Branner, Robert


Robert Branner (1927-1973)

Robert Branner was born in Flushing, New York on January 13, 1927 to Martin Michael Branner, then a newspaper cartoonist ("Winnie Winkle") and earlier, a dancer in vaudeville with his wife, Edith Fabbrini (Fabbrini and Martin). He grew up in New York and Oswegatchie, Connecticut. In 1944, at age seventeen, while studying at Yale University, he was drafted into the army and sent to Europe at the end of World War II, where he first saw French Gothic architecture. Branner returned to Yale in 1946 and completed his undergraduate degree in 1948, majoring in Latin.
Branner remained at Yale, studying under Sumner McKnight Crosby, Chair of the History of Art department and a former student of Henri Focillon. Crosby became Branner's dissertation advisor and he participated in Crosby's excavations at the abbey church of St. Denis. Branner also studied at the École des Chartes and the Institut d'Art et Archéologie during his doctoral training. He was influenced by two more of Focillon's students: Louis Grodecki and Jean Bony. Grodecki's work in French Romanesque architecture and stained glass influenced the young man's methods of investigation. Branner's methodology was based upon three points of examination: design analysis, architectural investigation, and the identification of styles (Fernie 2000: 157). He sought to analyze the entire process of a monument's construction so as to better understand the procedures involved in its creation. He believed the immense project of building a cathedral was in actuality an organic organization of all the trades, each contributing to the overall final product.
In 1950, on a Fulbright and Marshall-Allison fellowship (DAH), Branner led excavations at St.-Étienne Cathedral in Bourges under the guidance of Robert Gauchery, the government architect for the department of Cher (S.P. Branner 1989: xviii). His resulting dissertation became a seminal work on the cathedral's construction and was first published in 1962 as La Cathédrale de Bourges et sa Place dans l'Architecture Gothique. One of Branner's mentors, Jean Bony, insisted that the masons and master craftsmen working on the cathedral project had just as much influence on the creation of Gothic style as the priests and the patrons who oversaw it. Branner later incorporated this belief into his own critical analysis of the Gothic construction process. He felt that the work of individuals, such as a cathedral's master mason, was a major factor in the result of each monument's construction. He was convinced that a wide range of influences affected the overall outcome, including patronage of the building, the economy of its chapter, its place within the chronology of the period, and its relationship to earlier and contemporary construction techniques (DAH).
Upon completing his PhD in 1952, Branner remained at Yale until he accepted a teaching position at the University of Kansas in 1954. He moved to New York in 1957 to join Columbia University and was appointed to full professorship in 1966. He taught at Columbia until his death, although he spent the period from 1969 through 1971 at Johns Hopkins University. During his career, Branner published numerous articles discussing developments of the Gothic architectural style at numerous locations throughout France, including several critical analyses of key elements at Reims, Chartres, and Ste-Chapelle. His books on Gothic architecture remain classics in the field -- Burgundian Gothic Architecture (1960), Gothic Architecture (1961), and St. Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture (1965) -- in addition to his monograph on Bourges Cathedral. He also found time in between teaching and writing to edit the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians from 1964 to 1966 (DAH). Branner contributed to the academic training of several of the next generation of Gothic architectural historians at Columbia University, including William W. Clark, Carl F. Barnes, and Paula Lieber Gerson.
Branner was critical of passively accepting dates and attributions of monuments without concrete evidence to support them (Bony 1975: 166). He therefore questioned, investigated, and revised previously accepted information. In his book, Gothic Architecture, Branner surveyed the development of the Gothic style throughout Europe during the later Middle Ages. He revived the study of the Rayonnant style and traced its development during this period (Gerson and Murray 2000: 86). Branner speculated on the influence of this style when comparing the design of Beauvais Cathedral in relation to the structural motifs used at Bourges (Calkins 1998: 242). He further identified the Rayonnant style as the official "Court Style of St. Louis," which became the basic blueprint for many subsequent Gothic edifices (Calkins 1998: 246). Branner's work also included analyses of the effects of individuals of the period, including King Louis IX of France (St. Louis), Villard de Honnecourt, and Pierre de Montreuil, on the building programs under their control. Branner's opus is considered St. Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture, which traces the influences of Louis IX on the development of the Gothic style, not only in architecture, but manuscript illustration as well (Bony 1975: 166).
He never accepted the study of Gothic art and architecture as a solitary endeavor; on the contrary, Branner encouraged the sharing of information amongst his students and colleagues, thus providing a wider perspective of the discipline and accumulated knowledge on the subject (Gerson and Murray 2000: 87). Robert Branner died after heart surgery on November 27, 1973; he was only 46 years old. Toward the end of his career, Branner had begun investigating Gothic manuscript illumination and how it related to architecture and the decorative arts. Manuscript Painting in Paris During the Reign of Saint Louis: A Study of Styles was published posthumously in 1977. In 1989, his wife, Shirley Prager Branner, with the help of his student, William W. Clark, published the original English version of his book on Bourges Cathedral, which included an introduction by his friend and mentor, Jean Bony. Special memorial issues of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (October, 1975) and Gesta (2000) were dedicated to the memory of his work, and a new publication of his collected essays is in progress.

