Käte Steinitz


Jewish (but family baptised in Lutheran faith c1914). Born Käte Traumann 2 August 1889 in Beuthen (Upper Silesia, now Bytom, Poland), Germany. 1910-11: student of Käthe Kollwitz and Anny Loewenstein at the Women Artist’s Association (Künstlerinnenverein, also referred to as the Berlin School of Art for Women), Berlin. 1912-14: studied fine art at the Akademie und Studienateliers für Malerei und Plastik, Berlin. Summer 1914: studied in Paris at the Ecole de la Grand Chaumière and art history at the Sorbonne. 1913: married Dr Ernst Steinitz. 1918: moved to Waldhausenstrasse 5, Hannover; she and her husband had a literary-artistic salon there. Met Kurt Schwitters. 1921: first exhibition. 1924: with Schwitters, founded Aposs Verlag (A=Active, P=Paradox, OS=Ohne [Without] Sentimentality, S=Sensitive) in Hannover to publish ‘typographically new and progressive work’. 1924-8: together with Schwitters, produced three children’s books (Der Hahnepeter, 1924, Das Märchen vom Paradies, 1924, Die Scheuche, 1925), songs, plays, poems for two festivals, and an opera libretto; Theo van Doesburg was an occasional co-collaborator. 1925-32: while on the editorial staff, wrote freelance short stories for the Hannoversche Kurier; using pseudonym ‘Annette Nobody’ and ‘Elisabeth Hill’, and reported on art events in Berlin, Paris, London. 1925-33: freelance writer for the Ullstein journals Die Dame, Koralle, die neue linie. 1932-4: wrote for the Hannoverscher Anzeiger and journals; her photographs appeared in several journals through the agency Ullstein Bilderzentrale.

6 March 1935: notified by the Nazis (Reichsschrifttumskammer) that she could no longer work or write for German publications because she was not Aryan. April 1936: emigrated to New York where she joined her husband. 1936-42: freelance commercial artist and researcher; tutored New York University art history graduate students in German. 1939: arranged exhibitions at Friendship House, Park Avenue, New York City; headed Refugee’s Art Division of the World’s Fair. 1940: organized the exhibition ‘New Americans’ at the New York World’s Fair. 1942: husband died; she moved in August to Los Angeles, California, to be near her daughters. 1944: became U.S. citizen. 1945: On recommendation of Kurt Schwitters, hired by Dr Elmer Belt, a urologist and bibliophile, to become Librarian at the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana (now located at the University of California, Los Angeles). She later became Honorary Curator of the Library where she had a distinguished career, becoming one of the foremost Leonardo scholars. 1969: delivered the ninth annual Lettura Vinciana in Vinci, Italy. 1969: her work and collection of German art of the 1920 and 1930s installed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Died 7 April 1975 in Los Angeles.

The National Gallery of Art Library, Washington DC, acquired the Schwitters-Steinitz Collection in 1976.

Writings by

  • A comprehensive reference is Wilson Library Bulletin, January 1970, which includes an extensive bibliography (see below, in Lit).
  • 1924-67: Die Märchen vom Paradies (with Kurt Schwitters
  • Der Hahnepeter, Der Paradiesvogel, Das Paradies auf der Wiese), Hannover: Aposs, 1924
  • Manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci, Los Angeles: Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana, 1948
  • ‘A reconstruction of Leonardo da Vinci’s revolving stage’, Art Quarterly, 1949, v. 12, pp. 325-38 Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della Pittura (a bibliography of the printed editions, 1651-1956), Library Research Monograph, v. 5, University Library, Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1958
  • ‘Fantastic architecture’ (Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers), L’Arte (Milan), 1959
  • ‘A visit with Sam Rodia’, Artforum, May 1963, pp. 32-3
  • Kurt Schwitters/Erinnerungen aus den Jahren 1918-30 (or Erinnerungen und Gespräche mit Kurt Schwitters), Zurich: Der Arche, 1963
  • ‘The Leonardo drawings at Weimar’, Raccolta Vinciana, no. 20, 1964, pp. 339-49
  • Kurt Schwitters: a retrospective exhibition (exh. cat.), Dallas: Museum of Fine Art, 1965
  • ‘Die Kestner-Gesellschaft in den zwanziger Jahren’ in Wieland Schmied (ed.), Wegbereiter zur modernen Kunst, Hannover: Fackelträger, 1966, pp. 27-51
  • review of The Diaries of Paul Klee, in Art Bulletin, March 1967, p. 82
  • 1968-77: Kurt Schwitters/A portrait from life (‘with COLLISION, a science-fiction opera libretto in BANALITIES, by Kurt Schwitters and Kate Trauman Steinitz, and OTHER writings’), (R.B. Haas, tr.), Berkeley/Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1968 (‘based on a briefer publication in German: Erinnerungen und Gespräche mit Kurt Schwitters, Zurich, 1963’)
  • ‘Meine Sammlung: Hannover in Los Angeles’, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Dec. 1969
  • Leonardo Architetto teatrale e organizzatore di feste (text of KTS’s 1969 Lettura Vinciani), Florence: G. Barbèra, 1970
  • brief quotations in Wilson Library Bulletin, 1970 (see below)
  • ‘Two drawings by Parmigianino in the Woodner Collection’, Newsletter of the Graphic Arts Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Jan./Feb. 1972
  • Pierre-Jean Mariette & le Comte de Caylus and their concept of Leonardo da Vinci in the eighteenth century, Los Angeles: Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, 1974
  • Die Märchen vom Paradies (with Kurt Schwitters), Bern/Frankfurt aM: Lang, 1975 (facsimile reprint of the Aposs edition of 1924)
  • Das Gästebuch von Kate T. Steinitz, Cologne: Galerie Gmurzynska, 1977 (facsimile edition of the original kept 1921-60, in the Library of Congress).

