Collection number: VC 23
Size: 2 boxes (0.66 cu.ft.)
About Gerda Peterich
Gerda Anna Margarete Peterich was born in Munich, Germany, on March 9, 1906. Her mother was a pianist, and her father was a sculptor and professor of fine arts. She had three brothers and a sister, all gifted artistically. The family moved to Italy soon after Peterich was born, seeking a more liberal atmosphere for the children. Peterich’s schooling took place in Germany, where she studied at the Odenwaldschule from 1919 to 1922. She studied piano with Lili Kroeber-Asche at the State Conservatory of Music in Stuttgart from 1930 to 1933. Despite her early interest in music, an injury to her shoulder prevented her from pursuing a musical career.
In 1936 Peterich went to the island of Hiddensee to think through her interests in gardening, architecture, and photography and to decide on her life’s work. She returned from her week of contemplation and announced that photography was where she would place her major efforts. From the summer of 1937 through the winter of 1939 she studied photography at the Photographische Lehranstalt des Lette-Vereins in Berlin and passed the state examination cum laude. While in Berlin Peterich met and married Dr. Kurt Robert Mattusch, Economic Counsellor for the U.S. State Department at the American Consulate General.
In August 1939 Peterich and her lifelong friend Elisabeth (Lilly) Hoffmann sailed for America on the next to last ship to leave Germany before World War II. Shortly thereafter, Peterich and her husband separated.
Faced with the task of earning a living in an unfamiliar environment, Peterich established a photographic studio at 332 West 50th Street in New York, where she specialized in portraiture and dance. She also taught for two and a half years at The School of Modern Photography. During the period from 1940 through 1946 Peterich made a name for herself as a photographer of dance and dancers and became a staff photographer for Dance Magazine. Among her subjects were Jose Limon, Martha Graham, Pearl Primas, Jane Dudley, Ruth St. Denis, Jerome Robbins, Bambi Lynn, Pearl Lang, and Hanya Holm. Peterich’s aim was “the interpretation of the dancer’s personality, the dancer’s personal style, or a special dance.” In 1950 she resumed photographing dancers, but primarily with ballet, while her earlier work was with modern dancers. While on the staff of Dance Magazine she also worked freelance, doing magazine, commercial and portrait photography.
In 1946 Peterich accepted a position as visiting lecturer at Ohio University where she also attended school. On August 7, 1948 she was awarded a BFA from Ohio. During this period she became head of the department of photography.
In 1950 Peterich moved to Rochester, New York, and began working towards her master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Rochester, concentrating on the history of architecture and the history of photography. The MA degree she received on June 7, 1957, was the first in the history of photography as an art form to be granted in the United States. Her thesis, “The Calotype in France and its Use in Architectural Documentation,” combined her lifelong interests in architecture and photography.
During her New York City days Peterich shared an apartment with her childhood friend, Lilly Hoffmann, who became a weaver of great distinction. In 1950 Hoffman purchased a house in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, and in 1959 Peterich moved there to once again share a home with her friend. In a 1959 Christmas letter she wrote, “…everything was planning for New Hampshire. Through many years I spent my vacations there with my good friend Lilly Hoffmann. I was beginning to grow roots here – it was what I had waited for. And now I am here, loving it, happy, leading the creative life which is happiness. As I write to you I sit in my studio which last year still was Lilly’s barn, looking out of my big window over our grounds which terminate in a granite stone wall, pine trees beyond. There are tufts of snow on the ground and the sky is brilliantly blue.”
After moving to New Hampshire Peterich lectured on fine arts at the New England College in Henniker. She began work towards a Ph.D. in Fine Arts at Boston University in the summer of 1961 and attended a seminar in American Architecture at Harvard University in the summer of 1962. She was on leave in 1963-64 with a stipend to work on her Ph.D.
In a March 14, 1964, memorandum to Frank Piskor, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Syracuse University, Laurence Schmeckebier, Dean of the School of Art, wrote, “While in Baltimore I also met Gerda Peterich, a distinguished artist and photographer,…she is German born and educated with a good historical and scholarly background.” On May 11th Peterich received a telegram offering her the position of lecturer in art history at Syracuse University. Scheduled to teach one course on the history of art and one on the history of photography, she was also to be director of the Photographic Archives at the University. She accepted the position and was in Syracuse by September.
