Addenda to the John (Hans) and Trude Schiff Collection
Scope and Content Note
This collection is described in four series that are divided based on subject and format. Items in this collection predominantly consist of photographic prints and negatives taken by John D. or Trude Schiff of various artists.
Portraits of artist Ludwig Bemelmans and his Madeline illustration works were captured. Madeline is a book series that was created by Ludwig Bemelmans. The series follows the daily adventures of Madeline, a 7-year-old girl attending a boarding school in Paris with eleven other girls, under the care of their teacher, Miss Clavel. The first book was published in 1939 and proved to be a success, so Bemelmans wrote many sequels in the 1940s and 1950s. The series continues to sell copies worldwide.
The collection also contains prints of Katherine Dreier’s Living Room, as well as photographic prints of Marcel Duchamp's Twine installation. Katherine Sophie Dreier was an influential figure in New York City in the early 20th century and studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She was head of the New York City's German-American Committee of the Woman Suffrage party in 1915 and a close friend of artist Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp influenced her work, which is best represented in her painting 'Abstract Portrait of Marcel Duchamp' (1918) that is now held at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1920 they cofounded the Société Anonyme, which organized numerous exhibitions of European and American modern art. Dreier made Duchamp an executor of her estate.
Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) was a French artist who became an US citizen in 1955. His work and ideas had considerable influence on the development of post-WWII Western art. He was the first artist to create "ready-mades," or found objects, in modern art. 'Fountain' (1917) is probably the most well-known example of this involving a porcelain urinal signed "R.Mutt". The painting 'Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2' (1912) is said to have greatly influenced Katherine Dreier's cubist style.
John D. Schiff's photographic print of Marcel Duchamp's 'His Twine' (1942) installation view of First Papers of Surrealism exhibition at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in Manhattan, NY can be found in this collection. For the opening of the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition, Duchamp told a group of children to play throughout the event, and to explain that they were playing on Duchamp’s instructions. Around a mile of string was woven throughout the exhibition space in a web-like fashion. The crisscrossing twine prevents complete engagement with works by other artists displayed on the walls. The complex assembly of this installation art comments on Duchamp's tiredness of surrealism. However, Schiff's prints can be misleading: though the photographic print suggests a separation between viewer and art, Duchamp’s twine installation was more permeable and the art on display more accessible than many believe it to have been.
Additionally, there are several unlabeled negatives with subjects such as art exhibits, artworks, and natural subjects such as plants and animals. There is also a small amount of correspondence and documents in this collection as well.
- 1940s through 2000
Language of Materials
The collection is in English and German.
Open to researchers.
Visit the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History.
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
This collection of Schiff material was given to the Leo Baeck Institute from James H. and Sibylle Fraser, who had been collecting Schiff’s photographic prints and negatives during the end of the twentieth century.
James H. Fraser earned his Doctorate of Library Science from Columbia University and spent nearly 50 years working in and with academic and research libraries. As a consultant, James specialized in locating and collecting elusive materials and wrote on broadly diverse topics, such as photography. As Library Director at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison, NJ) and author of numerous books and articles, James' wide interests inspired students, scholars, artists, and an international community of friends. The Fraser collection at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries contains over 1200 imprints on art and design in Communist era Europe and East Germany during the 1960s.
Hans Schiff was born on November 7, 1907 in Cologne. After finishing high school and an apprenticeship he started working for his father's company, Schiff und Comp., which produced printed advertisements. In September 1938 he married Dr. Trude Löwenstein, a physician. He worked for his father as a traveling salesman until November 1938, when he was no longer allowed to work in this profession due to Germany’s racial laws. In 1933 he had started learning about photography with occupational retraining in mind and took photos for several Jewish organizations. In July 1939 he and his wife left Germany for England, where they had to wait for their immigration visas to the United States. They came to the U.S. in March 1940. After working in a photofinishing plant for a few months he started working as a freelance commercial photographer and worked on location for art dealers and artists. He specialized in the reproduction of artwork. Hans Schiff died in New York in September 1976.
Trude Joan Schiff née Löwenstein, was born on May 28, 1907. She was the daughter of Adolf and Johanna Löwenstein. Trude studied medicine from 1926-1931 in Bonn, Innsbruck, Vienna and Cologne, where she obtained her medical degree in 1931. From July 1, 1931 until February 1, 1932 she was an intern at the Medical University Clinic Cologne-Lindenberg. Immediately afterwards she entered the Medical University Policlinic in Frankfurt am Main where she worked as a resident and later became assistant doctor. In April 1933, she had to leave the position due to being Jewish. In June 1933 she began working in the surgical department of the Jewish Hospital in Cologne ("Israelitisches Asyl") until she and her husband emigrated to England in the beginning of July 1939. In April 1940 Trude Schiff passed the English examination given by State University of New York at Albany, and in December of the same year she passed the licensing examination from the same institution so she could continue practicing her profession. She worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, among other institutions.
3.25 Linear Feet
The John D. Schiff Collection contains both photographic prints and negatives of John D. and Trude Schiff’s photography careers. The subjects are predominantly portraits of artists and their works. Highlights include portraits of Ludwig Bemelmans and his Madeline illustrations, as well as photographic prints of Marcel Duchamp's Twine installation. and many other photographs of works of art.
The collection is arranged in four series.
- John Schiff: correspondence and documents, 1925-1999
- Photographic prints of artists and their work, undated, 1960
- Negatives of artists and their work, undated 1960
- Miscellaneous negatives, undated
This is a donation from the Heimann/Mendelson family in Israel, facilitated by Sibylle Fraser.
- Art and photography
- Bemelmans, Ludwig, 1898-1962
- Black-and-white photographs
- Busoni, Rafaello, 1900-1962
- Dreier, Katherine S. (Katherine Sophie), 1877-1952
- Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968
- Fraser, James H. (James Howard), 1934-2013
- Negatives (photographs)
- New York (N.Y.)
- Official documents
- Schiff, John, 1907-1976
- Processed by Miriam Clayton
- © 2020
- Language of description
- Script of description