Born in Hamburg to a prominent family of bankers, Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is a German art historian and cultural theorist. His pioneering use of interdisciplinary research method and iconology connects art history to a broader culture that encompasses philosophy, science, and religion etc. As a result, he has changed the way people appreciate and think about art. He also single-handedly established the Warburg Cultural Science Library (the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, KBW), now the University of London's Warburg Institute, one of the world's most prestigious research institutes for the history of art and culture. In this exhibition, we are going to introduce the viewer to Warburg, one of the most important art historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by presenting several milestones in his intellectual journey. 

We have singled out three milestones in Warburg's vision as an art historian in order to provide the reader with a brief introduction: firstly, his doctoral thesis on Botticelli challenged the dominant view of Renaissance art inherited from Winckelmann, revealing how Botticelli's sporty and ethereal garments reflected a renewed appreciation of the movement of the Classical era. This departure from Winckelmann's views set Warburg on a lifelong quest for the essence of the Classical period. Second, Warburg travelled to the United States in 1895 during a family wedding, a transition that exposed him to the vibrant rituals of indigenous cultures and especially inspired his quest to unify a global cultural phenomenon. Documenting his experiences in a Pueblo community, he delved into the symbolism of lightning and snakes and abstracted them into a broader human response to fear, comparing Western electricity to the indigenous snake dance. The trip expanded his focus from famous works of art to all forms of visual expression in human history. Upon his return to Europe, Warburg incorporated his newfound insights into his study of European culture, conceiving the Mnemosyne Atlas - an iconographic catalogue of human symbolism. Sadly, his sudden death in 1929 prevented the realisation of this ambitious project, but he left behind a wealth of plates and research notes (known as KBW) that demonstrate his visionary approach to mapping the evolution of human thought through images.