News 2018

Oskar Moll and the daughter of art historian Wilhelm Waetzoldt


Girl reading, with red jacket. 1925
Oil on canvas
100 x 75 cm
Signed , marked and dated bottom left: Oskar Moll / Levanto 25
Privately owned


During his years at the Wrocław Academy, Oskar Moll maintained active contact with notable German art historians, including Wilhelm Pinder, who taught at Wrocław University in 1916 and 1919, August Grisebach, professor of art history at the same university, Heinz Braune, director of the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in Wrocław, and Wilhelm Waetzoldt, with whom his friendship was probably closer. At least, as Italophiles the two used to visit each other when Waetzoldt was staying in Florence and Moll was relaxing in Levanto. When in 1927 Waetzoldt was appointed director general of the State Museums of Berlin – a function in which he promoted particularly modern art – the successful still-life and landscape painter was no stranger to him.

In 1925, during a spring sojourn in Levanto, and six months before his official appointment as director of the Wrocław Academy, Moll  painted his Girl reading, with red jacket. The model was Waetzoldt's 15-year-old daughter Ursula, sitting in a room beside an open window with a view over the azure sea. Appearing very adult, she is holding an open book, from which she looks up attentively at the viewer. The primary colours of her short blonde hair, red jacket and blue skirt stand out in contrast against the green shades of the flowered background.

In later years, after having five children from two marriages, Ursula was to start an eminent career as a military historian. Between 1958 and 1977, now with a history doctorate and under her married name von Gersdorff, she published papers on military history at the  Military History Research Office in Freiburg im Breisgau. Her profound treatise on "Women in military service"  was highly acclaimed in specialist circles.

More than ninety years after it was painted, her portrait appeared for the first time on the German art market, most recently on 1 December 2017, at an auction by Lempertz in Cologne, where it was not sold. The Girl reading, with red jacket seems to attract little attention outside the family history. For Moll, however, this charming portrait stands at the beginning of a series of interesting wives of Wrocław artists – such as Ilse Molzahn, Else Muche and Inge von Mandel.