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Zimmer, Heinrich R.

    Full Name: Zimmer, Heinrich R.

    Other Names:

    • Heinrich Robert Zimmer

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1890

    Date Died: 1943

    Place Born: Greifswald, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany


    South Asian historian of art. Colleague of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Zimmer began his career studying Sanskrit and linguistics at the University of Berlin where he graduated in 1913. Between 1920-24 he lectured at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University in Griefswald, moving to Heidelberg in to fill the Chair of Indian Philology. Here, he wrote some of his most influential work, including Kunstform und Yoga im indischen Kultbild (1926). In 1938 he was dismissed by the Nazi’s, emigrating to London where, between 1939-40 he taught at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1942 he moved to New York to accept a Visiting Lecturer position in Philosphy at Columbia where he died the following year. Zimmer’s method was to examine religious images, using their sacred significance as a key to their psychic transformation. His use of (Indian) philosophy and religious history to interpret art was at odds with traditional scholarship. His vast knowledge of Hindu mythology and philosophy (particularly Puranic and Tantric works) gave him insights into the art, insights appreciated by Joseph Campbell among others. The later edited Zimmer’s writings after his death. The psychiatrist Carl Jung also developed a long-standing relationship with Zimmer. He is credited by many for the popularizing of South Asian art in the West.

    Selected Bibliography

    Kunstform und yoga im indischen Kultbild. Berlin: Frankfurter Verlags-Anstalt, 1926; English: Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India trans Gerald Chapple and James B. Lawson in collaboration with J. Michael McKnight. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984; The Art of Indian Asia, its Mythology and Transformations. Completed and edited by Joseph Campbell. New York: Pantheon,1955; Myths and symbols in Indian art and civilization. Edited by Joseph Campbell. New York: Pantheon Books,1946.


    Heinrich Zimmer : Coming into His Own. Edited by Margaret H Case. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994; Linda, Mary. “Zimmer, Heinrich.” The Dictionary of Art.


    "Zimmer, Heinrich R.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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