Museum director and scholar of Romanesque and 19th-century German sculpture. Bloch was the son of a Berlin book publisher, Peter Bloch and mother Charlotte Streckenbach (Bloch). He attended the Gymnasium in Steglitz, graduating in 1943. Despite having a Jewish background, Bloch joined the German army. He was wounded in battle and taken as a prisoner of war, remaining in a Belgian POW camp (working in the mines) until 1948. Between 1948-50 he studied Philosophy at the Humboldt University in Berlin and art history as well with Richard Hamann, Peter Metz and Willy Kurth (1881-1963). When east and west Berlin began separating, Block changed universities to Basel where he studied under the art historian Joseph Gantner (b. 1896) and was highly influenced by Karl Jaspers (1883-1969). He attained his doctorate in Basel in 1954 his dissertation title, Das Hornbacher Sakramentar und seine Stellung innerhalb der frühen Reichenauer Buchmalerei. Between 1954-57 he was an assistant for Heinrich Lützeler, teaching at the Kunsthistorischen Institute (Art History Institute) at the University of Bonn. His research in Italy was incorporated in Lützeler's travel guide (Rom, 1955). After eight months as a volunteer at the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett he accepted the invitation of Hermann Schnitzler (1905-1976) to work at the Schnütgen Museum, a medieval sculpture collection in Cologne in 1958. He married in 1959. Bloch researched Carolingian, Romanian and Gothic art, serving as a consultant for private collectors as well. His work on medieval Christian and Jewish art won him his habilitation under Heinz Ladendorf at the University of Cologne in 1962. He lectured as a privatdozent until 1967. His essay "Nachwirkungen des Alten Bundes in der christlichen Kunst" in the important Cologne exhibition Monumenta Judaica (1963) were the first to treat this theme of the interrelation between Jewish and Christian art. Bloch also began researching 19th-century sculpture. In 1967 he returned to Berlin to be the director of the sculpture collection of the Prussian State Museum (Preussischer Kulturbesitz). He presided over several important acquisitions in a collection ravaged by World War II. These included Canova's Bacchante and Reinhold Begas's Amor and Psyche. He succeeded his teacher Metz as professor at the Free University (Freien Universität) from 1970 onward. He continued to research 19th-century sculpture in Berlin. As a museum professional, he became interested forgeries, initiated a documentation project beginning in 1974. He led interest in cemetery monuments publishing his findings in a book (1978) and later an exhibition Ethos und Pathos, (1990). He succeeded Erich Meyer, in editing Denkmäler deutscher Kunst where he was solely responsible for the volumes on Romanesque bronze crucifixes. Although Bloch was already been retired from the museum when Germany was reunified, Bloch weighed in on the reunification of the museum. He argued for installations which continued to integrate all media (sculpture, paintings and crafts) of a period, a tradition dating back to Wilhelm Bode. Bloch's research emphasized the importance of documentation. His dating of Romanesque crucifixes was impossible, he noted, without the solid documentation the wooden crucifixes of the same period. He also frequently spoke of the importance of the work the context of time and in relation to other works. One of his most important publications was Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule 1967-70 where he identified specific artistic hands, connecting them to a Master of the Trier Evangelar of Gregory.
[complete bibliography:] Festschrift für Peter Bloch: zum 11. Juli 1990. Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1990, pp. xiii-xviii; [dissertation] Das Hornbacher Sakramentar und seine Stellung innerhalb der frühen Reichenauer Buchmalerei. Basel: Birkhäuser, 1956 (granted 1954); [habilitation:] Siebenarmige Leuchter in christlichen Kirchen. University of Cologne, 1962; Bildwerke 1780-1910: aus den Beständen der Skulpturengalerie und der Nationalgalerie. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1990; Kölner Madonnen: Die Muttergottes in der Kölner Bildnerei des Mittelalters. Mönchengladbach: Kühlen, 1961; Die ottonische Kölner Malerschule. 2 vols. Düsseldorf, Schwann, 1967; Romanische Bronzekruzifixe. Denkmäler deutscher Kunst, Bronzegeräte des Mittelalters vol. 5. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 1992; Der Darmstädter Hitda-Codex: Bilder und Zierseiten aus der Handschrift 1640 der Hessischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek. Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 1968; and Schnitzler, Hermann, and Ratton, Charles. Email, Goldschmiede- und Metallarbeiten, europäisches Mittelalter. Lucern: Räber, 1965; and Schnitzler, Hermann, and Volbach, Wolfgang. Skulpturen: Elfenbein, Perlmutter, Stein, Holz: europäisches Mittelalter. Lucern: Räber, 1964; Madonnenbilder: vierzig Dankmäler der Skulpturenabteilung. Berlin (Dahlem): Staatliche Museen, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Skulpturenabteilung, 1969.
Festschrift für Peter Bloch: zum 11. Juli 1990. Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1990, pp. xi-xii; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 29-32; [obituary:] Theuerkauff, Christian. "Peter Bloch." The Burlington Magazine 137 (May 1995): 321.