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Valued art historian dies suddenly


A Faculty of Arts staff member and international expert in Northern Renaissance Art, Associate Professor Iain Bell Buchanan, died suddenly last week.

Buchanan had over forty years experience in research, teaching and publication in his field and there was no scholar in Australasia with a record of publication to rival his.

Born in Glasgow, Buchanan attended Manchester and Essex universities and was appointed Lecturer in Art History at the University of Auckland in 1974. He quickly attracted a huge following for his courses in Renaissance Art, and on the paintings and prints of the German artist Albrecht Dürer. He also introduced a postgraduate course in Art Historiography.

Dr Buchanan’s research was internationally-acclaimed, and he published widely with articles on the collecting and patronage of the Netherlandish artist Pieter Bruegel as well as Dürer, and Flemish tapestry in leading periodicals such as the Burlington Magazine and the Gazette des Beaux Arts. As the recipient of a Claude McCarthy Fellowship in 1986, he visited archives in Antwerp, and reconstructed the art collection of Nicolaes Jongelinck, held at his country house, which included paintings by Bruegel and sculptures by Jacques Jongelinck. More recently, he investigated the Antwerp house, shop and art collection of the Antwerp print publisher, Hieronymus Cock.

Associate Professor Linda Tyler says her colleague’s deep understanding of Netherlandish art enriched his undergraduate teaching. “He enthralled students with vivid descriptions of the political implications of the emergence and development of the print as an independent art form in Northern Europe during the Renaissance.”

Buchanan’s crowning achievement was in the Brepols Studies in Western Tapestry series of his magisterial 400 page book on the Flemish tapestries collected by the Habsburg rules of the Low Countries – Habsburg Tapestries (2015).

His research was also the basis of two major exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum in New York: one on tapestries in 2002 and Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Art in 2014. He also had a special interest in Frances Hodgkins and 20th century British art, on which he has co-authored two books and several articles.

At the time of his death, Buchanan was working on a book which examines the paintings of Pieter Bruegel in relation to the collecting and marketing of art in sixteenth century Antwerp.

Associate Professor Iain Bell Buchanan 29 August 1948 – 14 November 2018

Read a full obituary on the University of Auckland website


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