OLA OKUNIEWSKA (OLA WOLPE)

1902-1985

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe)

A former pupil of Johannes Itten in Vienna and
at the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimar

(b. Brno, Czechoslovakia 1902, d. Lodon 1985)


Foreword

Except for a few reproductions in Johannes Itten's book "Design and Form", relatively little is known about the first nucleus of sixteen students whom he taught in Vienna and who followed him to the Bauhaus in Weimar in the fall of 1920. They were to form the Basic Course at the newly opened Bauhaus and Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe), was one of them, and one of the few Itten's students who were to became painters.

In 1938 the political situation in Austria forced Ola to emigrate, first to Yugoslavia, then to Switzerland, and finally to London where she became a resident until her death in 1985. Her early work was unfortunately destroyed in a fire. However, we now have a precious collection of more than thirty works dating back to 1959 which we would like to show, as an homage to her work and memory.

Anna Hollering, a close associate of Itten, acknowledged the fact that Ola was the only one of Itten's pupils who carried through what he taught between 1918 and 1920. She was referring mainly to Itten's "analysis of the works by great masters" (which included works by Giotto, Cranach, Grunewald, etc). The purpose of these exercises, often done in charcoal, was to capture by touch, the essence or spirit of each work, and this was done in a few lines and tonal modulations. But to that which she learned from Itten, through her personal journey, she developed adding her originality and vision and her extensive understanding of the techniques of painting and use of colour, which make her paintings equal in beauty to the works of another of the Bauhaus great artists and teachers: Paul Klee.

Because of the quality of her painting, there is no doubt that Ola Wolpe's works deserves a place in the history of XXc. art, particularly amongst its female representatives, and the time for a comprehensive exhibition and appraisal of her work, although posthumously, is not only largely due but necessary.

Katharina Wolpe, Guillem Ramos-Poquí. London, August 2002

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). The Bolting Horse. Vienna 1919

The Bolting Horse. O. Okuniewska, Vienna 1919
Reproduced in "Design and Form - The Basic Course at the Bauhaus" by Johannes Itten
(First Published 1963. (Page 126 of 1975 Thames and Hudson Edition)


BACKGROUND

In the Introduction of his book "Design and Form" Johannes Itten explains how he studied with Adolf Hölzel in Stuttgart "…the principles of the theory and practice of colour. Hölzel explained in his lectures the pictorial construction of the Old Masters and the pictorial use of light and dark….", how in 1916 Itten moved to Vienna.
"…The war was still at its height and the city full of sombre tension. To enable me to paint, I again tried to earn my living by art teaching…" and how "…In the summer of 1919 Alma Mahler-Gropius, deeply interested in my paintings and ideas of teaching invited me to meet her husband Walter Gropius, who has been appointed head of the Staatliches Bauhaus at Weimar. When he has seen my own work and that of my students he suggested that I came to Weimar to teach at the Bauhaus…Gerhard Marcks and Lyonel Feininger, the first teachers appointed by Walter Gropius, had already arrived……Sixteeen of my Vienese students - Carl Auboeck, Josep Breuer, Max Bronstein, Maria Cyrenius, Friedl Dicker, Walter Heller, Alfred Lipovec, Vally Neumann, Olga Okuniewska, Gyula Pap, Franz Probst, Frank Scala, Franz Singer, Naum Slutzky, Margit Téry-Adler and Anni Wottitz - followed me to Weimar in the fall of 1919, when they formed the nucleus of the first course at the Bauhaus……"
(Quotations taken from pages 6 and 7 of the 1975 Thames and Hudson Edition)


*      *      *

OLA OKUNIEWSKA (OLA WOLPE)

(b. Brno, Czechoslovakia 1902, d. London 1985)


Introduction by Guillem Ramos-Poquí

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe) "A Letter to the Missions" , floorpiece 1974-75


A Letter to the Missions (floor piece, in four sections)
1974-75 Oil-tempera and pastels 1.52 x 1.52 m


Johannes Itten has been perhaps one of the most influential art educators of this century. In 1919, by Walter Gropius' invitation, he created the "Basic Course" at the Bauhaus in Weimar, and his books "Design and Form" and "The Art of Colour" have been part of every modern art college curriculum.

The Bauhaus phenomenon has been the subject of extensive books, research and exhibitions world-wide, not only because of its innovative programme but because teachers at the Bauhaus were amongst the most important and influential artists of the XXC. century.

