Erica Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958)
Austrian art historian Erica Tietze-Conrat, along with her husband Hans Tietze, served as an advisor to the MFAA following World War II. Born in Vienna in the era of Johannes Brahms (a frequent dinner guest in her childhood home), she attended the University of Vienna from 1902 to 1905. There, Tietze-Conrat wrote her dissertation on Austrian baroque sculptor Georg Raphael Donner under Franz Wickhoff, a prominent member of the “Vienna School,” and was only the second woman to be graduated in art history under his direction. In addition to Austrian baroque sculpture, her early studies included Renaissance art and iconography. She met Hans Tietze while he was also studying at the University of Vienna, and the two married in 1905.
Due to the lack of teaching positions available for female scholars in Europe at the time, Tietze-Conrat chose to lead a life of research and writing, often in collaboration with Hans. She assisted him in his position on the Commission for the Preservation of Austria’s Monuments of Art in the early part of the century. The two were not only concerned with the historic preservation of Vienna, but its contemporary art movements as well. The Vienna Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art was established in 1920 under their direction. Artists such as Oskar Kokoschka, whose painting of the couple hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, enjoyed their support. However, the two continued to study Renaissance artists as well. While researching in the Uffizi, Tietze-Conrat discovered a large amount of information on Venetian drawings, an area of Italian art that was largely unstudied, and set to work on a catalogue. Corpus of Venetian Drawings of the Renaissance was not published until 1944, but the couple’s monographs on Titian and Tintoretto were finished in 1935 and 1939, respectively.
At the onset of the Nazi Anschluss of Austria in 1938, Tietze-Conrat was in Italy researching. The couple traveled to the Netherlands and Paris before immigrating to the United States in 1939. They settled in New York in 1940, and became citizens in 1944. Hans began lecturing at Columbia University in the spring of 1954, but was too ill to complete the semester. Tietze-Conrat filled in for him for the rest of the year, and was invited to teach the following two years as well. Following her husband’s death in 1954, she continued to research and write. A monograph on Mantegna was published in 1955, and Dwarfs and Jesters in Art was published in 1957, the year before her death. In 1970, a room at the Austrian Museum of Baroque Art was named in Erica Tietze-Conrat’s honor for her contributions to the study of Austrian artists.