Early friend and exponent of German Expressionist artists, taught art history at the Bauhaus. Adler was born to Therese (née Hirsch) and Mortiz Adler, both of Jewish descent. Adler’s father was a theater critic and socialist. Adler lived in Munich from 1917 onward, where he wrote his dissertation at that university the same year. His topic was the early development of the woodcut. In Munich he became familiar with the Blauen Reiter artists group and for whom he worked. In 1919, he moved to Weimar and founded his own publishing house, through which he published Utopia: Dokumente der Wirklichkeit in 1921 for which several Bauhaus artists collaborated. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Adler taught art history at the Bauhaus and at the Staatlichen Kunstakademie Weimar where he worked closely with colleague Johannes Itten. Adler also worked as a lecturer at a community college in Jena. The Nazi proscriptions against Jews in education, 1933, forced Adler out of teaching. Adler turned to writing, publishing historical works on Matthias Claudius (1740-1815) a biography of Adalbert Stifter (1805-1858) between 1934-1936, the latter under the pseudonym Urban Roedl. The Stifter book was praised as “one of the most German books of the year,” however after the discovery of Adler’s pseudonym and heritage, the book was deemed a “Jewish con” and was promptly banned by the Nazis along with the publisher Rowohlt. From 1933 to 1936, Adler resided in Czechoslovakia. Fearing the eventual truth--that the Nazis intended to annex the country, he immigrated to London in 1936, teaching in a rural private school. During the war, Adler worked within the German department of the BBC. He authored several propaganda broadcasts such as the series Frau Wernicke, among others. Later, Adler became a journalism and broadcasting university lecturer. From 1944 to 1950, he was the editor-in-chief of Die Neue Auslese and contributor at Times Literary Supplement. His seminal publications on Matthias Claudius and Adalbert Stifter were translated into English. Returning to art history in the 1960s, Adler published articles notably on Hans von Maree and late classicism.
Adler made efforts to expand German art and literature in England. His lasting work is not one of art history but Adalbert Stifter biography.
[dissertation:] Ursprünge und Anfänge des Holzschnitts. Munich, 1917; and Itten, Johannes. Utopia: Dokumente der Wirklichkeit. Weimar: Utopia Verl., 1921; ed., Matthias Claudius, Gedichte. Berlin: 1922; ed., Adalbert Stifter Studien. 3 vols. Berlin; 1922-1923; (under Urban Roedl) Adalbert Stifter: Geschichte seines Lebens. Berlin; 1936, Edition 2 Bern 1958; Das Weimarer Bauhaus. Darmstadt: Bauhaus-Archiv, 1963.
Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munchen: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 1-3.