And yet relatively little is known about the first nucleus of sixteen students who Johannes Itten brought from Vienna to form the first course, and how they were able later to develop (with the exception, perhaps, of the painter Max Bronstein - later known as Ardon, and Friedl Dicker). However, amongst this first nucleus of Bauhaus students was Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe), possibly one of the few of Itten's pupils to become a painter, instead of a designer. It is the case that the discovery, appraisal and public exhibition of Ola's work as a painter, although posthumously, is long overdue.

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe) was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1902. Her father was a surgeon attached to the Austrian Imperial Navy. The family lived in Pola on the Dalmation coast until 1914, then for the period of the war they lived in Vienna.

In Vienna Ola had her first painting lessons from Elizabeth Laske. In the next four years she progressed very remarkably as a painter. Eventually Elizabeth Laske decided to introduce Ola to Johannes Itten.

Johannes Itten (1888-1967), her mentor, had studied with Adolf Hölzel in Stuttgart between 1913 and 1916 and had to move to Vienna in 1916. Ola joined his painting class in Vienna from 1918 to 1920, and, in the fall of that year, (as Itten records in his book "Design and Form - the Basic Course at the Bauhaus") followed him to the newly founded Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany. The director of the Bauhaus at that time was Walter Gropius, and teachers included Feininger, Klee and Kandinsky.

Later, Ola completed her studies at the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Vienna.
In 1928 she married the Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe (b. Berlin 1902 , d. New York 1972 ) and moved with him to Berlin. They had one daughter, Katharina Wolpe, the pianist.

In 1938 the political situation in Austria forced Ola to emigrate, first to Yugoslavia, then to Switzerland and finally she came to England, whilst her husband, from whom she was later divorced, fleeing the nazi persecution, emigrated to New York- where he made his permanent residence.
In London Ola joined the Arthur Segal Art Teacher's Training Course. Arthur Segal (b. 1875 in Rumania, d. 1944) was a painter and had been a member of art movements such as the "Neue Secession" (1910) and the "Novermbergrouppe" (1920), and had made a contribution to the Dadaist movement (during the war he came to England, later, he created his own private art school in London). Ola taught widely, not only painters but also patients at the Tavistock Clinic and also maladjusted children.

In 1959 Ola started a series of paintings, most of which are in Austria, USA and UK private collections. For eight years she travelled to Austria to stay with her friend Irma Shunberg, each time providing her with a new painting. Also for eight years, until his death, Ola had a strong relation with Czech Jewish poet Hahn, who converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed, and this event deeply affected her. In 1967 Ola, from London, started her studies in the lay Society of Saint Francis de Sales in Paris. It was the writings and theology of love and beauty of this R.C. saint (1567-1622) and Doctor of the Church, which inspired not only her life from then on, but her work as an artist, together with other sources of inspiration such as the pre-Renaissance or early Italians artists: Giotto, Piero de la Francesca, Fra Angelico, as well as the early icons, and Cézanne.

Aged 60 she retired from teaching and concentrated fully on her own work. She began to do a series of paintings and portable murals, culminating in a large landscape, a View of Annecy - the birthplace Saint Francis de Sales, the author of the "Treatise on the Love of God", who so much inspired her work. She continued this work on until her death in 1985.

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). View of Annecy, 1997 Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). Saint Francis de Sales, 1977
View of Annecy, 1977
Study for a muralOil tempera, pastel and charcoal on 84 x 50 cm card, primed with gesso (actual image 46 x 32 cm)

Saint Francis de Sales 1977
Oil-tempera on board, 51 x 39.7 cm
I met Ola in June 1971, through her daughter Katharina Wolpe, the pianist, when we were both teaching at Morley College in London and she told me about her mother's background. I was 27 and became deeply impressed by her work. I found her paintings beautiful, contemplative, and original. Also, at that time, Ola and I both shared an admiration for frescoes by Giotto and Piero de la Francesca, she wanted to capture the essence of these works using a contemporary language.

It is here that, to better understand Ola's work we need to refer to the context from which it developed:

First of all her understanding of Johannes Itten's studies from the masters (which he describes in his books) as taught in Vienna and the start of his teachings at Bauhaus (before he became heavily involved in design). Far from being mere exercise on abstraction the students had to capture with charcoal, in just a few lines, and with sensitive touch, the "essence" or spirit of the work, and this meant the artist's intention, similarly to the way a musician may wish to capture the spirit of a particular piece of work - by trying to enter the composer's mind. Therefore, when working and developing a composition, she would apply her inspiration to capture, with reverence, the essence of the subject and reveal the figures. In this way the abstract and figurative elements were one and the same. Anna Hollering, a close associate of Itten, acknowledged the fact that Ola was the only one of Itten's pupils who carried through what he taught between 1918 and 1920 in Vienna and on his arrival at the Bauhaus.

