Heinrich Wölfflin, (1864-1945) the art historian, was born in Wintherthur, Switzerland. His father was a scholar of the classics.

Wölfflin was an extremely important exponent of formalist methodology in art criticism, and became a professor of art history at the universities of Basel, Berlin, Munich, and Zürich from 1893 to 1934.

He was very popular, and recognized as among the most important of the art critics of his time. In contrast to the heavy, academic tomes on art history, his books were succinct, which made them much easier to read.

Books he has written include:
Renaissance und Barock (1888)
Klassische Kunst (1898)
Classic Art (1899)
Die Kunst Albrecht Dürers (1905)
Principles of Art History (1915)
Italien und das deutsche Formgefühl (1931)
Gedanken zur Kunstgeschichte (1941)

He studied art history in Basel, Berlin, and Munich. His dissertation (1886) was entitled "Prolegomena zu einer Psychologie der Architektur".

In 1901 he was called to the prestigious University of Berlin to become (Ordinarius) professor of the University. His lectures were extremely popular, commanding the largest auditoriums available and reviewed in newspapers.

Rudolf Wittkower, who attended these in Munich, described Wölfflin as an aloof teacher, who delegated even his graduate seminars to assistants.

He moved back to Switzerland in 1924 because of the growing German nationalism.

Some of his important, influential students include: Frederick Antal, Ernst Heidrich, Paul Frankl, Alfred Stange, Richard Krautheimer and Fritz Saxl.

As social-history approaches to art became the norm, along with iconographic and post-structuralism, Wölfflin became a target for all that was wrong with current art history in the 1970s.

He died in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1945.