Willibald Sauerländer is a scholar of early French Medieval sculpture. Sauerländer entered the University of Munich in 1946, receiving his Ph. D. there in 1953. In 1958 he published a seminal article on the west portals of Senlis and Mantes cathedrals, followed by a second on the west portals of Notre Dame, which redefined the study of Gothic sculpture. After teaching in Paris, 1959-1961, Marburg 1961-1962, and Freiburg, 1962-1964, he was a visiting professor at New York University, 1964-65. He returned to Freiburg as professor of art history in 1970. Between 1970 and 1989 he was the Director of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. In 1970 he published Gotische Skulptur in Frankreich (translated into English as the Gothic Sculpture in France, 1971). The book broke the Chartres-centric view of the genesis of medieval sculpture and secured his reputation among English-language readers. Sauerländer was credited by the Times Literary Supplement in the early 1970s as having rewritten the history of early French Gothic Sculpture. Sauerländer was in residence at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton in 1973. During the 1980s he held several visiting appointments, including the College de France, Paris, 1981; University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1982; Harvard University, 1984 and 1985, and the University of California, Berkeley, 1989. In 1991 he presented the Mellon lectures at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. And, in 1994 he accepted the director position at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, where he remained until his retirement.
I should like to publish some afterthoughts to the lively and often even charming article which Sasha Suda has written about a rather casual conversation the two of us had in October 2009 in my studio at Munich, and which has now been published in the Brooklyn Rail.
In two successive afternoons in late October, 2009, New York-based art historian Sasha Suda came to visit the world renowned scholar of art history Willibald Sauerländer at his home in Munich to talk about his life and work.