Ingeborg (Inga) Svar Lauterstein was not only a visual artist, but also a noted author. She won acclaim for her novels which were based on her experiences growing up in Nazi-era Austria.

Lauterstein was born in Vienna but was sent to the United Kingdom for her safety, where she attended Morrison’s Academy in Creiff, Scotland. She was accepted at the Glasgow School of Art and during the summers supported herself by working as an assistant to a veterinarian. Following the war, Lauterstein went to Salzburg, Austria and worked with Oskar Kokoschka, a highly respected expressionist painter who also wrote plays and poems.

In 1948 Lauterstein traveled to the United States to study at Black Mountain College near Asheville, taking courses in color theory with Josef Albers and becoming good friends with Robert Rauschenberg. A photograph shows him dressing her in a unicorn Mardi Gras costume he devised for his sister, Janet. Later, when Inga married Lincoln Lauterstein, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Opera, Rauschenberg designed her wedding dress. She was also close to Sewell Sillman, who like her, was influenced by Albers; both used bright colors in their paintings, often without texture. 

Lauterstein’s year at BMC had a significant impact on her, as she described: “Black Mountain College remains the safest place I have ever known. It was far removed from political events, war, threat of invasion and more war. Students and faculty had constructed the study building, which shimmered by our lake as though it might drift away. Snapping turtles sunned themselves on the rocks. I hiked through the North Carolina woods with Professor Dehn, the German mathematician and philosopher who came from Harvard University to lecture to us. He showed me wild orchids I had never seen before, as well as snakes and a bear near a waterfall. In spite of the unavoidable conflict in a democratic setting, Europeans who had come away from danger had a special need to keep a safe, orderly community. Several students had been there for eight or nine years when I arrived. Even the Josef Albers paintings seemed to me carefully and geometrically designed. Closer to science than art.”

While Albers influenced her painting, the most powerful influence on Lauterstein at Black Mountain College was Charles Olson, a modernist poet. He encouraged her writing which she pursued further at The New School for Social Research in New York. She worked as a buyer for a department store and then became an instructor and a principal at a progressive school for children in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York. 

With her family, Lauterstein moved to Rockport, Massachusetts in the 1970s, where she wrote historical fiction reflecting her own background. The Water Castle deals with love involving a Jewish man who must flee as the Third Reich takes control. Another book was reviewed in The New York Times: “Vienna Girl (her second novel) describes a world in which old myths have been literally exploded and new ones are yet to take their place. Events and characters are developed through continual ironies and reversals that undercut any interpretation that might begin to seem tenable. These convolutions describe a miasmic interconnectedness in events and ideas, which has a terrible feeling of truth about it. History is itself a narrative, and everything depends on who does the telling.”

In her later years in Rockport, Lauterstein devoted time to the Boston Author’s Club, working to create awards for young and emerging writers, as well as enjoying time in her writer’s cottage continuing her work on an unfinished autobiography.