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Konrad Wolff - Ilse Bing Collection

Identifier: GTM-160304

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, documents, sketches, drafts, photographs and music relating to the pianist and composer Konrad Wolff (1907-1989) and his wife, the distinguished photographer Ilse Bing (1899-1998).

It also contains significant additional material relating to Wolff’s family members including his father, the distinguished German lawyer Martin Wolff, and his mother, Marguerite Wolff née Jolowicz, who was personally charged with documenting important aspects of the Nuremberg war crimes trials.


  • 1873 - 1991


Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical / Historical

Konrad Wolff was born in Berlin, March 11, 1907 to a German father and British mother. He was educated in German schools until 1925. He attended the University of Berlin and the University of Heidelberg (1925-1930), graduating Magna Cum Laude Doctor of Law from the former. He also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and acquired the Diplomes d'etudes superieures (1934-1935). In 1936, Wolff married photographer/artist Ilse Bing and emigrated to the United States in 1941. Wolff became an American citizen in 1946.

Wolff's pianistic education included private studies under Liszt pupil Joseph Lomba, Bruno Elsner and Artur Schnabel. He gave solo recitals in New York, Washington, Boston, London, Paris and Amsterdam, in addition to frequent chamber music performances and lecture-recitals for the Association of American Colleges and the University of Minnesota Lecture Bureau. Master classes were given at Smith College, New England Conservatory, University of the Pacific, Bradley University; and Wolff was engaged for a residency at the University of Texas just before his death. Wolff served on the piano faculties at Westchester Conservatory (1949-1954), Drew University (1952-1962), and Peabody Conservatory (1963-1974), where he also taught chamber music, score analysis, and graduate piano literature.

Best known as champion of the artistry and teaching of Artur Schnabel, Wolff's impressive study of his teacher Schnabel's Interpretation of Piano Music, 2nd edition (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979) is considered the ultimate authority. Other major books include Masters of the Keyboard, 2nd edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); and Erich Itor Kahn (Paris: 1958) on which he collaborated with Rene Leibowitz. Additional publications include an edition of Schumann's On Music and Musicians and many contributions to the Musical Quarterly, the Journal of the American Liszt Society, Piano Quarterly, and other periodicals.

Wolff died of heart failure October 23, 1989, in Cologne, Germany, where he was performing and lecturing.

Source: Konrad Wolff collection, University of Maryland

Biographical / Historical

Ilse Bing (23 March 1899 – 10 March 1998) was a German avant-garde and commercial photographer who produced pioneering monochrome images during the inter-war era.

Born in Frankfurt, she abandoned an academic career to devote herself to photography. Her move from Frankfurt to the burgeoning avant-garde and surrealist scene in Paris in 1930 marked the start of the most notable period of her career. She produced images in the fields of photo-journalism, architectural photography, advertising and fashion. Her work was published in magazines such as Le Monde Illustre, Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue. Respected for her use of daring perspectives, unconventional cropping, use of natural light, and geometries, she also discovered a type of solarization for negatives independently of a similar process developed by the artist Man Ray.

Bing’s rapid success as a photographer and her position as the only professional in Paris to use an advanced Leica camera earned her the title "Queen of the Leica" from the critic and photographer Emmanuel Sougez. In 1936, her work was included in the first modern photography exhibition held at the Louvre. The next year, she travelled to New York where her images were included in the landmark exhibition "Photography 1839–1937" at the Museum of Modern Art.

She remained in Paris for ten years until World War II. In 1941, Bing and her husband Konrad Wolff emigrated to the United States, settling in New York City. There, she re-established her reputation in portraiture. By 1947, Bing came to the realization that New York had revitalized her art. Her style was very different; the softness that characterized her work in the 1930s gave way to hard forms and clear lines, with a sense of harshness and isolation. For a short time in the 1950s, Bing experimented with color, but soon gave up photography altogether. In the last few decades of her life, she wrote poetry, made drawings and collages, and occasionally incorporated photography.