Shortly after her arrival an exhibit of Peterich’s work went on display at the Lowe Art Gallery at the University. The exhibit grew out of a project commissioned by the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, to document the Victorian architecture of the city and to awaken public awareness of the significance of its buildings.
Peterich also worked on a project documenting the architecture of Merrimack and Hillsborough counties in New Hampshire. The project was completed in 1965, and the negatives were deposited at the Library of Congress as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Gerda Peterich taught at Syracuse University until June 1968. She then returned to the New Hampshire she loved and remained there until her death in July 1974.
About the Gerda Peterich Photographic Prints
The collection consists of 51 photographic prints of varying sizes. None are dated. The subjects are primarily dancers, seaside scenes, and other nature studies. In the list which follows, titles without brackets are those found on the prints; titles in parentheses are descriptions supplied by the Special Collections processor because the original print was unlabeled.
This collection is open.
Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.
[Identification of item], Gerda Peterich Photographic Prints Collection, undated, VC 23, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.
Donated by Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, 1978 (Accession number:7755)
Gerda Peterich Papers at Syracuse University Archives
|Box 1, Envelope 1||Hanya Holm, dancer (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 2||Lang, dancer (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 3||Doris Humphrey, dancer (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 4||Trudi Goth, dancer (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 5||Jose Limon, dancer (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 6||Wilmer Goff (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 7||Fisherman’s Monument (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 8||[Port docking Annie II, Boston] (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 9||Rockport, Massachusetts (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 10||Rockport, Massachusetts (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 11||[Dockside damage] (14.5 x 17.5)|
|Box 1, Envelope 12||Lake Michigan Driftwood (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 13||Lake Michigan Driftwood (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 14||[View of ocean floor] (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 15||[Beach growth] (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 16||[Waterfall] (16 x 20)|
|Box 1, Envelope 17||[Sky] (16 x 20)|
|Box 2, Envelope 1||At the Baltic Sea (16 x 20)|
|Box 2, Envelope 2||[Reflections of trees in water] (16 x 20)|
|Box 2, Envelope 3||[Insect] (16 x 20)|
|Box 2, Envelope 4||Haymaking (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 5||Haymaking, Upstate New York (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 6||Haymaking (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 7||Haymaking (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 8||[House] (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 9||[Fisherman’s storage area] (16 x 20)|
|Box 2, Envelope 10||[House] (15 x 19)|
|Box 2, Envelope 11||[Interior of House] (11 x 14)|
|Box 2, Envelope 12||[Portico] (11 x 14)|
|Box 2, Envelope 13||Cathedral (9.5 x 13.5)|
|Box 2, Envelope 14||[Pearl Primus] (11 x 14)|
|Box 2, Envelope 15||[Pearl Primus] (11 x 14)|
|Box 2, Envelope 16||[Fishnetting rolls on dock] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 17||[Fishnetting laid out on a dock] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 18||[Pier] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 19||[View of fishing village from docks] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 20||[Mast] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 21||[Mast] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 22||[Rocks] (11 x 11)|
|Box 2, Envelope 23||[Rocks and water] (8 x 10)|
|Box 2, Envelope 24||[Sky] (8 x 8)|
|Box 2, Envelope 25||Cloud formations (7.5 x 7.75)|
|Box 2, Envelope 26||[Cloud formations] (8 x 8.75)|
|Box 2, Envelope 27||[Beach] (7.75 x 8)|
|Box 2, Envelope 28||[Reflections of trees on water] (8 x 8)|
|Box 2, Envelope 29||[Rocks] (8 x 8)|
|Box 2, Envelope 30||[Rocks] (8 x 8)|
|Box 2, Envelope 31||[Rocks] (8 x 8 1/4)|
|Box 2, Envelope 32||[Pottery stacked on a table] (6.5 x 6.25)|
|Box 2, Envelope 33||[Fly infested fish lying on a dock] (6 x 6.25)|
|Box 2, Envelope 34||1938 Paman (?) (5.25 x 5.5)|