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Hugo and Eleanor Steiner-Prag Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 1723

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the life and work of graphic artist, illustrator, and designer, Hugo Steiner-Prag. The bulk of the records are written material, both by Steiner-Prag and about the man and his work. The collection is arranged in seven series: Personal Documents, Correspondence, Writings by Hugo Steiner-Prag, Artwork and Exhibitions, Writings about Hugo Steiner-Prag, Collected Items, and Photographs.

Records concerning Steiner-Prag's personal life, such as academic records, genealogical material, and documents regarding his emigration and last will, may be found in Series I.

Series II holds Steiner-Prag's correspondence as well as the correspondence of his wife, Eleanor Feisenberg.

Series III contains Steiner-Prag's writings and comprises the bulk of this collection. This series holds mainly manuscripts, including an autobiography, memoirs of his youth in Prague, travel diaries and travelogues, as well as notes and outlines for courses and lectures.

Records related to Steiner-Prag's artwork and exhibitions may be found in Series IV, the bulk of which are exhibition catalogues.

Series V contains writings about Steiner-Prag and his professional work.

Series VI holds miscellaneous records, such as various clippings on Prague and other documents not related directly to Steiner-Prag.

Visual materials will be found in Series VII.

Please note that several documents in this collection have additional notes attached to them, presumably written by Steiner-Prag's second wife, Eleanor.

Dates

  • 1899-1993

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, Swedish, Czech, Hebrew, and Japanese.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

email: lbaeck@lbi.cjh.org

Biographical Note

Hugo Steiner-Prag was born Hugo Steiner in Prague (at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) on December 12, 1880. His parents were Hermann Steiner, a bookseller and Berta Steiner (neé Knina), who claimed to be a descendent of the famous Rabbi Judah Loew (1529-1609). Hugo Steiner was the youngest of four brothers.

Upon leaving secondary school, Hugo Steiner joined Jung-Prag, a group of young artists who tended strongly toward mysticism and the occult. He took private art lessons and finally entered the Prager Kunstakademie (Prague Academy of the Arts) in 1897.

In 1900, Steiner moved to Munich to enroll at the Königliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Academy of Fine Arts). Concomitantly, he added the name of his native city Prag (using the German spelling) to his last name in order to distinguish himself from other artists bearing the same name. Steiner-Prag soon transferred to the Lehr- und Versuchsstätten in Munich and later became a teacher there. One of his students was Paula Bergmann, whom he married in 1905. The couple moved to Barmen in the Rhineland where Steiner-Prag had been offered a position as a professor for the local Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts). They had two children, Detlev and Helga, who were born in 1906 and 1908, respectively.

One of Steiner-Prag's major projects during this time was the illustration of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Die Elixiere des Teufels. The sketches were successfully exhibited in the Buchgewerbemuseum in Leipzig. This cemented Steiner-Prag's reputation as an illustrator and book designer. In 1907 he was offered a position as professor at Leipzig's Königliche Akademie für Graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe (Royal Academy of Graphic Arts and Book Trade). This was followed by a very productive period in which Steiner-Prag illustrated books for well-known publishing houses as well as created stage decorations. He also wrote several articles for newspapers and magazines, and in 1913 he designed his own typeface, the Hugo-Steiner-Prag-Schrift. In 1916, Steiner-Prag created twenty-five lithographs for Gustav Meyrink's novel, Der Golem, which would become his masterpiece. Many other drawings originated during study trips to Spain, Portugal and the Balearic Islands in the years between 1909 and 1925. In addition to his work as a professor in Leipzig, Steiner-Prag became art director of the Propylaeen publishing house in Berlin and organized several book exhibits, including the first international book exhibit in Leipzig in 1927. He was also an active member of various organizations dedicated to book arts and design.

In 1933, on his return from Paris, Steiner-Prag discovered that the Nazis had terminated his position as professor. He had just spent the summer with Eleanor Feisenberg, with whom he had an affair with since 1930. She was the daughter of Germany's former attorney general. Since her father was Jewish, she had lost her job as a librarian and decided to flee to Paris.

Hugo Steiner-Prag decided to leave Germany. He returned to Prague and established a private school for book arts and graphic design, called the Officina Pragensis. In 1937, the publishing house of the Officina Pragensis released fifty stone drawings done by Steiner-Prag of the Jewish Ghetto and cemetery. He was then given the opportunity, in 1938, to establish a school based on the model of the Officina Pragensis in Stockholm. Since the political situation in Prague had grown more severe, Steiner-Prag decided to accept this offer and immigrated to Sweden with Eleanor Feisenberg.

In Stockholm, Steiner-Prag became director of the Skolan foer Bok- och Reklamkonst and taught book design, advertising and stage design. Eleanor Feisenberg did not want to remain in Sweden and immigrated to the United States. Steiner-Prag hoped to follow her as soon as possible, but had to wait since his visa application was rejected at first. After divorcing his first wife, Paula and finally receiving his visa, Steiner-Prag left Stockholm on May 15, 1941 for San Francisco via Finland, Russia, Japan and Honolulu.

He arrived in the United States at the end of June 1941. Prior to his emigration, Steiner-Prag had been offered a position as professor at the Division of Graphic Arts at New York University, so he settled a respectable commuter distance away in New Haven, Connecticut. He lectured once a week in New York and spent the remainder of his time writing his autobiography and several articles. On January 3, 1942, Hugo Steiner-Prag married Eleanor Feisenberg and the couple moved to New York City. Large publishing houses, such as Random House, began commissioning his work. Steiner-Prag illustrated a volume of Hoffman's tales and worked for Random House, Roy Publishers, and the Book of the Month Club, while his wife Eleanor worked at the Office of War Information. In 1943, he mounted a successful exhibition at the New York Public Library.

Throughout 1945, Steiner-Prag's health began to deteriorate and he eventually suffered a heart attack from which he did not recover. Hugo Steiner-Prag died on September 10, 1945 in New York City. Several of his projects remained unfinished, such as a book on the Prague Ghetto and the suffering of the Jews that he wanted to publish together with his friend Franz Werfel (1890-1945) who had died only a few weeks before.

Extent

1 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection documents the life and the work of graphic artist Hugo Steiner-Prag (1880-1945). The bulk of the records are comprised of his writings, including an autobiography, memoirs of his youth in Prague, as well as notes and outlines for both lectures and courses. In addition, the collection contains records documenting Steiner-Prag's career as an artist, illustrator and set designer in Europe and the United States. These documents are in the form of correspondence, newspaper articles and various visual materials.

Microfilm

Box 1, Folder 1 through Box 1, Folder 40 from this collection are on two reels of microfilm (MF 723):
  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/21
  2. Reel 2: 1/22 - 1/40
MF 51 / MF 99: Artwork and prayer book

Related Material

Other Hugo Steiner-Prag material is located in the Fairleigh Dickinson University Library in New Jersey, the New York Public Library and in the Firestone Library at Princeton University.

Separated Material

Realia have been removed from this collection and placed in the Leo Baeck Institute Art Collection. Photographs have also been removed from this collection and placed in the Photograph Collection.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Hugo Steiner-Prag (1880-1945), 1899-1993   AR 1723 / MF 723
Author
Processed by Stefanie Aperdannier
Date
© 2006
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • December 2008.: Microfilm information added. External links added.
  • August 08, 2012 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States