'View of Annecy'. Mural in six sections, 1977-1981 (This was Ola's last work)
Oil tempera on board. Overall: 1.77m x 1.50 m (69" X 59")  
(Top sections height: 27". Middle section height: 17 1/2 ". Bottom sections height: 24 1/2 ")

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wople) .The Annunciation, charcoal, 1969

The Annunciation. Charcoal tracing on tissue paper
from an early painting study of the subject by Ola Wolpe. 1969. 65 x 65 cm
(The painting, in two sections, collection of Elizabeth Lochner, Austria)

Secondly, her use of the "grid" when planning a mural, which one could relate it to Itten's use of a grid of colours - e.g. in his exercise on the "seasons"-, or to Paul Klee's use of the grid as a device - in his botanical gardens and other compositions. However, in Ola's murals the grid had a function, it served as a means of dividing the composition into sections of an imaginary wall (St Vicent Pallotti mural), imaginary floor slabs (the Letter to the Mission mural), or the folds of a very large cloth (the Annunciation mural).

Finally we need to refer Ola's passion for music. The house where she lived in Hampstead in London was always full of musicians and beautiful sounds: with her daughter Katharina either playing and rehearsing for concerts, or giving piano lessons, with the conductor Laurence Lenard rehearsing his next symphony, with a music critic from the Guardian, or guest musicians in residence. Indeed, Ola composed her paintings like a symphony and made constant reference to musical terminology when discussing her paintings. The colours were organized in sequence and in relation to the sections which divided the composition as a whole. She developed the subject from the inner centre to achieve a unity bringing together the abstract (the formal and spiritual) and the figurative. And when dealing with colour and technique she made very personal discoveries which makes her work and her contribution as an artist very special. Over a white gesso ground she applied, using a palette knife, a "putty" made of a mixture of gesso and oil paint from the tube, this provided a beautiful colour ground with a sensitive texture, from which she build the colours in thin layers of diluted oil paint and also very fine cross-hatching directional brush work, often combining paint with wax, and sometimes adding charcoal and pastel, with a final effect not unlike that of a fresco.

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). the Annuciation, 1969-70
The Annunciation 1969-70. 183 x 183 cmOil-tempera, and pastels
on muslin over gesso primed watercolour paper. Portable mural in 24 sections
Through her spiritual reflections, and analysis of the colours of masters such as Fra Angelico, and the study of Goethe's colour theory, she had discovered a theology of colour whereby, like the impressionists and Cézanne, she built up "light" and "darkness" by using only the three pure colours of the rainbow, giving to this a Trinitarian symbolic significance. Her use of earth colours combined with that of the primaries, whereby intending to bring heaven and earth together, as when Pissarro talked about bringing the sky and the earth in a landscape, through the colours of the distant horizon. She also developed an understanding of the unity of composition of the three pure forms or formal movements: the square (interpreted by the visual planes - defined by the depth of the horizon and the plumb), the triangle (or diagonals), and the circle (or open curves). This was apparent at the start of a composition, when her use of forms had a certain similarity to the lines in the "sinopia" (or preliminary wall drawings) of an early Italian fresco. She worked in a sensitive and exquisite, spontaneous and unassuming manner, making her works, if compared to other XXc. artists, equal in beauty to some of the paintings by Paul Klee.

From her studies of Arthur Segal's method of teaching painting (much later to be published by his daughter Marianne in 1976 under the title "The Objective Laws of Painting") she used the early stage of building up a painting by covering the canvas or board with flat colours (without gaps between them). This stage of the process looked very "abstract" with a "flatness" capable of creating the optical effect of space by colour alone, without recurring to shading to render three-dimensional effects. The results were similar to the first layer of colours in the painting of a Byzantine icon or the based colours of the early frescoes, and Ola often used it as a technique to provide colour backgrounds for her images.

