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Elisabeth Model Collection

Identifier: AR 6306 / MF 864 / MM 96

Scope and Contents

The Elisabeth Model Collection contains documents concerning her professional work as an artist and sculpture as well as private papers. The bulk of the records are correspondence related to her artistic endeavors and letters she received from family and friends. Included are letters from her mother who remained in the Netherlands after Elisabeth and her husband had immigrated to the United States. Of particular interest is an original letter and autographed photographs and books from the author Hermann Hesse, a friend of Elisabeth’s. In addition, the collection holds biographical information about Elisabeth Model and her family and photographs of an exhibition of her artwork held at the Leo Baeck Institute New York in 1992. Also included are documents pertaining to Elisabeth Model's friends, Fritz Frank and his artist brother-in-law, Joseph Itin.


  • Creation: 1912-1993


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, French, Dutch and Italian.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Collection is microfilmed; use MF 864.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

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


Biographical Note

Elisabeth Lisa Model (née Dittmann) was born in Bayreuth in 1897 to Isidor Dittmann (1854-1929), and Therese Dittmann (née Fleischer; 1865-1942) into a family of artists. Isidor Dittmann owned a haberdashery. Elisabeth Model had four siblings, one of whom was her fraternal twin sister, Julia (Meyer). Elisabeth studied sculpture in Munich, Paris and Amsterdam. In the 1920s, a common friend introduced her to Herman Hesse and they subsequently became friends. After his death in 1962, she stayed in touch with his son Heiner Hesse and his wife Isa. While studying in Munich, she met her future husband Max Model (1895-1950), who worked at a well-known bank in Frankfurt and later in Mannheim. Elisabeth and Max Model got married on September 5, 1922 and moved to Amsterdam, where both became citizens. Max Model subsequently became the European manager of a major U.S. brokerage firm.

Following Kristallnacht, Elisabeth returned to Germany to help her mother leave the country for the Netherlands. In August of 1940, Max Model was falsely imprisoned by the Nazis, but with the United States not yet at war with Hitler's Germany, he was released that autumn. Early the following year, the Model family (after securing United States entry visas through Max Model's employer) circuitously made their way to Lisbon, Portugal, where they boarded a tramp steamer to New York. Among the fellow passengers were Marc Chagall and his wife. The Models were accompanied by Elisabeth's older (widowed) sister, Amalie, whose grown children had settled earlier in California. Other relatives who survived the Holocaust were Elisabeth's twin Julia, who had escaped with her husband and son to Great Britain, and her older brother Alfred, who had earlier settled in Denmark (and eventually escaped to Sweden). Her younger brother Julius, his wife and their two children, perished in the Holocaust. So, in effect, did Elisabeth's 77-year old mother, Therese Dittmann, who died of a heart attack in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork.

After her arrival in New York, Elisabeth Model began to design costume jewelry for Hattie Carnegie and other designers and later resumed work as a professional artist and teacher. Over the next fifty years she would receive numerous awards and prizes. Her drawings and multimedia sculptures can be found in many private and museum collections such as the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art, the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C., the Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut, The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, and the Leo Baeck Institute New York. She was also a co-founder and long-time vice-president of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors in New York. In September 1950, Elisabeth's husband Max passed away. Elisabeth Model died in November 1993. Survivors include her two sons and their families.


0.75 Linear Feet


This collection consists of documents related to the painter and sculptress Elisabeth Model (née Dittmann). She was born and educated in Germany, but moved to Amsterdam with her husband, Max Model, in 1922. With their two sons, Wolfe and Frans Peter, the couple fled Nazi-occupied Holland for the United States in 1941, where Elisabeth Model continued to work as an artist. The collection contains biographical information about Elisabeth Model and her family; correspondence, including letters from Elisabeth Model's mother in the Netherlands shortly before her deportation, and photographs of an exhibition of Elisabeth Model's artwork at the Leo Baeck Institute New York in 1992. Elisabeth Model was a friend of Hermann Hesse and received several autographed photographs, books, and a letter from him, which may also be found in this collection.


Collection is available on 2 reels of microfilm (MF 864). The diary of Therese Dittmann is microfilmed (MM 96).

  1. MF 864 Reel 1: 1/1-1/11
  2. MF 864 Reel 2: 1/12-1/23

Related Material

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. holds an oral history interview with Elisabeth Model as well as two scrapbooks.

A small collection of records concerning Elisabeth Model is on deposit at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

Separated Material

Elisabeth Model's memoir is catalogued separately in the Memoir Collection with the call number, ME 758.

Guide to the Papers of Elisabeth Model, 1912-1993   AR 6306 / MF 864 / MM 96
Processed by Maria-Tiffany V. Knittel and Kirsten Wilbrand
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-07 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States