Writings about

  • J.M. Edelstein, ‘Kate’s writings: a selected bibliography’ (pp. 529-34)
  • There are numerous references on the Internet to Kate Steinitz, particularly as editor of da Vinci’s writings.
  • A comprehensive reference is Wilson Library Bulletin, January 1970 (see below), and Kate Steinitz/Art and Collection, 1982 (see below).
  • 1958-69: W.G. Duprey, review of KTS’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della Pittura, in The Papers of The Bibliographical Society of America, New York: BSofA, 1958, pp. 221-3;
  • 1970: ‘Kate Steinitz: Librarian, Artist, Scholar. A Chronology’, Wilson Library Bulletin, Jan. 1970. This includes the following articles: Chronological biography (p. 513)
  • Elmer Belt, ‘The joy of Kate Steinitz’ (pp. 514-17)
  • Justus Bier, ‘Fond recollections of Kate Steinitz’ (pp. 518-19)
  • Jacob Zeitlin, ‘Evicted nova – the unique Kate Steinitz’ (pp. 519-20)
  • Bates Lowry, ‘Kate’s world: an awesome collage’ (pp. 520-22)
  • Peter Selz, ‘A Dada salon and a Renaissance library’ (pp. 522-3)
  • Jean Sutherland Boggs, ‘Kate, a very special librarian’ (pp. 523-4)
  • Ladislao Reti, ‘The renaissance of a woman’ (pp. 524-5)
  • Wieland Schmeid, ‘Not one but many’ (p. 527)
  • Robert Haas, [untitled], p. 528
  • Walter Hopps, ‘KS & KS’ (p. 528)
  • William A. Emboden, Jr., ‘Two portraits, a bouquet, and two valentines’ (pp. 535-7). These pages include brief quotations by and photographs of Kate Steinitz.
  • 1971-present: Kurt Schwitters, Die Scheuche. Märchen (designed by Schwitters, KS and Th. Van Doesburg), Frankfurt a.M.: Biermann & Boukes, 1971, and Bern: Lang, 1975 (facsimile reprint of the Aposs Verlag edition of 1925)
  • obituary, Aus dem Antiquariat, no. 9, 1975, p. A304
  • H.A. Halbey, Scriptura, 1978
  • Julius Kaplan (ed.), Kate Steinitz/Art and collection/Avant-garde art in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s (exh. cat.), San Bernardino, CA: The Art Gallery, California State College San Bernardino, 1982 (includes KS’s biography and admirable essays including William A. Emboden, ‘Kate T. Steinitz – a life as art’, and Julius Kaplan, ‘Kate Steinitz’)
  • Herbert Spencer, Pioneers of modern typography, London: Lund Humphries, 1982, p. 41 (illust. for children’s book, 1925)
  • Weston J. Naef, Counterparts: Form and Emotion in Photographs, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Dutton, 1982, plate 13, pp. 34-5, 166
  • Kate Steinitz: eine Dokumentation, Hannover: Sprengel Museum, 1989
  • Jane Collins (cataloguer), Collaborative works by Kate Steinitz and Kurt Schwitters from the Schwitters-Steinitz Collection (exh. cat.), Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1993
  • www.drleslie.com
  • www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk.
  • International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigrés 1933-45, Munich, New York, London, Paris: K.G. Saur, 1983., 1983


  • Hannover, 1923
  • Brooklyn Museum, 1926 (group)
  • Louver Gallery, Venice, CA, 1976
  • Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne, 1977/8
  • The Art Gallery, San Bernardino State College, 1982
  • Sprengel Museum, Hannover, 1989. (A complete list to 1993 is in Collings, above.)
  • Severin Wunderman, Irvine, Calif., 1994
  • Vincent Price, Los Angeles, 2001.


  • UCLA Art Library
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.