Oskar Kokoschka. Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat. 1909

Oskar Kokoschka Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat 1909

  • Not on view

In 1909 the Viennese art historians Hans and Erica Tietze asked the twenty-three year-old Kokoschka to paint a marriage portrait for their mantelpiece. Mrs. Tietze recalled that she and her husband were painted individually, a fact suggested by their separate poses and gazes. Kokoschka used thin layers of color to create the hazy atmosphere surrounding the couple, and added a sense of crackling energy by scratching the paint with his fingernails. The Museum bought this painting from the Tietzes in 1939, just one year after the couple immigrated to New York.

Gallery label from 2006.
Additional text

The Tietzes were socially prominent art historians. The attention Kokoschka gave to their nervous, sensitive hands is a clue to the characters of the two, whom the artist described as "closed personalities so full of tension."

Gallery label from German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, March 27–July 11, 2011.

The Tietzes were socially prominent art historians, but Kokoschka ignores their public personas to find a mysterious delicacy in their private relationship. Erica gazes out toward us; Hans looks at Erica's hand, and reaches for it without touching it, so that his hands and her left arm form an arch that is broken at its summit by a narrow gap, a space with a psychic charge. The couple emerge from a shimmering ground of russets and dim blues into which their outlines seem to melt in places. Scratches in the thin oil—made, according to Erica Tietze—Conrat, with the artist's fingernails-create a texture of ghostly half-marks around the figures, a subtle halo of crackling energy.

Like his Viennese compatriot Egon Schiele, Kokoschka tried to transcend academic formulas with an art of emotional and physical immediacy-an art, in his words, "to render the vision of people being alive." Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat is one of his "black portraits," in which he tried to penetrate his subjects' "closed personalities so full of tension." (His Vienna was also the home of Sigmund Freud.)

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 62.
Oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 53 5/8" (76.5 x 136.2 cm)
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

1909 Erica Tietze-Conrat and Hans Tietze, Vienna and New York
1939 The Museum of Modern Art, New York (purchased from the above)

Provenance research is a work in progress, and is frequently updated with new information. If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please email [email protected] or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].