When referring to her murals, I ought to also mention another important element in Ola's works: the fact that they were, as she called it: "life size" and they were also "site specific". By "life size" she meant of the height of a person, so one could relate to the work in terms of the human scale. By site specific we mean that, although the work may not be a commission, it was conceived as "belonging" to a specific physical space. This was true of her mural of Saint Vicent Pallotti, conceived for a modern building of the Palottine sisters in Beechwood, Manchester Road, Rochdale; Ola had met the architect who was concerned about the bare walls - Ola's mural, made of "cardboard stones" as it were, intended to bring warmth to them. For the Annunciation too, she had in mind an abandoned baroque chapel in the garden of the Monastery of the Monastery of the Visitation in Vienna. And the mural "Letter to the Missions" was conceived also as a portable mural, made of cardboard sections, for a very basic missionary building in India. In all these cases the idea of "portable murals" related to the spiritual concept of poverty and the lack of a permanent building, as if living in a tent (according to the spirit of renewal of Vatican II Council), and whilst she worked in her mural of the Annunciation she folded the work and carried it back and forth from London to Austria during her summer vacations, so she could work on it . But she never mentioned to people the places where these works "belong in spirit" and therefore they never knew that they were done for them.

Ola Okuniewska Studio, London 1968

Ola studio in Hampstead, London, with one of the portable murals 1968
Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe) Head of the Risen Christ in front of His Grave, 1973


Head of the Risen Christ in front of His Grave 1973 Oil- tempera on gessoed watercolour paper 43.3 x 50 cm
Unfortunately, Ola's works before 1959 were destroyed by a fire in her previous home. In sharp contrast to the fast production of large quantities of work by contemporary artists, Ola worked very slowly, in anonymity and solitude. She considered her work like a prayer or religious meditation and some paintings could take more than three years to complete, one of the reasons why we only have at our disposal about thirty of her works.

In the secular culture in which we live, and because of the religious content of Ola's paintings I once asked her about her choice of subject matter, and she replied "This is not a subject matter, I mean it". This came to me as a surprise - since I was brought up to believe (as in a pagan tradition stemming from the Renaissance) that subject matter in art was a pretext for an artist to display his artistic skills. Fascinated with her work, and being a practising artist and a lecturer in art, I became her closest artist friend and for a period of about four years I visited her in her studio, a small room in her daughter's house in Hampstead, twice a week. This gave me an insight into her ideas and sources of inspiration, techniques, and methods of work

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). "Day and Night" 1974-75


Day and Night 1974-75 Oil-tempera on gesso primed wood

One will ask why there were no attempts made, during Ola's time, to hold an exhibition of her work in a museum, art gallery or prestigious public space (for example during the "50 Years Bauhaus" show at the Royal Academy in 1968). The reason is that during her lifetime she refused to be interviewed by the press and hold any shows in a commercial secular environment. Instead, after some persuasion, she agreed to show some of her work in to two church centres: in 1977 thirteen of her paintings were shown at the basement rooms of St Mary's Church, in Hampstead, London, and in the summer of 1980 two of her portable murals were exhibited at Westminster Cathedral North West Crypt during a collective exhibition. Neither of these shows provided a proper context to her work, or the opportunity to discuss her unique contribution as an artist, and no catalogue or records were kept. Ola was never militant in church matters, the relationship between her faith and her work as a painter was a very personal humble intimate affair, she treasure her anonymity and solitude, and often referred to Cézanne's attendance at church on Sundays in Aix en Provence.

In February 1980, for health reasons Ola moved to the Elderly Peoples Home in High Close, Hertford Road, Hampstead, London NW3, where one of her paintings is still on display. She continued to paint until shortly before she died on Holy Wednesday 3rd of April 1985. Her funeral service was held on 11th of April in St Mary's Church, Hampstead.

Because of the quality of her painting, there is no doubt that Ola's work deserves a place in the history of XX c. art, particularly amongst its female representatives, and the time for a comprehensive exhibition and appraisal of her work, although posthumously, is not only largely due but necessary.

Guillem Ramos-Poquí

Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe) Saint Therese of Lisieux, 1967
Ola Okuniewska (Ola Wolpe). Mary Reading, ca. 1964
Therese of Lisieux 1967
Oil-tempera on canvas 50 x 61 cm
Mary Reading, ca. 1964
Cera colla and wax-oil on thinly gessoed wood. 60 x 45 approx.



