Jan von Bonsdorff

Professor at Department of Art History

Email:
jan.von.bonsdorff[AT-sign]konstvet.uu.se
Visiting address:
Engelska parken,
Thunbergsvägen 3H
752 38 UPPSALA
Postal address:
Box 630
751 26 UPPSALA

Professor at Department of Art History

Email:
Jan.von.Bonsdorff[AT-sign]konstvet.uu.se
Telephone:
+4618-471 2889
Fax:
018-471 2892
Visiting address:
Engelska parken,
Thunbergsvägen 3H
752 38 UPPSALA
Postal address:
Box 630
751 26 UPPSALA

Short presentation

Jan von Bonsdorff received his education in Germany, Sweden, and Finland. He held the position of a professor at the University of Tromsø from 1994, and in 2004, he joined Uppsala University as a professor of Art History. His research interests include medieval artisans and guild culture, art trade, 19th-century European art fields, the role of images in visual culture, visual argumentation, and AI. He enjoys teaching both in classroom settings with digital tools and through field trips.

I hold the position as Professor of Art History at Uppsala University, Sweden. My main research area consists of studies (with numerous publications) on the dissemination and trade of church art in the Middle Ages, as well as the organisation of specialist artisans in late medieval times, especially in the Baltic Sea region. On a more theoretical level, these connections have been examined under the overall label of artistical geography (Kunstgeographie and Großraumforschung), but I have also written on other historical aspects of art dissemination, including the history of economics, technical questions, and prosopography. I have further published on Scandinavian painters working in Munich and Paris in the late 19th century (coupled with a Humboldt Scholarship in Munich 1999/2000). Some anthology articles also include the European Romantic movement, especially the artistic connections between Copenhagen, Rome, and Munich as well as nationalistic tendencies in Scandinavian art during the 19th century. I also deal with visual narratives and visual rhetoric. Some of my articles on visual narrativity in comics and illustrated children’s books show this side interest in the graphic arts. Another research area is the global art history: I have investigated, e.g., connections between Turkey and Sweden, resulting in studies on Swedish painters working in Constantinople in the 19th century. I have also published articles on global issues, such as cultural hybridity and syncretism. I have a keen visual interest and enjoy tutoring students at all levels, especially out in the field. There, I mostly speak of architecture and design with a clear hands-on approach near to the object of interest (as in the popular course “Applied Object Analysis”). I rarely turn down the possibility of lecturing publicly extra muros, and believe myself to be an decent lecturer.

As art historian, I think it falls naturally to reach out to other disciplines, so as to gather the whole historical context of a specific research area. My thesis Kunstproduktion und Kunstverbreitung im Ostseeraum des Spätmittelalters (Helsinki 1993; https://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:53563/FULLTEXT02.pdf), is an early example of this holistic and transnational view on art history as a pan-historical discipline. This thesis is deemed as a handbook in the field. Since the early 1980s, I’ve had the exceptional opportunity of being able to meet art historians from all countries around the Baltic Sea area, including those formerly behind the Iron curtain. A prolonged research period in Poland added more international contacts. Residing eleven years at the University of Tromsø until 2004, I had the possibility of adding Norwegian material to my research. Since my move to Uppsala University in 2004, I have focussed more on Swedish medieval sources. Born in Finland, I am multilingual, and have close affiliations with the Universities in Kiel, Tromsø, Uppsala as well as Stockholm and the
Humboldt and TU universities in Berlin. I have, through the years, led courses on post-graduate levels on topics like “Visual Argumentation” and “The Critical Usage of Media [Kritiskt mediebruk]” – here, I have formed an interest in the agency of the image and its rhetorical and performative capacities. The scientific illustration also belongs to this research area. Many of my students have subsequently chosen a similar broad approach in their theses; visual ephemera, comics, advertisements belong to their sources. The theme “Visual Argumentation” has been addressed in the paper “Visual Metaphors, Reinforcing Attributes, and Panofsky’s Primary Level of Interpretation” (2019), which recently has led to a row of new applications in the area of pictorial agency and visual metaphors as used in image and AI research (now, 2023, funded by seed money from CIRCUS at Uppsala University). In the wake of these research efforts, I published the sketch “From Visual Forms to Metaphors – Targeting Cultural Competence in Image Analysis” (2022) together with Lars Oestreicher, In 2021, I joined an evaluation group for the running project “iArt” (TIB Labs), a CLIP-based AI search engine for fine art. Since 2023, I am a member of AI Sweden’s Interdisciplinary Expert Pool for Natural Language Understanding (NLU).

Please contact the directory administrator for the organization (department or similar) to correct possible errors in the information.

Jan von Bonsdorff