Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, one of the most influential art historians of the twentieth century, was born to Karl B. and Leonie Hock Gombrich. His father was a lawyer who served as vice president of the Vienna Lawyers’ Chamber, and his mother was a pianist who had been an assistant to Theodor Leschetizky and a member of the circle around Gustav Mahler. His family, like many others in post-World War I Austria, had a hard struggle; eventually the young Ernst Gombrich was sent to Sweden by the Save the Children Fund. When he was able to return to Austria, he attended the Theresianum, a school that concentrated on classical subjects. From 1928 to 1935, he attended the University of Vienna, taking courses in art history, classical archaeology, psychology, and philosophy.
At the age of twenty-six, he published a highly successful world history book for children, which quickly became available in four languages. With the Nazi threat growing in Austria, Gombrich accepted an offer to join the Warburg Institute in London in 1936. He married Ilse Heller in 1937 and became a naturalized British citizen in 1947. In 1959, he became director of the Warburg Institute, a position he held until 1976. During his career, he published almost two dozen books, held several visiting professorships, and received many prestigious fellowships and awards.
Beginning in his student days, Gombrich was more interested in the psychological, philosophical, and cultural...
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