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- © Estate of Theodore Roszak/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
- 20th Century American Sculpture
- Cradle Song , 1956
- steel brazed with copper and silver-nickel
- 96 in. x 66 in. x 47 1/2 in. (243.84 cm x 167.64 cm x 120.65 cm)
- Museum Purchase: The Henry Melville Fuller Acquisition Fund, 2004.19
- Not on View
Click on the links below for more information:
Interpretive text from 2004, Exploring American Art: An Online Resource for the American Collections
Although he began his career as a promising academic painter, Theodore Roszak is today best known for his Abstract Expressionist sculpture. Born in 1907 in Poznan, Poland, Roszak came with his family to the United States when he was two years old. Growing up in Chicago, he was encouraged in his early love of art and music, and by 1922 he was enrolled in evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Becoming a full-time student in 1925, Roszak excelled in his coursework; a year later he went to New York to continue his studies at the National Academy of Design and privately with the noted Ashcan School painter George Luks (c. 1866-1933). New York proved unsatisfactory to the young artist, however, and he was soon back in Chicago. There he held his first one-person show, an exhibition of lithographs, at the Allerton Gallery in 1928.
In 1929 Roszak won a two-year fellowship that enabled him to live and work in Europe. Settling first in Prague and then in Paris, Roszak discovered and quickly absorbed various modernist movements ranging from Constructivism to Surrealism. Back in the United States by 1931, he established a studio on Staten Island, New York, and began to make abstract sculptural compositions first in plaster and clay, and then in metal. His designs of the 1930s and early 1940s were largely based on Constructivist principles, but after about 1945 Roszak's work became freer and more organic in nature. Rather than alluding to machines and industrial artifacts as it had earlier, it began to invoke natural forms such as bones, plants, and rocks. At the same time, it took on an increasingly monumental and mythic quality. By the 1950s Roszak was regarded among America's leading Abstract Expressionist sculptors. In 1956, the year he made Cradle Song, he completed a major commission for the spire and bell tower of the chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Other important public works include sculptures for the façade of the American Embassy in London (1960) and the New York Public Health Laboratory (1968). Roszak died in New York City in 1981.
Made of steel brazed with copper and silver-nickel, Cradle Song exemplifies the richly allusive abstract sculpture that established Roszak's reputation in the years after World War II. With its pockmarked, meteoritic surfaces and repeated crescent moon motifs, the composition suggests themes drawn from space and science fiction; at the same time, the curving and twisting shapes seem organic in nature, reminiscent of ribs and pelvic bones. Some of the metal appendages terminate in funguslike dish forms, adding a strange botanic dimension to the work. Unifying all of this disparate imagery, however, is a sense of sweeping dynamism that animates the whole, giving the sculpture a buoyant air that counteracts the heaviness of its material.
In much of Roszak's later sculpture, including Cradle Song, the combination of animate and inanimate references is a deliberate balancing act on the part of the artist. For Roszak, allusions to airless alien worlds, meteorite impacts, and bones represent the forces of destruction, while plant forms and a sense of burgeoning energy embody the forces of generation. Inherently cosmic in scope, these two poles fit neatly within the mythic and quasi-sublime ethos that informed Abstract Expressionist painting. Similarly grandiose ideas appear, for instance, in Adolph Gottlieb's From Midnight to Dawn (q.v.), dating also to 1956.
The Currier's Cradle Song was one of Roszak's most ambitious sculptures. Included as a major work in his 1956 retrospective exhibition held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, it was later sent to the Venice Biennale of 1960, where Roszak was one of four artists chosen to represent the United States. Two other versions of Cradle Song exist. The earliest, produced a year before the Currier version, is presently in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The third, entitled Cradle Song Variation No. 2, was specially commissioned by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and was completed in 1959-1960. Numerous preparatory drawings were made as part of the sculptures' creation, and in addition to Cradle Song, the Currier Museum of Art possesses several pen-and-ink studies for the work.
Cradle Song was purchased by the Currier Museum of Art in 2004.
John R. Lane and Susan C. Larsen, eds. Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, 1927-1944. Ex. cat. Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, 1983.
Notes in artist file, Currier Museum of Art.
1956-1957 "Theodore Roszak." Organized by Whitney Museum of American Art. Traveled to: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, June 18 - Nov. 11, 1956; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, Dec. 16, 1956 - Jan. 20, 1957; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 13 - Mar. 17, 1957; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Fransisco, CA, April 4 - May 26, 1957; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, June 12 - Aug. 11, 1957.
1960 Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy.
1994 Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, NY, "Theodore Roszak, Sculpture and Drawings, 1942-1963." Sept. 24 - Oct. 26, cat. no. 7.
2010-2011 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, "The Secret Life of Art: Mysteries of the Museum Revealed." Oct. 2, 2010 – Jan. 9, 2011.
Estate of the Artist
G. W. Einstein Company, Inc., New York, NY
Purchased by Currier Museum of Art, 2004
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.10)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.11)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.12)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.13)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.14)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.15)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.16)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.17)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.18)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.19)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.3)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.20)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.21)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.22)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.23)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.24)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.25)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.26)
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- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.29)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.1)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.30)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.31)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.32)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.33)
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- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.35)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.2)
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- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.7)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.8)
- Untitled - Theodore Roszak (2004.48.9)
The information presented here is reviewed regularly and may change as result of ongoing research.