Ursula Sternberg-Hertz papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Ursula Hertz was born on April 12, 1925, in Germany, the daughter of Walter and Dorothea Hertz. In 1936, when Ursula was eleven and her sister Renée was seven, her Jewish family fled Nazi Germany to live in Aerdenhout, in the Netherlands; however, when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, the family was forced to move to Naarden where they lived in partial hiding; and later to occupied Belgium, where they also lived in partial hiding. Ursula spent much of that time in Belgium separated from her family, living in complete hiding in the attic of a family acquaintance, placed there by her parents who feared she looked too Jewish.
Ursula had begun painting as early as age six, and during the war, her creativity and talent were utilized by the family as they worked to rebuild her father's successful apparel business that he had been obliged to abandon when leaving Germany. In response to American soldiers' appetite for souvenirs and gifts, the family started a small business with Ursula painting hand-decorated handkerchiefs to be sent home to loved ones. Monique Seyler states that "Ursula jumped wholeheartedly into designing and painting these hankies, which helped to launch her commercial career" post-war, designing for her father's new business, Forma, which manufactured bras and bathing suits. (Seyler, page 58).
Following World War II, Ursula moved to London (16, Eccleston Square) where she worked as a designer of fabric, fashion, and advertisements for companies including Ascher, Caprice, Forma (her father's company), Franco-Suisse, O.W. Loeb (her uncle's wine importation business), and Peter Pan Foundations, among others. She lived in London through much of the 1950s in a deeply Bohemian/artistic environment and traveled widely through Europe during this period. In 1957, she married Jonathan Sternberg (1919-2018), an American conductor, musical director, and professor of music, recognized as a key figure in introducing modern American music to post-war Europe. Prior to immigrating to the United States, the Sternbergs spent five months in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then returned to Europe where they lived in Brussels. In 1966, Ursula, Jonathan, and their two children, Peter and Tanya, moved to New York, when Jonathan Sternberg was appointed musical director and conductor of the Harkness Ballet. After stints in Rochester, NY, and Atlanta, the family settled in Elkins Park, in the Philadelphia area, in 1971 to accommodate Jonathan Sternberg's appointment at Temple University as professor and conductor. In 1989, the family moved to Chestnut Hill, where Ursula was more at home in what she felt was more of an older European-style community.
Throughout her life, Ursula created prolifically, producing hundreds of sketchbooks, thousands of drawings and paintings, and more than one hundred "visual diaries." She candidly described, in words and images, her world, commenting on friends and family, travel, food, books, concerts and exhibits, and occasionally current events. She frequently wrote about her experimentation with new artistic methods and supplies. She was often critical of Americans and the United States, mainly of what she saw as a materialist, money-oriented, society with little interest in aesthetics or elegance in any context; but according to Seyler, she struggled to feel at home anywhere in the world, despite her frequent travels and an extraordinary ability to make many close friends globally.
Ursula's health troubled her through much of her adult life and in 1999 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Ursula Sternberg died on September 22, 2000, survived by her husband, Jonathan; her son, Peter; her daughter Tanya Pushkine; and her two grandchildren, Luca and Lara-Sophia Rojas.
For a more complete biography of Ursula Sternberg, please see Monique Seyler's biography: Between Two Worlds: The Life and Art of Ursula Sternberg.
Forsythe, Pamela J., "A Visual Autobiography: Between Two Worlds: The Life and Art of Ursula Sternberg," for Broad Street Review, 2014 December 6 (https://www.broadstreetreview.com/articles/between-two-worlds-the-life-and-art-of-ursula-sternberg), accessed 2021 November 21
Seyler, Monique, Between Two Worlds: The life and art of Ursula Sternberg. Portsmouth, England: Tricorn Books, 2014 (https://www.goartonline.com/media/catalog/product/b/e/between_two_worlds_ursula_sternberg.pdf).
Zarr, Gary, "Jonathan Sternberg, American Conductor, Musical Director and Professor, Dies at 98," PRWeb, 2018 May 10 (https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/05/prweb15479341.htm), accessed 2021 November 12.
The Ursula Sternberg-Hertz papers document nearly every aspect of her life through her art. While there is limited correspondence and material directly related to her family and her youth, her daily calendars, her diaries, and her visual diaries shed light on her personality and on the way she viewed her world. This collection is arranged in six series: I. Family and personal material; II. Correspondence; III. Address books, calendars, diaries, and visual diaries; IV. Artwork; V. Exhibits and expos; and VI. Interviews. Researchers should be aware that there is artwork within virtually every series and that the collection overlaps significantly between series, within boxes, and even with scrapbooks. It will probably be necessary for researchers to consult large components of this collection, regardless of research topic. Every series within the collection contains a mixture of English, French, and German, and some contain Dutch.
Research value of this collection is wide-ranging and deep. Researchers interested in the lives of artists and women artists, the lives of those who lived in Nazi-occupied Europe, immigrants to the United States in the late 20th century, and the artistic and music circles in Europe and Philadelphia will find this collection to be valuable. This collection also documents families, relationships, perceptions of Americans and the United States of America, and the art of chronicling one's life through drawings and diaries.
More detailed information about the contents of the collection is available at the start of each series.
Gifts of Peter Sternberg and Tanya Pushkine, 2019 and 2020.
- Emigration and immigration
- Voyages and travel
- Women artists
- World War, 1939-1945
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2021 November 16
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use. Original audio, video, and digital images on machine readable media contained within box 15 are restricted.
Access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (email@example.com) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.