Arnheim: Remembering Rudi

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Arnheim: Remembering Rudi

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Arnheim: Remembering Rudi record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

German-born psychologist famous for applying Gestalt perceptual theories to the visual arts, architecture and film. University of Michigan visitng professor in the Department of the History of Art from 1974-1984 and the 2001 recipient of a Collegiate Professorship in his name from the College of Literature, Arts and Sciences. Digital files containing two videos of his memorial celebration in the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens in September 2007.

Rudolf Arnheim was born to a Jewish family in 1904 in Berlin, Germany. He was raised in Charlottenburg, Germany where his father owned a piano factory. While at Freidrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, Arnheim studied art, philosophy, and psychology and was introduced to the field of Gestalt psychology. Gestalt theories focus on understanding how human perceptions are created. While in Berlin, Arnheim worked with the influential Gestalt psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Lewin. Arnheim applied Gestalt theories and methods to the visual arts and film and was one of the first scholars to approach film as a medium of art.

Arnheim also worked as a film critic for the influential Berlin magazine, Die Weltbuhne, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. However in 1932, he came into conflict with the rising Nazi party after penning a controversial satirical article comparing the mustaches of Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin. He was warned the Nazis might seek retribution and immigrated to Rome in 1933 to escape the threat. Arnheim later moved to London shortly before the outbreak of World War II and spent time as a translator for the British Broadcasting Corporation before settling in New York in 1940.

In the United States, Arnheim worked as a professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City and Sarah Lawrence University in Bronxville, New York from 1943-1968. In 1968, Arnheim took an appointment as a professor of the Psychology of Art at Harvard University. He remained at Harvard until his retirement in 1974. During his academic career in the United States, Arnheim continued his study of art as a method of visual thinking and a means of expression. He is considered one of the leading scholars of Gestalt theory in the United States. One of his most famous books,Film as Art(1928), was reprinted in English in 1957 and is considered a foundational text in the field of Film Studies. Over his career, he was awarded with numerous professional honors including being elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1976.

Arnheim and his wife Mary moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1974 and he taught as a visiting professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan for ten years. In 2001, the College of Literature, Arts and Sciences honored him with a Collegiate Professorship in his name. Following his retirement, Arnheim continued to live in Ann Arbor until his death in June 2007. In September 2007, a memorial ceremony was held in the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens to celebrate his life and accomplishments.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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