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Tietze-Conrat, Erica, née Erica Conrat (frequently Germanized to “Erika”)

Date born: June 20, 1883

Place born: Vienna, Austria

Date died:  December 12, 1958

Place died: New York, NY

Historian of Renaissance and Baroque art; wife of art historian Hans Tietze (q.v.). Conrat was the daughter of Hugo Conrat, a wealthy Viennese businessman with an enormous passion for music.  Brahms was a dinner guest during Conrat’s childhood and versions of her father’s poetry Brahms set to music (Zigeunerlieder, opus 103).  She attended the Institut Hanausek until age twelve and then the new Mädchenschule gymnasium, graduating in 1901.  She attended the University of Vienna between 1902-1905 where she met a young art history graduate student, Hans Tietze, both students of the first “Vienna school” art historian Franz Wickhoff.  She wrote and published her dissertation under Wickhoff in 1905 on Austrian baroque sculptor Georg Raphael Donner (1693-1741), only the second woman to be graduated in art history during Wickhoff’s tenure.  Conrat married Tietze in December of 1905, the same year as her first published article.  As Europe lacked any significant teaching positions for women then, Tietze-Conrat assisted her husband in his first position as an investigator for the commission on preservation of Austrian monuments (Zentralkommision für Denkmalpflege).  The Tietzes had four children between 1908 and 1918.  Her husband served in the Austrian army from 1914, his duties still connected with the preservation of monuments, only now in north Italy.  The Tietzes were first and foremost a research team.  The Tietzes left the raising of thier children to a trusted nanny (who lived with the family until age 90).  Both from well-to-do families, the art historian husband/wife team saw as part of their mission the support of contemporary art in Vienna as well as its historical research.  Oskar Kokoschka was commissioned to paint a portrait of the two in 1909 (today, Museum of Modern Art, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund, 651.39).  Together they helped organize the Vienna Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der modernen Kunst in Wien) in 1920.  As art historians, the Tietzes worked closely together, their desks pushed facing each other in order to facilitate discussion.  Each, however, continued to publish separately as well as together. Hans Tietze made guest lectures to the United States in 1932 and 1935, Erica joining him on the second journey.  The discovery of a large amount of material in the Uffizi on Venetian drawings by Erica Tietze-Conrat gave her the idea to publish a catalog of drawings from the Republic.  From 1935 onward they traveled with that thought in mind.  When the Anschluss came in 1938, Tietze-Conrat was in Italy, unaware of the situation.  Her husband escaped Austria (both were from Jewish-extraction families) and met her in Italy.  After word that their grown children were safe, the couple continued their research, visiting museums in the Netherlands and Paris.  In 1939 they emigrated to the United States, leaving their housekeeper to watch over their Austrian home throughout the war.  Hans Tietze taught for a single year as a Carnegie Professor at the Toledo Museum of Art before the couple moved to New York.  During these financially difficult times, they sold their Kokoschka and joined the large cultural expatriate community there.  They became American citizens in 1944. Hans never found an academic appointment in America, his only income coming from occasional assignments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.  When Columbia University offered him a course on Venetian art in the spring semester of 1954, Tietze, who was dying of cancer, was too ill to finish the class.  Erica completed the lectures and was subsequently asked to lecture at Columbia again in 1955 and 1956.  This was her only academic position as well.  Her strong convictions to art remained.  As a young Ph.D. candidate from Princeton, Thomas Hoving recalled Tietze Conrat’s intimidating shouts of  “You—Are—Wrong!” at graduate student symposia at the Frick Collection (McPhee).  In 1955 she published a monograph on Mantegna and two years later, Dwarfs and Jesters in Art. In 1970 a room in the Ősterreichisches Barockmuseum, Lower Belvedere, was named in her honor for having revived the study of neglected Austrian masters such as Donner.

Both Tietze-Conrat and her husband are noted for their compilation of fastidious catalogs.  The three-volume critical catalog of Albrecht Dürer (1928-38) contains all the categories of a modern evaluative catalogue raisonné.  Many of the articles both published were the result of their research in catalog compilation.  Their second combined achievement, a critical catalog of Venetian drawings (1944), required that they examine a relatively untouched area of Italian works on paper.  Unlike Roman or Florentine, Venetian drawings were relatively unstudied.  Savvy enough to understand that students often copied master drawings, they used carefully developed standards to authenticate autograph pieces.  Some of their findings and attributions have not borne the test of time, particularly their assertion that the “Sketchbooks of Jacopo Bellini” represent many artists work over a range of years. LS

Home Country:  Austria/United States

Sources: Kleinbauer, W. Eugene.  Research Guide to the History of Western Art.  Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2.  Chicago:  American Library Association, 1982, p. 19 mentioned; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 699-703; Kahr, Madlyn Millner. “Erica Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958):  Productive Scholar in Renaissance and Baroque Art.” in Women as Interpreters of the Visual Arts, 1820-1979. Claire R. Sherman, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981, pp. 301-26; [Hoving comment:]  McPhee, John. “A Roomful of Hovings.”  in A Roomful of Hovings and Other Proiles.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968, p. 10; Soussloff, Catherine M.   “Portraiture and assimilation in Vienna: the case of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat.” in Diasporas and Exiles: Varieties of Jewish Identity. Howard Wettstein, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002; [obituaries:] Gombrich, Ernst.  “Erica Tietze-Conrat.”  Burlington Magazine 101 (1959): 149;  Gombrich, Ernst.  “Erica Tietze-Conrat 1883-1958).” College Art Journal 18 (1959): 248.

Bibliography: [bibliography to 1957:] Kurz, Otto, and Kurz, Hilde. "A Bibliography of the Writings of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat," in Gombrich, E. H., and Weinberger, Martin, and Held, Julius, eds. Essays in honor of Hans Tietze, 1880-1954. New York: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1958, [Erica Tietze:] pp. 453-459; [dissertation:]  Beiträge zur Geschichte Georg Raphael Donners.  Vienna, 1905, published under the title: “Unbekannte Werke von G. R. Donner.”  Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Institutes der k. k. Zentralkommission für Denkmalpflege Wien (neue folge) 3 no. 2 (1905): 195-268; edited, Ertinger, Franz Ferdinand. Des Bildhauergesellen Franz Ertinger Reisebeschreibung durch Österreich und Deutschland. Nach der Handschrift Cgm. 3312 der Kgl. Hof-und Staatsbibliothek. Vienna: K. Graesser, 1907;  Österreichische barockplastik. Vienna: A. Schroll, 1920; and Tietze, Hans.  The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries.  New York: J. J. Augustin, 1944; and Tietze, Hans. Kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke Albrecht Dürers. 3 vols. Augsburg: B. Filser, 1928-38; Mantegna: Paintings, Drawings and Engravings. London: Paidon, 1955; Dwarfs and Jesters in Art. New York: Phaidon, 1957.

Subject's name: Erica Tietze-Conrat; Erica Conrat; Erkia Tietze-Conrat