Skip to main content

Kate Steinitz papers, circa 1910-2002

Biographical 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).