She was the daughter of the painter Emma Kehrmann (1867-1958). She studied art history at the universities of Frankfurt, Bonn and Munich, under
Rudolf Kautzsch, who supervised her doctotate, and Heinrich Wölfflin. But she trained as a painter after taking her doctorate. She exhibited in Germany and, after emigrating to England in 1933 (her family was Jewish), in her new home as well. When her studio was destroyed in World War II, she returned to art history.
She studied at the Courtauld Institute in London after the war, focusing on the artists of the Tudor court, and wrote a second dissertation on patronage and painting in 16th-century England. This would become the subject of her first published book, Tudor Artists (1954), the first work in modern times to lay out the documentary sources for the arts of painting and limning in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods.
She died in London in 1975.