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Landsberger, Franz

    Full Name: Landsberger, Franz

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 14 June 1883

    Date Died: 17 March 1964

    Place Born: Katowice, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

    Place Died: Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany and United States

    Career(s): curators and educators

    Institution(s): Hebrew Union College and Jüdisches Museum Berlin


    University lecturer and associate professor; museum director with a focus on Jewish art. He was born in Kattowitz, Germany, which is present-day Katowice, Poland. Landsberger was born in Kattowitz, Germany [modern Katowice, Poland] in 1883 to Adolf Landsberger, a banker and city councilor, and Ida Sachs (1859–1935). Landsberger attended school in Kattowitz and Breslau [modern Wrocław, Poland], completing his abitur in 1903. He studied art history, archaeology, history of literature, and philosophy in Geneva, Berlin, Munich, and Breslau from 1903 to 1907 under Richard Muther and Heinrich Wölfflin. In 1907, Landsberger earned his doctorate from Breslau under Muther. His dissertation, Wilhelm Tischbein: ein Künstlerleben des 18. Jahrhunderts (Wilhelm Tischbein: An Artist’s Life in the 18th Century), was published in Leipzig in 1908. After receiving his doctorate, he attended lectures by Heinrich Wölfflin, whom he eventually regarded as his actual teacher. Landsberger subsequently traveled through Italy, France, Holland, and Switzerland. He married Alice Rothmann (d. 1945) in 1910. In 1912, Landsberger completed his habilitation at Breslau. From 1912 he worked as a private lecturer, and in 1917 he became the editor of the Schlesische Monatshefte. In 1918, Landsberger became an associate professor at the University of Breslau. At the same time, he worked as a teacher at the local art academy. His notable book Heinrich Wölfflin was published in 1924. Landsberger, being Jewish, was dismissed without pension on October 1, 1933 for being a “non-Aryan” under the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. He subsequently moved to Berlin and developed a close friendship with Max Liebermann. In 1934, Landsberger served as a visiting lecturer at the University of London. From 1935 to 1938 he was the director of the Jüdisches Museum Berlin, succeeding Karl Schwarz (1885–1962) and Erna Stein-Blumenthal (1903–1983). Together with Rachel Wischnitzer (1885–1989) and Irmgard Schüler (b. 1907), he expanded the collection and organized special exhibitions on Max Liebermann, Jewish poster artists, Jewish ancestral portraits, and “One Hundred Years of Jewish Art”, among others. Landsberger began to specialize in Jewish art during this period. In 1935, he published the fundamental discussion Einführung in die jüdische Kunst (Introduction to Jewish Art). In 1938, Landsberger was arrested in the Kristallnacht pogrom and deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for five weeks. He was released due to the intervention of Lady Mary Murray (1865–1956), who invited him to Oxford. Landsberger subsequently traveled to Oxford and stayed there in 1939 as the guest of Lady Murray and her husband, the classical scholar Gilbert Murray (1866–1957). Landsberger emigrated to the United States shortly thereafter. From 1939 to 1958, he worked at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, initially as a research professor and lecturer in Jewish art history. Landsberger married Dorothy Schwalbe Herz in 1946. Two of his most significant books, A History of Jewish Art and Rembrandt, the Jews and the Bible, were published in the same year. From 1947, Landsberger also served as curator and director of the Hebrew Union College Museum, where he expanded the collection through important acquisitions. With the help of his friend Leo Baeck (1873–1956), he transferred the remains of the Jüdisches Museum Berlin to Cincinnati. Landsberger continued to organize special exhibitions at the museum and publish research on Jewish art history until his death in 1964.

    Landsberger was a pioneer in Jewish art history, especially in the context of legitimizing it as a part of Jewish studies. He laid important groundwork for the future of the field, which was described before his arrival as “a desert . . . broken only here and there by oases”. In addition to his significant scholarly contributions, Landsberger was noted for his kindness (Gutmann). Ulrike Wendland observed that Landsberger only appeared to be interested in Jewish art after persecution.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation:] Wilhelm Tischbein: ein Künstlerleben des 18. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: Klinkhardt und Biermann, 1908;
    • Der St. Galler Folchart-Psalter: eine Initialenstudie. St. Gallen: Fehr, 1912;
    • Impressionismus und Expressionismus. Leipzig: Klinkhardt und Biermann, 1919;
    • Die künstlerischen Probleme der italienischen Renaissance. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1922;
    • Heinrich Wölfflin. Berlin: Gottschalk, 1924;
    • Jacopo della Quercia. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1924;
    • Vom Wesen der Plastik: ein kunstpädagogischer Versuch . Vienna: Rikola Verlag, 1924;
    • Breslau. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1926;
    • and Grisebach, August, and Günther Grundmann: Die Kunst in Schlesien. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1927;
    • Die Kunst der Goethezeit: Kunst und Kunstanschauung von 1750 bis 1830. Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1931;
    • Einführung in die jüdische Kunst. Berlin: Philo Verlag, 1935;
    • “Jewish Art.” Jewish Layman 15, no. 1 (1940): 16–18;
    • “Jewish Artists Before the Period of Emancipation.” Hebrew Union College Annual 16 (1941): 321–414;
    • A History of Jewish Art. Cincinnati: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1946;
    • Rembrandt, the Jews and the Bible. Translated by Felix N. Gerson. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1946;
    • Jewish Art Objects from the Collection of the Hebrew Union College. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1947;
    • Jewish Ceremonial Art. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1950;
    • “Rembrandt and Josephus.” Art Bulletin 36 (1954): 62–63.


    • Gutmann, Joseph. “Franz Landsberger 1883–1964.” Studies in Bibliography and Booklore 8, no. 1 (Spring 1966): 3–9;
    • Scheyer, Ernst. “Prof. Dr. Franz Landsberger ✝.” Schlesien 9 (1964): 126;
    • Wiese, Erich. “Franz Landsberger.” Weltkunst 34 (1964): 308;
    • 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. 411–6.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen and Lindsay Dial


    Lee Sorensen and Lindsay Dial. "Landsberger, Franz." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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