Saturday, 25 August 2012

Elisabeth von Oertzen

Elisabeth von Oertzen
(1887- 1954)
German landscape, animal and portrait painter

Recently this woodblock print of a pair of red budgerigars (german: Rote Sittiche) came up on Ebay. 
They are actually two male Australian King Parrots (Alisterus Scapularis) at least according to this Wiki-photograph showing both sexes. They nevertheless seem to have a more then friendly relationship. The animal kingdom never ceases to amaze. 
The print is stylish strongly reminiscent of the early parrots (Ara's) prints created by Martin Erich Philipp (1887-1978) in 1908 and 1924. He did 7 different parrots prints (see my MEPH catalogue in the pages buttons) in his long career. 
Trying to find information on the Internet no further examples were to be found but digging a bit deeper I've found some interesting biographical and historical facts about this van Oertzen family that maybe will help unveil some more details Hopefully more examples of this hardly known and today obscured artist will turn up.
The family residence:  Rattey House some 80 Km. north of Berlin.
She was born in 1887 as a descendant of the von Oertzen, Gut (= house of) Rattey branch, in an old aristocratic, intellectually, military and politically important and influential family. She married 1913 Ulrich von Oerzten a relative from another branch of the same family tree. 
Her sister Augusta von Oertzen, the later journalist, was one of the first German women earning a university degree (doctorate in philosophy) in 1918 in Germany. She also has a namesake: Elisabeth von Oertzen-von Thadden (1860-1944) who was a German provincial writer.

Their son Hans Ulrich was born in 1915, the same year her husband Ulrich died in Flanders Fields in one of the battles at the Somme. Hans Ulrich von Oertzen in 1944 just before being arrested by the Gestapo committed suicide after being caught in the German resistance attempt, Operation Valkyrie together with count Claus von Staufenberg (1907-1944), to assassinate Adolph Hitler. The attempt failed. Elisabeth's biography obviously not one of the happiest stories, there's even more to come. 

After the untimely death of her Brother Henning, in 1928, Elisabeth (Else) had to give up the family house and property of Rattey in 1931 (it's now a luxury Hotel) moving with her son to Berlin where she was a member and a board member of the Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen 1916-1935 and director of the painting and drawing school of the VdBK. Making her acquainted with many other Berlin based illusive printmaking artists like Marianne von Buddenbrock (?) Else von Schmiedeberg-Blume (1876, after 1927), Margarete L.E. Gerhardt (1873- ), Meta Cohn-Hendel (1883- ), Hélène Mass (1871- ), Käthe Kolwitz (1867-1945), Erna Halleur ( - 1940), Auguste Lind-Graf (-1941), Eva Maria Marcus (1889-1970) and a great  many other artists.
It is said Else von Oerzten was personally encouraged by the last German Empress Augusta Victoria (1858-1921) wife of Emperor Wilhem II (1859-1941). Wilhelm was the grandson of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and Augusta granddaughter of Victoria's half-sister Feodora (1807-1872), the marriage was arranged.   
It is also mentioned that Else von Oertzen was particularly interested in painting Zoo animals, like the parrots in the print above. Which must have pleased her teacher in München Leo Freiherr von König (1871-1949). 

According to his wonderful "Sleeping Tiger" he also favoured  visiting and painting in the Zoo. Von Köning himself a student of the Academie Julian in Paris was, together with Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) and Max Liebermann (1847-1935), one of the founders of the Berliner Secession. 
 Left: Lovis Corinth,     Right: Max Liebermann
Else von Oertzen exhibited in Berlin 1928 and travellled to France and Britain to paint and study.

I invite readers who are able and willing to add information and share possibly more examples of her art. The other German printmakers mentioned will be featuring in planned postings soon or have been treated before, like Margarete  L.E.M. Gerhardt (here*) and (here*) and Else Schmiedeberg-Blume (here*) or follow the labels added to this posting.

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