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Kate Steinitz papers, circa 1910-2002

Kate Steinitz papers, circa 1910-2002

Steinitz, Kate Traumann, 1889-1975

Art historian, Painter, Journalist, Author

Collection Information

Size: 4.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of artist, collector, librarian, and scholar Kate Steinitz measure 4.3 linear feet and date from circa 1910 to 2002. The collection documents Steinitz's life and career in Germany and the United States through biographical material; correspondence; writings, including manuscripts and travel diaries; exhibition files; personal business records; printed material; travel scrapbooks; artwork; and photographs.

Biographical material consists of life and travel documents, various membership cards, news clippings, and memorial cards. Also included are letters of recommendation, a resume, and an award from the president of Germany.

Correspondence is with friends, family, colleagues, and various organizations. Artists represented include Carrie van Biema, El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian, and others. Correspondence with arts organizations include San Francisco Museum of Art, Berlinische Galerie, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, and others.

Published writings by Steinitz include articles, books, and book reviews. Unpublished writings include two travel diaries and an illustrated journal, an autobiographical essay with a sketch of the Traumann family tree, manuscripts, lectures, poems, and notes. Writings by others include a guest register with sketches and comments by visitors, a memorial speech, biographical essays, and miscellaneous notes.

Steinitz's professional activities during her career as a librarian and curator of the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana are documented through published articles and books, informal reports, correspondence, scrapbooks, sketches, and photographs.

Files pertaining to exhibitions of Steinitz's artwork and collection are documented through three exhibition catalogs, correspondence, inventories, photographs, and printed ephemera. Materials related to the Schwitters-Steinitz Collection, which was compiled by Steinitz and is available at the National Gallery of Art Library in Washington, D.C., include a finding aid and photocopies documenting the exhibition Collaborative Works by Kate Steinitz and Kurt Schwitters from the Schwitters-Steinitz Collection (1994).

Personal business records include an appraisal of Steinitz's art and book collection. Documents pertaining to Steinitz's publishing activities include sales agreements and legal services rendered for the book, "Kurt Schwitters: A Portrait from Life" (1968) written by Steinitz and contracts with Whitman Publishing Company for a children's book by Tom Seidmann-Freud.

Printed material consists of published illustrations and stationary by Steinitz; clippings about Steinitz, Kurt Schwitters, and others; reproductions of artwork; and miscellaneous invitations and announcements. Also found are three children's books written and illustrated by Tom Seidmann-Freud and a book of poems with an illustrated book jacket by Joachin Ringelnatz.

Steinitz's personal and professional trips to Europe are documented through six travel scrapbooks which include sketches, photographs, notes, and printed ephemera such as postcards, receipts, and maps.

Artwork by Steinitz consists of travel sketches and a mock-up sketch for the book, "Manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci: Their History, With a Description of the Manuscript Editions in Facsimile" (1948). Artwork by others includes miscellaneous sketches, prints, and paintings. Of note are greeting cards with prints by Werner Graeff and a collage by Otto Nebel.

Photographs and negatives consist of portraits and snapshots of Steinitz as well as family, friends, and artists. Photographs by Steinitz include a self-portrait and images of artists, artwork, and Bauhaus architecture. Photographs of Steinitz's apartments in Los Angeles include images of a Man Ray table that was given to Jake Zeitlin. Artists represented include Piet Mondrian, Naum Gabo, Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, El Lissitzky, Marc Chagall, George Grosz, and others.

Biographical/Historical Note

Kate Steinitz (1889-1975) was an artist, collector, librarian, and scholar who worked in Berlin and Hanover, Germany and Los Angeles, California.


The Kate Steinitz papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1999 by Ilse Berg, daughter of Kate Steinitz.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Kate Steinitz Papers, circa 1910-2002, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Kate Steinitz (1889-1975) was an artist, collector, librarian, and scholar who worked in Berlin and Hanover, Germany and Los Angeles, California. Steinitz was born in Beuthen, Silesia, Germany, (now Poland) to Arnold and Magdelena Traumann; the family relocated to Berlin in 1899. From 1908 to 1911, Steinitz studied drawing and painting under Käthe Kollwitz and Lovis Corinth and attended lectures by art historian, Heinrich Wölfflin. While visiting Paris with her mother in 1912, Steinitz continued her studies at the Sorbonne and Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
Steinitz married physician, Ernst Steinitz in 1913. The couple had three daughters including Ilse, Lotti, and Beate. In 1917, the family moved to Hanover, Germany. Over the next 17 years, the Steinitz household served as a salon for visiting artists including Naum Gabo, Hannah Höch, El Lissitzky, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Visitors' notes and drawings from this era are documented in Steinitz’s guestbook,
Zu Gast bei Kate Steinitz
, published by Galerie Gmurzynska in 1977.
Steinitz was most active as a fine artist while living in Hanover. Her paintings under glass were first exhibited in 1921 at Herbert von Garvens’ gallery. Steinitz had her first solo exhibition in 1922 at the Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin. In 1926, her work was included in the
International Exhibition of Modern Art
at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
Steinitz also collected art and her collection included artworks by El Lissitzky, Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Auguste Rodin, Otto Nebel, Franz Marc, and others. In 1925, she collaborated with German artist Kurt Schwitters and Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg on
Die Scheuche Märchen
, a typographic children’s book published by Aposs and Merz Verlag. Steinitz and Schwitters also collaborated on
Der Zusammenstoss
, an opera libretto. Steinitz compiled an archival collection documenting Schwitters’ life and career which was later acquired by the National Gallery of Art Library in Washington, D.C. in 1976.
As a journalist, Steinitz wrote about art and lifestyle topics for newspapers and magazines in Hanover and Berlin. Growing Nazi influences caused the family to leave Germany for New York City in 1936. As Chairman of the Art Committee of Friendship House, a cultural organization for refugees, Steinitz organized the
New Americans (1939-1940)
exhibition of paintings, drawings, and sculpture by European refugees at the World’s Fair in New York.
After finalizing her U.S. citizenship in 1944, Steinitz relocated to Los Angeles where she resided for the remainder of her life. From 1945 to 1961, she served as a librarian for Elmer Belt’s Leonardo da Vinci library. When Belt donated the library to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1961, Steinitz was named honorary curator of the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana. In 1969, Steinitz’s literary contributions on Leonardo da Vinci earned her an invitation to deliver the lecture for the
IX Lettura Vinciana
in Venice, Italy.
The biographical information included here draws upon the following sources:
Wilson Library Bulletin
, Vol. 45 (1970) and
Kate Steinitz: Art into Life into Art
, exhibition catalog, Severin Wunderman Museum (1994).
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 10 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1976 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1922-1998 (Boxes 1-2; 0.9 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1921-2002 (Box 2; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 4: Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana, 1948-1989 (Boxes 2-3; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Exhibition Files, 1939-2001 (Box 3; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1938-1993 (Box 3; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1913-2002 (Boxes 3-5; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Travel Scrapbooks, 1966-1974 (Box 4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 9: Artwork, circa 1928-1974 ( Boxes 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographic Material, circa 1910-1979 (Boxes 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
The Kate Steinitz papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1999 by Ilse Berg, daughter of Kate Steinitz.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Elissa L. Jerome in 2016.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

Kate Steinitz papers, circa 1910-2002. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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