What is it like to work for GAIL

Department of History and Cultural Studies

Professor of Indian Art History

For a total of 32 years (1974-2006) Prof. Dr. Adalbert J. Gail (* 11.08.1941) the professor for Indian art history (today Department of Art History of South Asia at the Art History Institute of the FUB). His own photographic recordings provided a large part of the art-historical image and work material on which the excellent lectures and seminars are based. The courses were didactically and formally unique. His lectures could have been printed after the spoken word. In response to multiple requests from student circles, Prof. Dr. Gail is grateful to have made his numerous slides of photographs of art objects from South and Southeast Asia available to the EasyDB image database of the FUB's Art History Institute. By donating this unique material to the Free University of Berlin, international art historical research on these regions was given open worldwide access to the valuable recordings on this website. The reproductions can be downloaded and are freely available for use in scientific publications. In the event of publication, the photographer is requested to notify the photographer at adalbert.gail [at] googlemail.com and the KHI of the FUB as well as the URL of this image archive in the credit line together with the photographer's name.

Photos from trips to South and Southeast Asia

Professor Gail made thirty trips to South and Southeast Asia between 1974 and 2008, including ten field trips with students to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. The photos collected in the image database were taken by him on these trips. The quantitative focus was on Nepal. The art history professor and Indologist stayed there very often for longer periods, particularly between 1980 and 1989 as part of an interdisciplinary project of the German Research Foundation (DFG). Two facts in particular make the special value of the database for global art history research clear:

  1. The photographs were taken through the eyes of the passionate researcher who is endowed with the expertise of the art historian.
  2. The database also contains numerous art objects from Nepal and Sri Lanka in particular, which have since been stolen, damaged, defaced or lost.

Appreciation in the commemorative publication "Vanamālā"

In the 2006 Festschrift "Vanamālā" became Prof. Dr. Adalbert J. Gail was recognized by the colleagues as follows:

“Adalbert Gail was naturally committed to European tradition: he chose Latin as a state examination subject and had a keen interest in European art and literature. However, further studies led him to India: He began studying Sanskrit, later specialized in Purāna research and ended up concentrating on Indian art. Adalbert Gail was versatile through his humanistic education and through Indology. He worked as a philologist and at the same time as a prolific art historian. Moreover, although German, he was connected to all the fibers of his soul in the city of Prague and Bohemia.

The inspiration for his dissertation came from the religious scholar Friedrich Heiler, his method was shaped by the Purana work of Paul Hacker. He continued the Purāna research initiated by P. Hacker and W. Kirfel through decisive contributions, including his habilitation thesis. When he was working at the Museum of Indian Art [today department for the art collections from South, Southeast and Central Asia of the Museum of Asian Art - SMB; Note d. Online ed.] In 1974, when he was appointed to the Institute for Indian Philology and Art History, he had laid the foundations for his teaching, in which literature and art were represented together. The apprenticeship started by Herbert Härtel developed further in A. J. Gail's hands. Numerous excursions to India with students of the subject, mostly sponsored by private sources, complemented the study of Indian art history for the participants.

A.J. Gail tried hard to study Indian art as broadly as possible, but he made Nepal the focus of his research. Sylvain Levi remarked in 1905: "In Nepal today you still get an authentic idea of ​​an India that has long since perished." To a large extent, this is still true today, despite the great earthquake of 1934. A.J. Gail published three books on the iconography of Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. Nepal, more precisely the Kathmandu Valley, appealed to him not only because of its incredible archaeological wealth, but also because of the close connection between text and image in later times. The iconographic analysis of small and large sculptures was not his only area of ​​work, but it was in the foreground. [...]

Retirement is a turning point in the university teaching profession, often feared, but often also desired because of the positive aspects, because of the possibility of concentrated research work. We hope that A.J. Gail puts the positive aspects in the foreground and that, among many other things, he will have sufficient opportunities to travel to India and especially to Nepal, last but not least that he will continue to support the students in their work.

Retirement and student care

And so it is now. Retired for several years, Prof. Gail always finds time to supervise the students in addition to research trips to Asia and the publications of the results: as an appraiser and supervisor for bachelor's, master’s, master’s theses and dissertations and of course in the voluntary lectures in which numerous Students from the entire spectrum of world art history and other disciplines sometimes overcrowd the lecture halls of the art history institute. His lectures on the history of art in South, Southeast and Central Asia in the South Asia department are still literally 'ready for press'. Although he has long since retired, he makes a valuable contribution to the institute's unique global art-historical orientation.


Source: Mevissen, Gerd J.R .; Bruhn, Klaus [Ed.]: Vanamālā. Festschrift A.J. Gail -
Serta Adalberto Joanni Gail LXV. Diem Natalem Celebranti from Amicis Collegis Discipulis
Dedicata. Berlin 2006