Edmund Hildebrandt’s parents were Franz Hildebrandt, a prosperous Jewish merchant turned Christian, and Theone Wolkoff (Hildebrandt). After graduating with his abitur in 1891 from the Berlin Fridericianum gymnasium he spent some time away from the classroom (assisting his father’s business?) before electing to student philology and art history in college. Hildebrandt heard lectures in Berlin by the art historian Karl Frey, the literary historian Erich Schmidt (1853-1913), the classical philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848 -1931) and the art historian Hermann Grimm. He completed his dissertation under Grimm on the topic of the eighteenth-century sculptor Friedrich Tieck (1776-1851) in 1898. For the next ten years it’s unclear what Hildebrandt did next, but part was certainly researching his habilitation, likely also from Berlin, which he received in 1908. This allowed him to be a privatdozent at the Berlin University where he rose through the ranks to become a full professor in Berlin in 1921. Among his notable students was the aesthetician Rudolf Arnheim. Hildebrandt suffered from agoraphobia and as a consequence lecture only in small auditoriums. The assumption of the Nazis to power in Germany beginning in 1933 spelled trouble for those like Hildebrandt who were hereditary Jews. He lost his Venia Legendi in 1937, declared a “non-Aryan". Although his death is undocumented, it is believed he perished in one of the holocaust extermination camps.
- [dissertation:] Friedrich Tieck: ein Beitrag zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte im Zeitalter Goethes und der Romantik. Leipzig : K.W. Hiersemann, 1906;
- [habilitation:] Leben, Werke und Schriften des Bildhauers E.-M. Falconet, 1716-1791. Strassburg, J.H.E. Heitz, 1908;
- Antoine Watteau. Berlin: Propylän-Verlag, 1922;
- Malerei und Plastik des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts in Frankreich. Wildpark-Potsdam: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion, 1924;
- Leonardo da Vinci, der künstler und sein werk. Berlin: G. Grote, 1927.
- Arnheim, Rudolf, “A Maverick in Art History.” The Split and the Structure: Twenty-eight Essays. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, p. 105;
- 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. 300-305.