Art historian, professor, and artist; taught at numerous universities including Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. Paul Laporte was born as Paul Milton Heilbronner in 1904 Munich, Germany to banker Hugo Heilbronner (1869-1924). Heilbronner attended Altes Realgymnasium in Munich, earning his Abitur in 1924. From 1921 to 1925, he studied painting, arts, and crafts at the Kunstgewerbeschule and Akademie in Munich, and the Kunstschule in Halle. At these institutions, Heilbronner worked under teachers such as the architect Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957), painter and graphic artist Erwin Hahs (1887-1970), and painter Karl Caspar (1879-1956). After departing these arts and crafts schools, he developed his artistic career as a painter and etcher until 1931. Heilbronner experienced some success as an artist in Thomas Mann’s Unordnung und frühes Leid (Disorder and Early Suffering) where his woodcuts were featured (1930).
In 1929, Heilbronner resumed his educational career at the University of Munich, where he studied art history, archaeology, and philosophy. During his university studies, Heilbronner gained practical experience in photography, with an emphasis on photography of artworks. This experience likely influenced his later projects with film. In 1933, Heilbronner finished his studies and published his dissertation under Wilhelm Pinder, titled Studien über Johann Michael Fischer (Studies on Johann Michael Fischer).
In response to growing anti-semetic policies enforced under Hitler in the same year, Heilbronner was forced to flee his home of Germany. He emigrated to Florence, Italy, where he spent his time conducting research on a variety of subjects, including prehistoric art, anthropology, and ethnology. He also became deeply involved with the Italian art and film scene, which was greatly prompted by his newfound relationship with Rudolf Arnheim and his wife Annette Siecke. Heilbronner’s relationship with film took the form of both critic and artist. He published articles on art and film in numerous popular Italian magazines, such as Il municipio di Augusta, di Elia Holl, e i suoi rapporti con il barocco Italiano (Elia Holl's Augsburg Town Hall and its Relations to the Italian Baroque, 1938) in Palladio. Heilbronner also created his own short films focused on art works in Italy, with the most notable cinematic being a larger film project centered on Florence.
In 1939, Heilbronner emigrated to the US with the help of Arnheim and the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom, and officially took the name of Laporte. Upon arriving, he continued his scholarly work and contributed to a publication on human representation in the Palaeolithic. He also began to lecture for the College Art Association, commencing his lifelong involvement with education. From 1939 to 1940, Laporte worked as a teacher of art and handicrafts at numerous schools, including the Gordon School in Providence, Rhode Island and at the Providence Country Day School. In 1940, Laporte became an art and art history teacher at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut until 1944. During this time period, he also worked at the Institute of International Education.
In 1943, Laporte married Annette Siecke, the former wife of Arnheim. Their romantic relationship began during his stay with the Anheims in Italy, where the two scandalously parented a child in 1937. Their union was Laporte’s second marriage, as he had previously been married in Germany before getting divorced in 1933.
In terms of his writing, Laporte published numerous works on a variety of subjects in 1943, including Humanism and the Contemporary Primitive (1946) and The classic art of Renoir (1948). Over time, his work became more focused on the intersection of science and the arts, a relationship he often explored through the cubist work of Picasso. While teaching art history at Olivet College in 1946, Laporte corresponded with Albert Einstein for input on his own investigations into this relationship that would inform his later works. Based upon his research up until this point, Laporte published The space-time concept in the work of Picasso and Cubism and science in 1948.
From 1948 to 1949, Laporte became a lecturer at the Design Institute in Chicago. In that year, he left to assume the role of Chairman of the Department of Art at Macalester College, which he would hold until 1956. After leaving Macalester College, Laporte continued his career in education that same year as a professor of art history at Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles. From 1960 to 1961, he taught at the Chouinard Institute of Art and in 1962, became a visiting professor at University of Southern California until 1963, when he transitioned to University of California at Berkeley. During this time, Laporte’s scholarly interest in Picasso continued with the publication of Picasso's portrait of the artist in 1961 and Four paintings by Picasso in 1963. His continued interest into the scientific intertwinings of cubism is represented in Cubism and Relativity, which was first published in 1965 and then republished posthumously in 1988. The later version featured a more thorough translation of a letter from Albert Einstein from their 1946 correspondence, as well as an introduction by Rudolf Arnheim. Laporte remained in California until his death in 1980 in Santa Barbara.
- [dissertation:] (Paul Heilbronner): Studien über Johann Michael Fischer. München 1933;
- (Paul Heilbronner): II municipio di Augusta di Elia Holl e i suoi rapporti con il barocco italiano. In: Palladio. 1938, pp. 45-54;
- Humanism and the contemporary primitive. In: Gaz. Bx Arts. 29,1946, pp. 47-62;
- The classic art of Renoir. In: Gaz. Bx-Arts. 35, 1948;
- Cubism and science. In: Aesthetics. 7, 1948, pp. 243-256;
- The space-time concept in the work of Picasso. In: Mag. of Art. 41, 1948, pp. 26-30;
- Picasso's portrait of the artist. In: Centennial R. 1961;
- Four paintings by Picasso. In: B. Los Angeles County Mus. 15,1963, H. 3, pp. 3-13;
- Cubism and relativity. In: Art. 25,1965, pp. 246-248;
- Cubism and relativity, with a letter of Albert Einstein. Introd. by Rudolf Arnheim. In: Leonardo. 21,1988, pp. 313-315;
- 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. 351-355.;
- Mann, Thomas, Felix Wittmer, Thomas Mann, and Thomas Mann. 1930. Unordnung und frühes Leid . New York: Prentice-Hall.;
- Jung, Sebastian. “Paul Heilbronner (Laporte)” Einblicke - Ausblicke. Jüdische Kunsthistoriker in München (website) Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München https://www.kunstgeschichte.uni-muenchen.de/forschung/ausstellungsprojekte/archiv/einblicke_ausblicke/biografien/heilbronner/index.html