Longhi was born in 1890 in Alba (Cuneo: Piedmont). He graduated from the University of Turin in 1911 with a dissertation on Caravaggio: his dissertation advisor was Pietro Toesca. After graduation, he supported himself by teaching in secondary schools in Rome (this experience is documented in the Breve ma veridica storia della pittura italiana). In the meantime he attended the School of Advanced Studies, under Adolfo Venturi, who in 1914 assigned him the book review section in his periodical "L'Arte". Between 1913 and 1920 Longhi also contributed to "L'Arte" and "La Voce", the periodical of the Futurist movement. In addition to Caravaggio, another an important topic he studied was Piero della Francesca, considered a relatively obscure artist at the time. He wrote an article on him in 1914 which was then followed by a full length monograph in 1927. During the 1920s Longhi entered the circle of the collector and art dealer Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, who funded his travels in Europe and helped to launch his career as a connoisseur. In 1924 RL married the writer Lucia Lopresti, known by the pen name Anna Banti. He also contributed to other periodicals such as "Pinacotheca" and—as co-author with Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli— to "Critica d'Arte". Between 1928 and 1934 his series of articles "Quesiti caravaggeschi" as well as his “Officina Ferrarese” were published. In 1934 he began to teach Mediaeval and Modern Art at the University of Bologna, where he also organized an exhibition about Bolognese Painting of the XVIII Century (1935-1936). During this period he began to express a deep interest in contemporary painting, as documented by a monograph about Carlo Carrà (1937) and by the intense frequentation of Giorgio Morandi. Between 1947 and 1958 he also participated in the organizational committees for the Venetian Biennali. In 1939 Longhi moved to Florence. Together with Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli (1938-1940) and Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti he directed the periodical “La Critica d’Arte”. In these years he published Fatti di Masolino e di Masaccio (1940), Carlo Braccesco (1942), and Viatico per cinque secoli di pittura veneziana (1946 )as a follow-up to the 1945 exhibition curated by Rodolfo Pallucchini. In 1943, the first annual number of “Proporzioni” was published (three other would follow in 1948, 1950, and 1963); in 1950 the first issue of “Paragone”: the periodical that Longhi would direct, together with Anna Banti, until his death (Longhi oversaw the art section, Banti the literature section). In 1949 he began to teach at the University of Florence. Longhi also organized some very remarkable exhibitions: in Bologna an exhibition dedicated to Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1948) and another on Bolognese painting of the XIV century (1950), In Milan the most famous one about Caravaggio and the Caravaggesques (1951) and, two years later (1953) I pittori della realtà in Lombardia. At the same time, RL worked with the director Umberto Barbaro to produce documentaries about artists (Carpaccio, Caravaggio, Carrà). In 1956 he published the volume on Correggio e la camera di San Paolo a Parma. He died in 1970, leaving his own art collection, his library, his fototeca, and the house in which they were kept 'to the benefit to the younger generation' in his will.
Edizione delle Opere Complete di Roberto Longhi, Firenze, Sansoni, 14 voll., 1961-1985. Bibliografia di Roberto Longhi, a cura di A. Boschetto, con una introduzione di U. Middeldorf, Fi-renze, Sansoni, 1973. R. Longhi, Breve ma veridica storia della pittura italiana, Firenze, Sansoni, 1980 (1913-1914). Il Palazzo non finito. Saggi inediti 1910-1926, a cura di F. Frangi, C. Montagnani, Milano, Electa, 1995 (1910-1926).