RUDOLF ARNHEIM was born in Berlin, Germany, on July 15, 1904, only two weeks after Chekov died. In the same year, Ivan Pavlov won the Nobel Prize, and Sigmund Freud published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The son of a Berlin businessman who owned a small piano factory, Arnheim was seven years old when the Titanic sunk, nine when Niels Bohr proposed his quantum theory, and ten when World War I broke out.
    In the early 1920s, during the period of German history known as the Weimar Republic, the young Arnheim enrolled at the University of Berlin, where he studied psychology, philosophy, and the histories of art and music. There, at that university’s now-famous Psychological Institute, which was housed in the abandoned Imperial Palace, he earned his PhD in psychology, under the direction of Max Wertheimer (his major professor) and Wolfgang Köhler, the celebrated psychologists who (with Kurt Koffka) had a few years earlier founded the Gestalt school of psychology at Frankfurt.
    After graduating from the Psychological Institute in 1928, Arnheim worked for magazines as a cultural affairs editor and film critic, and wrote a pioneering book (still widely read at universities) on Film as Art. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, he moved to Italy for six years, then to England, and eventually settled in the U.S. in 1940.
    It was eleven years later, with a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, that Arnheim began his remarkable book on Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. It took him fifteen months, but he wrote it, as he once described, “essentially in one sitting, looking up only rarely to consult references beyond those stored in my head.” Completely revised in 1974, it has been translated into fourteen languages, and is one of the most widely read, influential art books of our time.
    Arnheim was 50 years old when the first edition of Art and Visual Perception was published. In the remaining fifty-two years of his life, he published hundreds of articles and more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and film, in relation to psychology. In addition to Art and Visual Perception, among his other well-known books are Film as Art (1932), Visual Thinking (1969), and The Power of the Center (1982).
    After teaching at The New School for Social Research and, for many years, at Sarah Lawrence College, Arnheim joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1968, as Professor of the Psychology of Art in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. Six years later, at age 70, he retired with his wife (née Mary Frame, who had been raised near Detroit) to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where, formally and informally, he was associated with the University of Michigan. In addition to many other honors, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976. Mary Arnheim died in 1999.
    Rudolf Arnheim died in Ann Arbor on June 9, 2007, about a month before reaching 103. His only surviving child is his stepdaughter, Margaret (Arnheim) Nettinga, who resides in the Netherlands, where she is a free-lance legal editor and gives courses in connection with the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration.—RB

Click here for a detailed obituary on Rudolf Arnheim, written by his friend and colleague Marvin Eisenberg.
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Rudolf Arnheim
gestalt psychologist, art and film theorist, author and professor this website was compiled and constructed by
Roy R. Behrens © copyright 2006 all rights reserved
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