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Bing, Gertrud

    Image Credit: History Collections

    Full Name: Bing, Gertrud

    Other Names:

    • Gertrud Bing

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1892

    Date Died: 1964

    Place Born: Hamburg, Germany

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: Germany


    Early Warburg Institute developer and Director. Bing’s parents were Moritz Bing and Emma Jonas (Bing). After attending the Lyceum in Hamburg, 1909-1913 and receiving an abitur from the Heinrich-Hertz Realgymnasium in 1916, she attended the universities of Munich and then Hamburg concentrating in philosophy. Her dissertation, written under Ernst Cassirer in 1921, focused on Lessing and Leibniz. The following year she began working as a librarian at the Warburg Library (Kulturwissenschaflichen Bibliothek Warburg or “KBW”), founded by Aby M. Warburg, who was then hospitalized for a mental condition. She would be associated with various aspects of the Warburg the rest of her life. In 1924 Bing became Warburg’s personal research assistant. Together with Fritz Saxl the three became the Warburg Institute of those early years. The KBW officially opened in 1926. She effectively became the director in 1927. At Warburg’s death in 1929, Bing edited his Gesammelten Schriften. With the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the KBW, founded by and named for a Jew, fell from official favor. Together with Saxl, who was now Bing’s life partner, the two moved the KBW to London as the Warburg Institute. The Institute was headed by Saxl with assistance and lecturing by Henri Frankfort, with Bing as assistant Director. Saxl and Bing worked tirelessly to sponsor and find jobs for art historians fleeing Nazi Germany. At the beginning of World War II, Bing drove an ambulance in Britain as part of t he London Auxilliary Ambulance Service until she was dismissed as an “enemy alien.” Saxl and Bing’s home in Dulwich was open to many scholars throughout their career, including the young art historian couple from New York University, Harry Bober and Phyllis Pray Bober. In 1948 Saxl died and was succeed as director by Frankfort. Bing succeeded Frankfort at his death in 1954, lecturing at the University of London as the Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition. Bing fell ill while working at the Institute in 1964 and died a month later.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Der Begriff des Notwendigen bei Lessing: Ein Beitrag zum geistesgeschichtlichen Problem Leibniz-Lessing. Hamburg, 1921; edited, Warburg, Aby. Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike: kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der europäischen Renaissance. 2 vols. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1932; “A. M. Warburg.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 28 (1965): 299-313.


    “In Memoriam Gertrud Bing, 1892-1964.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 27 (1964): [1-2]; Bober, Phyllis Pray. A Life of Learning. Charles Homer Haskins Lecture. New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1995, p. 12; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 56-9; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 27-28.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Bing, Gertrud." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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