OLA OKUNIEWSKA (OLA WOLPE)

A former pupil of Johannes Itten in Vienna and at the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimarb. Brno, Czechoslovakia 1902, d. Lodon 1985

CATALOGUE OF WORKS

1. Still Life. 1959 (ca.) Charcoal on tissue paper (several, each. 26 x 35 cm approx.). Collection K. Wolpe
2. Trees. 1959 (ca.) Charcoal on tissue paper (several, each 26 x 35 cm approx.). Collection K. Wolpe
3. John the Baptist. 1960 (ca.) Oil and wax stain on muslin, mounted on grey coloured card.
104 x 49 cm approx. Collection K. Wolpe
4. Cross 1961 (ca.) Oil stain on wood 104 x 49 cm. Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
5. To Remember the Holy Shroud. 1960 (ca.) Oil stain oil-tempera on wood 157 x 55 cm.
Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
6. Mary Reading 1962 (ca.) 60 x 45 cm approx. Wax-oil encaustic thin gesso on wood. Collection K. Wolpe
7. Landscape 1963 (ca.) Oil-tempera on wood 1.70 m x 1.15 approx. Collection K. Wolpe
8. Year One 1964 (ca.). Oil-tempera on wood. 1.70 m x 1.15 approx. Collection K. Wolpe
9. The Four Hours of the Day 1965 Oil-tempera on board (study) 62 x 50 cm. Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
10. Visit to the Catacombs 1966. Oil-tempera and charcoal on gessoed board (in two sections).
Collection K. Wolpe
11. Time to Remember 1966 (ca.). Oil-tempera on board. 55 x 80 cm approx. Collection K. Wolpe
12. Therese of Lisieux 1967. Oil-tempera on canvas 50 x 61 cm. Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
13. Saint Vicent Palotti and his Christ. 1964-68. 180 x 140 cm approx.
Portable mural In 10 sections. Oil-tempera on think card primed with gesso. Collection K. Wolpe
14. The Annunciation 1969. Charcoal tracing on tissue paper from an early study of the subject.
65 x 65 cm . (The painting, in two sections. Collection of Elizabeth Lochner, Austria)
15. The Annunciation 1969-70. Portable mural in 24 sections. 183 x 183 cm
Oil-tempera, and pastels on muslin over gesso primed watercolour paper. Collection K. Wolpe
16. A Letter to the Missions 1974-75 (floor piece in four sections). Oil-tempera and pastels 1.52 x 1.52 m
Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
17. Day and Night 1974-75. Oil-tempera on gesso primed wood. Collection K. Wolpe
18. Head of the Risen Christ in front of His Grave 1973.
Oil-tempera on gessoed watercolour paper 43.3 x 50 cm. Collection K. Wolpe
19. Guardian Angel's Eye 1976. Oil-tempera on gessoed card (study). 20 x 50 cm approx. Collection K. Wolpe
20. Saint Francis de Sales 1977. Oil-tempera on board, 51 x 39.7 cm. Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
21. View of Annecy, 1977. Study for a mural. Oil tempera, pastel and charcoal on 84 x 50 cm card,
primed with gesso (actual image 46 x 32 cm). Collection G. Ramos-Poquí
22. Faith Hope and Charity 1978. Oil-tempera and pastel on gessoes card.
60.7 x 62.7 cm. (study in three sections). Collection K. Wolpe
23. View of Annecy 1979. Mural landscape (in sections). Collection K. Wolpe
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Guillem Ramos-Poquí was born in Barcelona in 1944 where he studied painting in the Fine Art School (1960-65), then moved to Paris (65-66) and New York (67-68), when he was involved in the avant-garde movements of that time: Povera and Conceptual.
He arrived to London in 1968 where he established his residence. In London he studied at the Slade (68-69) and the Royal College for his MA (84-86), and later obtained a PhD in Fine Art Painting from Barcelona University (1990-95). He has regularly exhibited his work which include paintings, assemblages and digital photomontages. His website is: http://www.ramos-poqui.com
In 2001 a book was published about his work as an artist. Prior to that, he had a book published: "The Technique of Icon Painting" (Search Press, 1990), which has been translated into several languages.
In addition to his artwork he has always worked as an art lecturer. From 1990 to 2004 he was Head of Fine Art and Theoretical Studies at Kensington and Chelsea College, London SW10. From 2004 to date, he is teaching Advanced Painting at Morley College, London SE1.
In 1971 Ramos-Poquí met Ola Wolpe and became deeply impressed and inspired by her work as an artist. For four years they had a close artistic friendship and, during his weekly visits to her studio in Hampstead, London, he did extensive research on her ideas about art and methods of working.