Sources Consulted

Bony, Jean. "On Robert Branner." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 34, no.3 (October 1975): 164-166.
Branner, Robert. The Cathedral of Bourges and Its Place in Gothic Architecture. Edited by Shirley Prager Branner. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989.
Calkins, Robert G. Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Fernie, Eric C. "Robert Branner's Treatment of Architectural Sources and Precedents." Gesta 39, no. 2 (2000): 157-160.
Gerson, Paula L. and Stephen Murray. "Robert Branner and the Gothic: A Prologue." Gesta 39, no. 2 (2000): 85-88.
"Henri Focillon." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. (October 9, 2010).
Sorensen, Lee. "Branner, Robert." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

Bibliography: Prepared by Shirley Prager Branner

Branner, R., "Fouilles à la cathédrale de Bourges," Bull mon, CX, 1952, 161-164.
-----, and Gauchery, R., "La cathédrale de Bourges aux XI et XII siècles, Bull mon, CXI, 1953, 105-123
-----, "The Art of the Scriptorium at Luxeuil," Speculum, 29, 1954, 678-690.
-----, "A Medieval Ivory Crucifixion," The Register of the Museum of Art of the University of Kansas, 5, 1955, 17-20
-----, "Medieval Archaeology," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2, 1957, 259L-292N.
-----, "Les portails latéraux de Bourges," Bull mon, CXV, 1957, 263-270.
-----, "A Note on Gothic Architects and Scholars," Burlington Magazine, 99, 1957.
-----, "Three Problems from the Villard de Honnecourt MS," Art Bull, XXXIX, 1957, 61-66.
-----, "Drawings from a Thirteenth-Century Architect's Shop: the Reims Palimpsest," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XVII, 1958, 9-21.
-----, "The Movements of Gothic Architects between France and Spain in the Early Thirteenth Century," Actes du XIX Congrès international d'histoire de l'art, Paris, 1959, 44-48.
-----, "Quelques dates pour servir à l'histoire de la construction de la cathédrale de Reims (1210-1241)" Mémoires de la Soc. d'Agriculture, Commerce, Science et Arts du Département de la Marne, 75, 1960, 78-81.
-----, "Villard de Honnecourt, Archimedes and Chartres," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XIX, 1960, 91-96.
also Letter in reply to Leonard Cox, JSAH, 20, 1961, 145-146, and "Chartres Cathedral Again," JSAH 21, 1962, 193.
-----, "Les débuts de la cathédrale de Troyes," Bull mon, CXVIII, 1960, 111-122.
-----, "Une statue gothique inconnue de Sens," Bulletin mon. 118, 1960, 207-209.
-----, Burgundian Gothic Architecture, London, Zwemmer, 1960.
-----, "Jean d'Orbais and the Cathedral of Reims," Art Bull, XLIII, 1961, 131-133.
-----, "The North Transept and the First West Façades of Reims Cathedral," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, XXIV, 1961, 220-241.
-----, "Historical Aspects of the Reconstruction of Reims Cathedral," Speculum, XXXVI, 1961, 23-37.
-----, "Keystones and Kings: Iconography and Topography in the Gothic Vaults of the Ile-de-France," Gaz des Beaux Arts, ser. 6, 57, 1961, 65-82
-----, Gothic Architecture, New York, G. Braziller, 1961.
-----, "Gothic Architecture, 1160-1180 and Its Romanesque Sources," Romanesque and Gothic Art. Acts of the 20th International Congress of the History of Art, New York, 1961, Princeton, 1963, 92-104.
-----, "Le maître de la cathédrale de Beauvais," Art de France, II, 1962, 77-92.
-----, La cathédrale de Bourges et sa place dans l'architecture gothique, Paris/Bourges, Tardy, 1962. AA452 B6 B78 1962.
-----, The Labyrinth of Reims Cathedral," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XXI, 1962, 18-25.
-----, "Paris and the Origins of Rayonnant Gothic Architecture," Art Bulletin, 44, 1962, 39-51
-----, "St. Leonardus at Zoutleeuw and the Rhine Valley in the Early Thirteenth Century," Commission Royale des Monuments et Sites, 14, 1963, 257-268
-----, "A Note on Pierre de Montreuil and Saint-Denis," Art Bulletin, XLV, 1963, 355-357.
also, letter in reply to Louis Grodecki, Art Bulletin, 47, 1965, 397-399
-----, "Villard de Honnecourt, Reims and the Origins of Gothic Architectural Drawing," Gaz des Beaux Arts, ser. 6, 61, 1963, 129-146.
