Rudolf Arnheim Biography

Rudolf Arnheim (July 15, 1904 – June 9, 2007) was a German-born author, art and film theorist and perceptual psychologist. He himself said that his major books are Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (1954), Visual Thinking (1969), and The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts (1982), but it is Art and Visual Perception for which he was most widely known. Revised, enlarged and published as a New Version in 1974, it has been translated into 14 languages, and is very likely one of the most widely read and influential art books of the twentieth century.

Arnheim was born in Berlin, where his father, Georg Arnheim, owned a small piano factory. Despite the expectation that he should become a businessman, he enrolled at the University of Berlin in 1923. There, he majored in psychology and philosophy, with secondary emphases in the histories of art and music. It was there (in makeshift research facilities in the abandoned Imperial Palace) that he studied with the Gestalt psychologists, including Max Wertheimer (his Doktorvater), Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Lewin. His doctoral dissertation, which he completed in 1928, was a study of expression in human faces and handwriting.