Portrait artist, painter (female), still-life painter (female) and landscape artist
Roederstein was born in Zurich in 1859 to German parents. There she took her first painting lessons in 1876 – against her mother’s will. In 1879, she joined her sister Johanna in Berlin and continued her training with the acclaimed portrait painter Carl Gussow. Like many of her colleagues, she left for Paris in the autumn of 1882. There she joined the ladies’ studio of Carolus Duran and Jean-Jacques Henner, both renowned portrait painters. She also worked with the history painter Luc-Olivier Merson and studied nude painting in privately organised evening classes. Roederstein frequented the same circle of friends as the now better-known artists Louise Breslau and Ida Gerhardi. She celebrated early successes at the Paris Salon and was awarded silver medals at the World Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900. In 1887, she returned to Zurich. However, Roederstein continued to maintain her studio in the metropolis on the Seine, working and exhibiting there for several months a yearIn 1891, Roederstein settled in Frankfurt am Main with her partner, the gynaecologist and surgeon Elisabeth H. Winterhalter, who took over a practice in the newly founded hospital Vaterländischer Frauenverein. She was active in the Frankfurt women’s movement for better educational opportunities for girls and young women. Roederstein quickly gained a large circle of clients in Frankfurt and set up a studio at the Städel art school in 1892. There she gave painting lessons to young women artists. She maintained close contacts with Karl von Pidoll and Hans Thoma, her colleagues at the Städel School. Then, in 1902, her application for Swiss citizenship was granted. Nevertheless, Frankfurt remained the centre of her life. She became a member of the Frankfurt-Cronberg Artists’ Association, to which Jakob Nussbaum and Wilhelm Trübner also belonged. Until its dissolution in 1909/10, Roederstein exhibited several times with the association. In 1909, Roederstein and Winterhalter moved to Hofheim am Taunus and, shortly afterwards, she gave up her studio at the Städelschule. At the international art exhibition of the Sonderbund in Cologne in 1912, she represented Switzerland – as the only female artist alongside her male colleagues such as Giovanni Giacometti, Ferdinand Hodler and Cuno Amiet. In 1913, the Frauenkunstverband (Women’s Art Association) was founded in Frankfurt, of which Roederstein became a member of the main board. It campaigned for female artists to be trained on equal terms with their male colleagues and for women to be admitted to art academies. During the First World War, the artist increasingly withdrew into the privacy of her Hofheim estate. She had to give up her Paris studio, as it had become impossible for her to leave for France. Exhibition opportunities also dwindled. As early as 1920, Roederstein bequeathed her own important collection of French paintings to the Kunsthaus Zürich. In 1929, on the occasion of her 70th birthday, a large anniversary exhibition was held at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and Hofheim declared both her and her partner an honorary citizen on this occasion. The Nazi takeover in 1933 as well as the increasing disenfranchisement and persecution of her Jewish friends and colleagues shake the artist deeply. As a result of the Gleichschaltung (co-ordination) of art and society, she is also subject to state control and has to come to terms with the new system in order to be able to continue working as an artist. On November 26th, 1937, Ottilie W. Roederstein dies of a heart condition in Hofheim am Taunus.
In 2019, the Städel Museum received the generous private donation of the extensive legacy left behind by the artist Ottilie W. Roederstein (1859–1937). These exceptional archival holdings are now undergoing thorough scholarly systemization and study at the museum with the aim of making them accessible to the public. The written and pictorial material dates from throughout the artist’s biography and career.