The Nietsche Collection (MS 75) is a small but varied collection of mostly personal items belonging to Ukrainian artist Paul Nietsche (1885-1950). While Nietsche spent most of his adult life travelling around, he lived out his final years in Belfast. Purchased at auction by Special Collections and Archives in 2020, it comprises:
- Three photographs, including two framed photo portraits of Nietsche
- Two notebooks belonging to Nietsche, which include lists of some of his portrait clients
- Ink stamp of Nietsche’s face and signature
- Various pamphlet brochures that accompanied some of Nietsche’s exhibitions in later years
- Series of miscellaneous notelets.
Paul Nietsche was born to German parents in Kiev, Ukraine on 17 June 1885. His father was an amateur painter who went on to establish a lithographic printing business in Odessa. Following in his father’s artistic footsteps, Paul studied at the Imperial Art Academy, Odessa and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
After moving to Berlin around 1920 to join his family who had already settled there, Nietsche met and befriended Dr Michael O’Brien, an Irish professor who became a lecturer in English at the University of Leipzig. When O’Brien accepted a lecturing post in Celtic Studies at Queen’s University Belfast in 1926, it was at his invitation that Nietsche first visited Northern Ireland to exhibit his work.
Although his career subsequently took him around Europe and North America for many years, Nietsche eventually settled in Belfast, where he continued to live and work until his death in 1950. He was briefly interned on the Isle of Man during the Second World War due to his German parentage, but was still able to produce portrait drawings of his fellow-internees. When he returned to Belfast from internment, he rented an attic studio on the Dublin Road.
His exhibited artwork consisted mostly of landscapes, portraits and still-life studies. He was also interested in writing poetry, short stories and plays. His poem “A Vision” was published in Rann: An Ulster Quarterly of Poetry.
Fluent in Russian, German, English and French, Nietsche was known to have been an eccentric character but was often surrounded by his many friends, amongst whom were other artists, writers, actors, businessmen and teachers.
He died in the City Hospital on 4 October 1950 from an ongoing illness, and is buried in Belfast City Cemetery.
The listing for this manuscript can now be consulted on the Special Collections and Archives webpages. Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to consult any materials in this collection.