Collection ID: 2021_0012

Collection context


Schwerin, Ricarda, 1912-1999
Ricarda Schwerin (1912-1999), photographer and active communist, took a series of black and white photographs of Greek architecture, likely taken in 1963, while Schwerin was travelling with Hannah Arendt. She later gifted prints of these photographs to Arendt. The photographs probably came to Bard with Arendt’s library, which was gifted to Bard after her death in 1975.
1 half document box and 2.5 linear feet
English German


Scope and Content:

The Ricarda Schwerin Photograph Collection consists of approximately seventy 9.25 x 12 black and white photographic prints from Schwerin’s trip to Greece in 1963. The subject matter of the prints pertains predominantly to ancient Greek architecture, with some photographs of Greek coins. The collection also includes a small paperback book, Vom Bauhaus nach Palästina. Chanan Frenkel, Ricarda und Heinz Schwerin. Photos from this collection, along with a portrait of Arendt by Schwerin, are on pages 122 - 128.

Biographical / Historical:

Ricarda Schwerin (1912-1999), was a photographer and an active Communist. She was born with the name Ricarda Meltzer, on January 30, 1912, in Göttingen, Germany. Meltzer started her studies in photography at age 18 at the Bauhaus in Dessau during the summer of 1930, where she studied under Walter Peterhans. She was subsequently banned from continuing her studies in the spring of 1932 along with other openly Communist students, including her future husband, Heinz Schwerin. Meltzer and Schwerin moved to Frankfurt am Main to continue their studies at the College of Fine Art and Applied Art, but soon after fled to Prague because Schwerin was arrested for the illegal distribution of Communist propaganda. For a time the couple ran an advertising agency in Prague called ‘Hammer und Pinsel.’ They then emigrated to Switzerland, and then to Pécs, Hungary, where they married in 1935. In August of that year they emigrated once again, as refugees, to Palestine where they created 'Schwerin Wooden Toys' workshop in 1936. The couple had two children, a daughter Jutta and son Tom, born in Jerusalem in 1941 and 1948 respectively.

Following her husband’s death in 1948, Ricarda Schwerin opened a privately run home for refugee children while also returning to her passion for photography. For nearly 20 years she collaborated with Alfred Bernheim, eventually becoming involved with him romantically. The two published a photo book titled ‘Jerusalem – Rock of Ages’ in 1969, and Schwerin independently had a successful photographic career. Her works included photos in the children’s books 'Sippurim LeNivi' (stories for Nivi) and 'Nono,' as well as a photographic collection on contemporary Israeli architecture in the cultural magazine ‘Ariel.’

Ricarda Schwerin came to know Hannah Arendt during Arendt’s visit to Jerusalem in 1961. The women became well acquainted, and Schwerin made some portrait photographs for Arendt. In 1963 the two women took a trip to Greece, accompanied by Heinrich Blücher and Charlotte Beradt. During this trip Schwerin created a series of photographs that she later sent to Arendt and Blücher.

The collection also includes a small “pocket book” exhibition catalog, Vom Bauhaus nach Palästina. Chanan Frenkel, Ricarda und Heinz Schwerin given to the archives by the author in 2013. Photos from this collection, along with a portrait of Arendt by Schwerin, are on pages 122 - 128.

Sources: with the Bard Archivist via email from Ines Sonder at the University of Potsdam.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: a Content Standard



This collection is available for viewing in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Stevenson Library, Bard College.


Copyright is undetermined. Please see Archivist.

Stevenson Library
1 Library Road
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504, United States