Ilse Bing: Photography Through the Looking Glass, is an important monograph by Larisa Dryansky, published in 2006. Major retrospectives of her work were exhibited at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1985, and at the International Center of Photography, New York, in 1986. A survey was also held at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris, in 1988.. Her work can be found in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago.” Sources: Wikipedia and the Edwynn Houk Gallery

Biographical / Historical

Martin Wolff was a professor of law in [Berlin,] Germany. In 1934, he was expelled from his post by the Nazis and emigrated to Britain, where he became a fellow at Oxford University. He specialized in private international law and property law, writing numerous works, including standard works in German and English.

The son of Wilhelm Wolff and Lehna Wolff (née Ball), Martin Wolff was born in Berlin on 26 September, 1872. He attended the Collège Français in Berlin where he studied law earning a doctorate in 1894. In 1903, he was appointed associate professor. About this time, he wrote his treatise on property law in Enneccerus–Kipp–Wolff, which became a standard work for almost half a century and was translated into Spanish in 1937. He did not receive a full professorship until 1914. In 1919 he moved to Bonn, but returned to Berlin in 1921, where he was appointed Professor for Civil Law, Commercial Law, and Private International Law. Wolff was regarded as an outstanding lecturer; however, in 1935, because of his Jewish descent, Wolff, along with his colleague Ernst Rabel, was dismissed from his professorship by the new dean of the law faculty, Wenzeslaus von Gleispach, who was a Nazi Party member.

In 1938, Wolff emigrated to Britain. He was made a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1945, he published Private International Law, a comprehensive description of English private international law. In 1947, he became a British citizen; and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1953.

Wolff wrote numerous articles on commercial, company, family, property, and insurance law, as well as on private international law. In particular, his textbooks on family and inheritance law were very successful and were reprinted several times. Source: Wikipedia

Biographical / Historical

Marguerite Wolff was an exception among women scholars in Germany in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Although she neither studied formally at any university nor received other scientific training, she built a scientific institute in Berlin. The wife of a lawyer who was an expert in private law and mother of two sons, she not only herself became an expert in law, but also engaged in research and translation.

Marguerite Jolowicz was born in London on December, 10, 1883. In 1906 she married Martin Wolff (1872–1953), who was professor of law at the University of Berlin and an expert in international private law. They had two sons—Konrad (1907-1989) and Victor (1911–1944). In 1924, Viktor Bruns (1884–1943), colleague of Martin Wolff and family friend, established the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Foreign Public Law and International Law, where Marguerite Wolff held a position from January 1925 until May 1933, first as unofficial co-director and later as a research scholar. Together with Bruns, she expanded the institute to reflect her interest in legal issues in England and North America. She also translated publications on English and American law. Marguerite Wolff later became an assistant and librarian of the institute.

When the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, Marguerite Wolff lost her position at the institute and returned to Britain, followed two years later by her son. Victor. Konrad Wolff emigrated in October 1938, first to France and then to the United States in 1941. Martin Wolff, who had been under attack by Nazi students since 1933, was dismissed in 1935, and emigrated to Britain in the autumn of 1938. At Oxford University he was awarded several fellowships to continue his work on comparative international private law. Marguerite Wolff continued translating works in English and American law. She was also engaged by the United States government as a document editor for the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Three years before her death, she began painting in poetic primitive style. Her paintings were exhibited in New York and England. Marguerite Wolff died in London in 1964. Source: Encyclopedia of the Jewish Women’s Archive online,

Biographical / Historical

Victor Wolff (1911-1944) was a British barrister.


4 Cubic Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials



Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians LLC, Syosset, N.Y. Purchase, 2016.

Related Materials

Konrad Wolff collection, International Piano Archives, Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, University of Maryland, College Park

Ilse Bing collection, Center for Creative Photography Archives, University of Arizona

Ilse Bing fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

Processing Information

The contents of Boxes 5 and 6 (Ilse Bing materials) were rehoused in 2023 and consolidated into Box 5. Letters were removed from their envelopes and flattened during this process. Boxes 7-12 were then renumbered as boxes 6-11.

Konrad Wolff - Ilse Bing Collection
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections.
October 2017
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS-compliance and container list updated by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057