concerned to analyse historical dimensions, social circumstances, artistic relationships, influence of the patron etc., backed up by comprehensive archival studies.

Driven by a lifelong passion for art and a broad interest in culture, history and language, Gerhard researched and taught a vast array of different epochs, nations and styles from late mediaeval to contemporary art practices embedded in the most diverse social, political and cultural situations.

His firm grounding in the baroque first led him to pioneering in-depth studies of two key 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. He soon directed his attention both further back in time, contextualising some sketches by Michelangelo from about 1505-1513 for the tomb of Pope Julius II, as well as to a later neo-classical period, examining reliefs of the 1780s and 90s by Antonio Canova and their relation to drawings by John Flaxman. While co-organising the 2007 Sculpture in Arcadia symposium at the University of Reading, Gerhard conducted research into the English landscape garden at Rousham in Oxfordshire, William Kentís 1738 masterpiece.

Strengthened by his multi-lingual skills, Gerhardís biographies for AKL concentrate predominantly on British, US, Italian and French artists (also several Dutch, Czech, German, Danish, Australian and Canadian) from 14th century cathedral builders to 21st century conceptual artists, and feature all disciplines imaginable from architecture, photography, painting and sculpture to pottery and glass art, city planning to calligraphy, garden design and contemporary visual art in new media.


Further details: Annotated List of Publications

Personal Statement

An analytical mind combined with a highly trained eye, broad knowledge and a never ending curiosity lead me to investigate a multitude of different topics and to present some ground breaking results.

My dissertation, which I also published as a peer reviewed book, is more than 25 years on still the unsurpassed basis for all future research on the topic and contributes to the understanding of a whole era. With numerous and highly diverse articles, some of which were singled out and recommended as models to new contributors, I set recognised standards for penetrating and informative, yet concise biographies ideally suited for an academic encyclopaedia context.

Meticulous preparation and striving for perfection is also the hallmark of my other endeavours as exemplified by a 3 days / 200 miles cycle ride from Berkshire right into the centre of Paris which I planned, memorised and lead from the front without a single wrong turn or the need of ever having to consult a map en route.

I have lived for extended periods in Germany, Italy and the UK, never shying away from a new, unfamiliar environment but rather embracing the language and culture of each setting and the challenges that came with it.

Statement on my Art

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 the sculptures I studied 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

© Gerhard Bissell 2007-23