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Walter Friedlaender Collection

Identifier: AR 3393

Scope and Content Note

This collection principally documents the work and professional relationships of the art historian Walter Friedlaender. To a smaller extent, it also allows a glance at his personal life and the events occurring in Nazi Germany.

Walter Friedlaender’s professional life is evidenced in all series in this collection. Series I: Personal includes a biographical article on an honorary title bestowed on Friedlaender by the University of Freiburg (Ehrensenator). Series II holds correspondence from his colleagues and students. Some of these letters discuss others’ opinions on topics in Friedlaender’s area of study, although many simply mention professional events and occurrences. Among the letters are several from his colleague and former student Erwin Panofsky, covering a range of more than two decades. Correspondence written for Friedlaender on his significant birthdays praises his work and includes poems written for him by other professionals. Daily calendars are contained in Series III, and these often list meetings and planned work as well as occasionally including notes that may have been used for talks or lectures. More detailed notes used for lectures as well as drafts of writing and will be found in Series IV, which holds the bulk of material pertaining to Friedlaender’s professional work. This series also includes copies of Friedlaender’s early work in the field, especially his reviews of art exhibits. Files of representations of artwork that Friedlaender may have used in teaching or writing will also be found in Series IV. Changes in Germany in his field are documented among the newspaper clippings found in Series V.

This collection only holds a small amount of papers dedicated to the personal life of Walter Friedlaender. Much of the correspondence from colleagues in Series II discusses such personal topics as his health and visits he planned, as well as information on colleagues they had in common. Series I includes photographs not only of Friedlaender himself, but also of unidentified individuals, who may be family members or friends. Personal appointments and activities are also revealed in the daily calendars of Series III.


  • 1900-1966
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1960


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and Italian.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Collection is microfilmed (MF 791).

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Walter Ferdinand Friedlaender was born in 1873 in Glogau, now Glogow, Poland, the son of Sigismund Friedlaender and Anna Joachimsthal. His parents died while he was young, and at thirteen he went to live with an older sister in Berlin. He attended the University of Berlin, and received his doctorate in Sanskrit in 1898; his dissertation, a translation with annotations of a portion of the Mahabarata, was published two years later. Shortly thereafter he went to London to study at the British Museum on a post-doctoral fellowship. While there, he visited the National Gallery where he developed an interest in art history.

After returning to Berlin, Freidlaender studied art history under Heinrich Wölfflin although he was unable to pursue a second doctorate in the field of art history. In 1904 his reviews of art exhibitions began to be published, sometimes under the name Friedrich Walter. In 1912 Friedlaender wrote a book on the frescoes of Federico Barocci, and in 1914 his book Nicolas Poussin was published. That same year he became a Privatdozent at the University of Freiburg’s recently founded art history department, headed by Wilhelm Vöge. Friedlaender would stay at the university until he left Germany in 1933. His research and teaching there largely focused on the work of Nicolas Poussin as well as the artists presently often referred to as the mannerists; Friedlaender termed them anti-classicists. Among Friedlaender’s students was Erwin Panofsky. Several of his lectures from this time period were published by the Warburg Institute in 1925 and 1930.

Walter Friedlaender was dismissed from his university position in 1933, just prior to his retirement, because of his Jewish heritage. With the aid of his former student, Erwin Panofsky, he was able to procure a temporary position at the University of Pennsylvania and then a permanent position at New York University’s Insitute of Fine Arts. In 1943 Friedlaender and his wife separated. Walter Friedlaender’s lectures at the Insitute primarily focused on the same areas of the field he had spent his life studying, and he kept this position until his death in 1966. Several of his earlier German works were published in translation by his students.


2.5 Linear Feet


The Walter Friedlaender Collection describes the professional life of this art historian. The major focus of the collection is his work on sixteenth and seventeenth century artists. It includes correspondence, a few published works, photographs, lecture and manuscript notes, art reference files, newspaper clippings, and poetry.


The collection is on nine reels of microfilm (MF 791):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/31
  2. Reel 2: Daily Calendars
  3. Reel 3: Daily Calendars
  4. Reel 4: Daily Calendars
  5. Reel 5: Daily Calendars
  6. Reel 6: 1/32 - 1/41
  7. Reel 7: 1/42 - 1/52
  8. Reel 8: 1/53 - 2/11
  9. Reel 9: 2/12 - 2/43

Separated Material

Many photographs, including portraits of Walter Friedlaender, have been removed to the LBI Photograph Collection. Duplicate portraits remain in the collection.

Processing Information

In the preparation of the EAD finding aid, two boxes of addenda - primarily correspondence, publications, and lecture notes - were incorporated into the collection and the collection was reboxed. Areas of the collection previously grouped together by similar material were kept together and given series and subseries titles and description. Several large, overfilled folders of unidentified art of buildings, frescoes, and statues found among the reproductions of Series IV, Subseries 3 were titled "architectural art."

Guide to the Papers of Walter Friedlaender (1873-1966) 1900-1966 AR 3393 / MF 791
Processed by LBI Staff and Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from WalterFriedlaender.xml

Revision Statements

  • April 2008.: Microfilm information added.
  • May 2011: Links to digital objects added in Container List.
  • March 29, 2018:: Biographical note edited.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States