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E-mail Contact: Guillem Ramos-Poquí

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Katharina Wolpe obituary
Pianist who played with limpid tone, natural rhythm and clear phrasing
Michael Graubart
The Guardian  Friday 22 February 2013 17.48 GMT
Katharina Wolpe

Katharina Wolpe escaped from Vienna in 1938 and began to play the piano in a refugee camp
The pianist Katharina Wolpe, who has died aged 81, belonged to the last generation of musicians to escape from Nazi Austria and Germany in their youth and to carry with them the Austro-German interpretative tradition. Her first recital, given when she was 16 after arriving in Britain, included the Piano Sonata (1910) by Berg; the composer she identified with most from her early years onwards was Schubert.
She played the other great composers of the first Viennese school – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven – and later, Romantic composers, notably Schumann and Brahms, with limpid tone, natural rhythm and clear phrasing. There was a sense of deep feeling, never imposed on the music, but derived from a profound understanding of its harmonic structure, polyphonic texture and form.
Her perfectly shaped, eloquent playing of the Arietta from Beethoven's last piano sonata and the way the increasingly virtuosic variations built on it sticks in the memory. So does the controlled passion and the strange, almost expressionless serenity that alternated with it in Schubert's three posthumously published piano pieces, D946.
On the way to the second Viennese school, Scriabin on the one hand and Prokofiev on the other provided perhaps surprising detours. But Schoenberg, Berg and Webern were as important in Katharina's musical world as their Viennese predecessors. She had the musical insight and technical command to make their music sound like the natural extension of the earlier classics and romantics into expressionism, and then into a constructivism that remained humanly expressive rather than experimental and cerebral. She was, for instance, one of the few pianists who could reveal the essential lyricism and continuity underlying the apparent fragmentation of Webern's Variations, Opus 27, and to make a single sonata-like structure out of the post-tonal expressivity of the first, the brooding introversion of the second and the virtuosity of the third of Schoenberg's Opus 11 piano pieces.
Katharina was born in Vienna, to Ola Okuniewska, a sensitive and original painter, and the composer and teacher Stefan Wolpe. Her father migrated to Palestine when Katharina was still a small child, and then settled in the US. In 1938, Katharina and her mother escaped from Vienna, remained in hiding for eight months and walked to Serbia, where they stayed in a relative's house before moving on.
Katharina began to play the piano in a refugee camp, later revealing that the music of Schubert had made her not feel homeless, and so kept her in one piece. In Switzerland her mother eventually abandoned her, and Katharina suffered all sorts of vicissitudes and adventures. Eventually she reached Britain, where her mother rejoined her. Katharina married the sculptor and painter William Turnbull and they lived in Paris for two years.
After hearing her play at a London club, Humphrey Bogart paid for her Wigmore Hall debut. As her performing career developed, she also began to teach, eventually taking the advanced piano class at Morley College, London, for many years.
Her Proms debut came with the first performance of a work by Elisabeth Lutyens, Symphonies, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in July 1961. A month later she was back, having learned the Schoenberg Piano Concerto at very short notice when another soloist dropped out, and went on to give Proms performances of concertos by Mozart and Beethoven.
She married the conductor Lawrence Leonard and, when he became the principal conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Alberta (1968-73), she accompanied him to Canada, where she became pianist in residence at the University of Toronto, and taught there frequently after returning to London. Both her marriages ended in divorce.
An eloquent champion of her father's music, Katharina brought out both its roots in the second Viennese school and its multi-faceted modernity, influenced by jazz and other non-classical musics. Iain Hamilton was one of the composers who, along with Lutyens, wrote music especially for her. In later years, her humanitarian politics as well as her love of all the arts led her to form a performing partnership with Vanessa Redgrave.
Katharina was wonderful company, a warm and generous woman who will be missed by her many friends, colleagues and students.
• Katharina Wolpe, pianist, born 9 September 1931; died 9 February 2013
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Katharina Wolpe
The Times. Obituaries

Katharina Wolpe
February 26 2013
Concert pianist who fled Vienna before the war and became a regular BBC recitalist of both avant garde and classical repertoire
Katharina Wolpe survived a lonely refugee childhood to become a distinguished pianist and teacher. Forced from her home by the Nazi occupation of Austria, she endured years of privation before making her way to London, where she became known for her refined interpretations of two centuries of Viennese music. Her first and abiding love was the piano works of Schubert, but she was also renowned for her performances of Schoenberg and for her advocacy of the music of her father, the composer Stefan Wolpe. .......(complete text available from The Times)