-----, "Westminster Abbey and the French Court Style," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XXIII, 1964, 3-18.
-----, "Remarques sur la cathédrale de Strasbourg," Bull mon, CXXII, 1964, 261 268
-----, "La cathédrale de Châlons-sur-Marne et l'architecure gothique en Champagne au XIIIe. siècle," Mémoires de la Société d'Agriculture, Commerce, Sciences et Arts du Département de la Marne, 80, 1965, 113-120.
-----, Saint Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture, London, Zwemmer, 1965 AA450 B733.
-----, "The Transept of Cambrai Cathedral," Gedenkenschrift Ernst Gall, Munich and Berlin, Deutscher Munstverlag, 1965, 69-86.
-----, "Letter to the Editor on Pierre de Montreuil," Art Bulletin, XLVII, 1965, 397.
-----, "Manuscript-Makers in Mid-Thirteenth Century Paris," Art Bulletin, 48, 1966, 65-67.
-----, "Encore Bourges," Jour. Soc. Arch. Hist., 25, 1966, 299-301
-----, "The Montjoies of Saint Louis,: Essays in the History of Architecture Presented to Rudolph Wittkower, London, Phaidon, 1967, 13-16
-----, "Le rouleau de saint'Eloi," Information d'histoire de l'art, 12, 1967, 55-73.
-----, "The Saint-Quentin Rotulus," Scriptorium, 21, 1967, 252-260
-----, "Reims West and Tradition," Amici Amico; Festschrift für Werner Gross, Munich, 1968, 55-58
-----, "The Painted Medallions in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris," Trans American Philosophical Soc., New Series, 1968
-----, "The Manerius Signatures," Art Bulletin, 50, 1968, 183
-----, "The Copenhagen Corpus," Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, 38, 1969, 97-119
-----, Chartres Cathedral, (ed. and introduction) New York, W. W. Norton, 1969
-----, "Le premier évangile de la Sainte-Chapelle," Revue de l'art, 3, 1969, 37-48
-----, "The 'Soissons Bible' Paintshop in Thirteenth-Century Paris," Speculum, 44, 1969, 13-34
-----, "Two Parisian Capella Books in Bari," Gesta, 8, 1969, 14-19
-----, "High Gothic Architecture," Then Year 1200, II: A Background Survey, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, 7-32
-----, "La place du 'style de cour' de Saint Louis dans l'architecture du XIIIe. siècle," Le siècle de Saint Louis, Paris, Hachette, 1970, 133-139
-----, "The grande châsse of the Sainte-Chapelle,: Gaz des Beaux Arts, ser 6, 77, 1971, 5-18
-----, "Die Architektur der Kathedrale von Reims im dreizehnten Jahrhundert," Architectura, I, 1971, 15-37.
-----, "The Sainte-Chapelle and the Capella Regis in the Thirteenth Century," Gesta, 10, 1971, 19-22
-----, "A Cutting from a Thirteenth-Century French Bible," Bull of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 58, 1971, 219-227
-----, "Rediscovering a Parisian Paintshop of the Thirteenth Century," Boston Museum Bulletin, 69, 1971, 165-172
-----, "The Johannes Grusch Atelier and the Continental Origins of the William of Devon Painter," Art Bulletin, 54, 1972, 24-30
-----, "Gothic Architecture," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XXXII, 1973, 327-333.
-----, "Gothic Architecture in Venice," Burlington Magazine, CXVI, 1974, 115.
-----, "Un bréviaire parisien enluminé du XIIIe siècle à l'univerwsité de Harvard," Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire de l'Art Francais, 1973, Paris, 1974, 11-18
-----, Manuscript Painting in Paris During the Reign of Saint Louis; A Study of Styles, University of California, 1975.
-----, "A Fifteenth-Century French Architectural Drawing at the
Cloisters," Metropolitan Museum Journal, XI, 1976, 133-136.
-----, "Fabrica, Opus, and the Dating of Medieval Monuments," Gesta, XV, 1976, 27-29.
-----, "An Unknown Gothic Drawing from Saint-Quentin," Gesta, XXVI, 1987, 151-152.

See also:
Bony, Jean, "On Robert Branner" JSAH, 34, 1975, 164-166
Gesta, 39, 2000 ed. Murray and Gerson
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 34, 1975 ed. Carl Barnes
Kleinbauer, W. E., Research Guide to the History of Western Art, Sources of Information in the
Humanities, 2, Chicago, American Library Association, 1982, 51
Branner, S. P., "A Bibliography and Index to the Works of Robert Branner," Jour Soc Arch Hist, XXXIV, 1975, 167-172.

Mery-et Lescher
FSU, PhD student

  • Born 0
  • Died 1973
  • Firstname Robert
  • Lastname Branner
  • Wikipedia