Rosa Schapire was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Galicia, Poland. She was educated at home along with her sisters, and her parents provided them with an enlightened, cosmopolitan, and rich cultural upbringing that encouraged their independence. She showed an aptitude for languages at a young age. In 1893, she moved to Hamburg to continue her education, and became one of the few women to pursue art history studies, a discipline then still in its infancy. She also became committed to women's rights and socialist utopianism. One of the first among her hundreds of publications was "Ein Wort zur Frauenemanzipation" (A Word on Women’s Emancipation, 1897). In 1902, she obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Bern and by 1904 had earned her Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg. She travelled extensively and played an active role in the art scene as a lecturer, reviewer, critic, editor, and translator. She was a participant in the Dresden-based group of Expressionists known as the Brücke (Bridge). In 1916, along with Ida Dehmel, she helped form the Frauenbund zur Förderung deutscher bildenden Kunst (Women’s Society for the Advancement of German Art), which sponsored exhibitions and donated women's art to the state. During the early Weimar period, she served as co-editor of and contributor to two journals, Die Rote Erde (The Red Earth) and Kündung (Herald) and became known as an untiring champion of Expressionist and modern art. She published books, art criticism, and scholarly articles, and translated works of Balzac and Zola from French to German. When the Nazi regime rose to power in 1933, she was placed under house arrest in her Hamburg apartment, but managed to publish under a pseudonym. She was able to flee Germany for England in 1939, two weeks before the start of World War II; the Gestapo onfiscated and auctioned her library and art works. In London, she earned a modest living writing journal articles in English and German, contributing to the Architectural Review, Eidos and Connoisseur. After the war, she acted as a correspondent from London and book reviewer for Die Weltkunst. She was the author of the first graphics catalog of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who painted her portrait several times.