Leo Bronstein was born in Augustovo, Russia (now Poland) in 1902. Bronstein spent much of his youth traveling and studying throughout Europe, including Imperial Russia, World War I and post-war Paris, Italy, Morocco and pre-civil war Spain. During his life, he acquired skill in speaking many languages, including Russian, Polish, (reading capacity in other Slavic languages), English, German, French, Italian, Castilian, Catalan and Portuguese.
Bronstein studied literature and philosophy at the University of Madrid between 1920 and 1923, and subsequently studied philosophy and fine art in Paris. In 1932, he was awarded the degree of Docteur de l’Université de Paris at the École de Psychologie and the École des Professeurs of the Sorbonne.
Leo Bronstein came to the United States in 1932 and became Research Associate and then Associate Professor at the Iranian Institute of Art and Archaeology, (known later as the Asia Institute.) He taught history of Near Eastern art, the social and economic history of Iran, and advanced and intermediate courses in the Russian language. He was also Director of the Documentary Survey, which summarized and catalogued the documentary material written in European languages bearing on the history of Iranian art and culture.
In 1952, Bronstein joined the faculty of Brandeis University as a lecturer in Fine Arts. He became an associate professor in Fine Arts in 1955 and a full professor in Fine Arts and Near Eastern Civilization in 1961. He retired in 1967 becoming Professor Emeritus in Fine Arts and Near Eastern Civilization. Known for his passionate style of teaching, Bronstein was revered by many of his students. After his final lecture in the spring of 1967, his students gave him a surprise farewell party. The celebration has taken place every year since then and is now known as Bronstein Weekend.
Bronstein authored five books during his lifetime: Lutte et Reconciliation (1927), Altichiero (1932), El Greco (1950), Fragments of Life, Metaphysics and Art (1953), and Five Variations on the Theme of Japanese Painting (1959). Bronstein also wrote articles and book reviews for Bulletin of the American institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, and Open Court. Three more of his manuscripts were published as books posthumously: Kabbalah and Art (1979), Romantic Homage to Greece and Spain (1993), and Space in Persian Painting (1994).
Leo Bronstein died June 1, 1976.