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Rosenau, Helen

    Full Name: Rosenau, Helen

    Other Names:

    • Helen Rosenay-Carmi

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 23 March 1900

    Place Born: Monte Carlo, Monaco

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre) and sculpture (visual works)


    Architectural historian. Rosenau’s father was Albert Rosenau (d. 1923), a medical doctor and her mother Klara Lion (Rosenau). She was raised in Monte Carlo and in Bad Kissingen, Germany, where she was privately tutored. After receiving her abitur in 1923, she studied art history at various universities, including Munich under Heinrich Wölfflin, Halle, Berlin under Adolph Goldschmidt, Bonn under Paul Clemen and finally Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky. Her 1930 dissertation was accepted from the university in Hamburg on the topic of Cologne cathedral. She moved to the University in Münster with plans to write her Habilitation under Martin Wackernagel. Rosenau worked on excavations in the cathedrals in Bremen, Cologne and the Großmünster church in Zürich. The new Nazi government forbade Jews, she and her mother emigrated first to Switzerland and then to the United Kingdom in 1933. She succeeded in writing her habilitation, Desing and Medieval Architecture, using a 1934-1935 stipend from the British Federation of University Women. Rosenau continued study at the Courtauld Institute between 1935 and 1940, researching the architectural history of the synagogue. She married Zwi Carmi (1883-1900), a medical doctor in 1938. A Ph.D. degree was granted by the Courtauld, University of London, in 1940. Rosenau worked at the London School of Economics in 1941 for the socialogist Karl Mannheim (1893-1947), researching the social place of women in the mirror of art. The result of this became one of the first feminist tracts in art history, a small booklet looking at women as subjects in art, Woman in Art: from Type to Personality. She became a naturalized British subject in 1945. After the war, she lectured at a variety of universities, including the University of London, 1947-1951. During that time she published her first art-history book in English, on the painter Jacques-Louis David, in 1948. She moved to the University of Manchester in 1951 where she researched the theory of the French Revolutionary architect Etienne Louis Boullée, editing and publishing his treatise, Architecture, Essai sur L’art, in 1953. Her The Ideal City in its Architectural Evolution was published in 1959. In 1968, she returned to the University of London lecturing there and at Leo Baeck College, a progressive London Jewish college Rabbinic institute. Her students included Adrian Rifkin.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Der kölner Dom: seine Baugeschichte und historische Stellung. Hamburg, 1930, published, Cologne, 1931; [habilitation:] Design and Medieval Architecture. London: B.T. Batsford, 1934; “The Synagogue and Protestant Church Architecture.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 4, no. 1-2 (1940-1941): 80-84; Woman in Art: from Type to Personality. London: Isomorph, 1944; The Painter Jacques-Louis David. London: Nicholson & Watson, 1948; A Short History of Jewish Art. London,:J. Clarke, 1948; edited. Boullée, Etienne Louis. Treatise on Architecture: a Complete Presentation of the Architecture, essai sur l’art, which Forms Part of the Boullée Papers (Ms. 9153) in the Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris. London: A. Tiranti, 1953; The Ideal City in its Architectural Evolution. London: Routledge and Paul, 1959; Vision of the Temple: the Image of the Temple of Jerusalem in Judaism and Christianity. London: Oresko Books, 1979; Boullée & Visionary Architecture. London: Academy Editions, 1976.


    Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 563-566; [obituaries:] Metzger, Mendel. Gazette des Beaux-arts 105 (1985): 30; HIggott, Gordon. “Helen Rosenau: 1900-1984.” Journal of Jewish Art 11 (1985): 79-80.


    "Rosenau, Helen." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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