Henry-Russell Hitchcock was born in Boston and educated at Middlesex School and Harvard University, receiving his A.B. in 1924 and his M.A. in 1927. While teaching at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in the 1930, Hitchcock curated an exhibition on Berenice Abbott's photographs of urban vernacular American architecture.
In the early 1930s, at the request of Alfred Barr, Hitchcock collaborated with Philip Johnson (and Lewis Mumford) on "Modern Architecture: International Exhibition" at the Museum of Modern Art (1932), the exhibition that presented the new "International Style" architecture of Europe to an American audience. Hitchcock and Johnson's co-authored book The International Style: Architecture Since 1922 was published simultaneously with the MoMA exhibit.
Four years later Hitchcock's book, The Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times (1936) brought the career of American architect Henry Hobson Richardson out of obscurity while also arguing that the distant roots of European Modernism were actually to be found in the United States. Hitchcock's In the Nature of Materials (1942) continued to emphasize the American roots of Modern architecture, in this case by focusing on the career of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1948, Hitchcock published the essay in the book/exhibition catalogue Painting toward architecture: The Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art (Meriden, CT). The foreword was written by Alfred Barr, and the main organizer of the exhibition, and Miller Co. art director, was art collector Emily Hall Tremaine. The exhibition originated at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and travelled to several venues across the United States (1947–52). At the time, Hitchcock was teaching at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. He arranged for a second viewing, with a different selection of works, after his arrival to Smith College.
Hitchcock taught at a number of colleges and universities, but primarily at Smith College (where he was also Director of the Smith College Museum of Art from 1949 to 1955). In 1968 he moved to New York City and thereafter taught at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He also taught at Wesleyan University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Harvard University, and Cambridge University.
He was also a founding member of the Victorian Society in Great Britain and an early president of the Victorian Society in America. One of that Society's book awards is the "Henry-Russell Hitchcock Award." An "Alice Davis Hitchcock Award" is awarded by both the Society of Architectural Historians and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) and named after Hitchcock's mother.
Hitchcock was gay, one of several gay men in the arts and humanities to emerge from Harvard.
Hitchcock focused primarily on the formal aspects of design and he regarded the individual architect as the chief determinant in architectural history. Hitchcock's work tended to diminish the role of broader social forces. He has sometimes been criticised for this "great man" or "genealogical" approach.
Over the course of Hitchock's career, he produced more than a dozen books on architecture. His Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1958) is an exhaustive study of more than 150 years of architecture that was widely used as a textbook in architectural history courses from the 1960s to the 1980s, and is still a useful reference today.
Hitchcock died of cancer at age 83.
- Hitchcock, Henry Russell, American Architectural Books: A List of Books, Portfolios, and Pamphlets on Architecture and Related Subjects published in America before 1895, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1962
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Penguin Books, Baltimore 1958; second ed. 1963; fourth ed. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth England, and New York 1977, ISBN 0-14-056115-3
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, The Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1936; second ed. Archon Books, Hampden CT 1961; MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1966 [paperback]
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Boston Architecture, 1637-1954; including Other Communities within Easy Driving Distance, Reinhold Pub. Corp., New York 1954.
- Hitchcock, Henry Russell, and Drexler, Arthur, editors, Built in USA: Post-war Architecture, Museum of Modern Art (Simon & Schuster), New York 1952.
- Hitchcock, Henry Russell, Early Victorian architecture in Britain, Yale University Press, New Haven 1954
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, German Renaissance Architecture, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1981, ISBN 0-691-03959-3
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, In the Nature of Materials, 1887-1941: The Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York 1942; Da Capo Press, New York 1975 (paperback), ISBN 0-306-80019-5
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, and Johnson, Philip C., The International Style: Architecture since 1922, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1932, second edition 1966; reprint of 1932 edition 1996, ISBN 0-393-03651-0
- Hitchcock, Henry Russell, Latin American Architecture since 1945, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1955
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Modern Architecture in England, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1937
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Modern Architecture: Romanticism and Reintegration, Payson & Clarke Ltd., New York 1929
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, and others, The Rise of an American Architecture, Praeger in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1970.
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany, Phaidon, London 1968, ISBN 0-7148-1339-7
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, and Seale, William, Temples of Democracy: The State Capitols of the U.S.A., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York 1976, ISBN 0-15-188536-2
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. (1948). Painting toward architecture. Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art: Meriden, CT.
- (July 16, 2016). The Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art and Painting toward architecture (1947-52): Artworks, venues and media coverage. artdesigncafe.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Louchhiem, Aline B. (December 1947). Abstraction on the assembly line. ARTnews.
- Housley, Kathleen L. (2001). Emily Hall Tremaine: Collector on the cusp. Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation: Meriden, CT.
-  Brief biography from Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
- Architectural Historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock (obituary), Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1987. Accessed May 28, 2016
- Publication Awards, Society of Architectural Historians. Accessed May 28, 2016
- Shand-Tucci, Douglass (2003). The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 2–3, 298, 331. ISBN 0-312-33090-1.
- Lipstadt, Hélène, "Celebrating the Centenaries of Sir John Summerson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock: Finding a Historiography for the Architect-historian", The Journal of Architecture, 10/1 February 2005, pages 43–61.
- Searing, Helen, editor, In Search of Modern Architecture: A Tribute to Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architectural History Foundation, New York; MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1982, ISBN 0-262-19209-8
- Lee Sorensen, editor, Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, Dictionary of Art Historians, arthistorians.info. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
- Paul Goldberger, Honoring an Inspirational Historian, New York Times, March 20, 1983. Accessed May 28, 2016
- "Architecture Nineteenth And Twentieth Centuries". 1958 edition at archive.org
- Book prologue that explores the nature of Hitchcock's and Johnson's collaboration and travels in Europe
- Society of Architectural Historians Publication Awards
- Victorian Society in America Book Awards
- Henry-Russell Hitchcock papers, circa 1500-1970. Held by the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.