Fritz Wotruba


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(b Vienna, 23 Apr. 1907; d Vienna, 28 Aug. 1975).

The leading Austrian sculptor of the 20th century. His masterly craftsmanship won him acclaim from early in his career, as when his work was shown in an exhibition of Austrian art in Paris in 1929: Aristide Maillol is said to have refused to believe that such sculpture could have been done by a 22-year-old. In his most characteristic works he carved directly in stone, preferring a hard stone with a coarse texture. His early pieces were in a naturalistic style reminiscent of Maillol, but he moved towards abstraction by reducing his figures to bare essentials. His approach was similar to Brancusi's, but in contrast to Brancusi's smooth, subtle abstractions, Wotruba's figures are solid, block-like structures. They were left in a rough state, creating a feeling of primitive power (Feminine Rock, 1947–8, Middelheim Open-Air Mus. of Sculpture, Antwerp). Wotruba also worked in bronze, and near the end of his life he branched out into architecture, designing the church of the Holy Trinity on the outskirts of Vienna (constructed 1974–6). After the Second World War he taught at the Vienna Academy and his work was admired and imitated by many younger Austrian artists, bringing about a revival of sculpture in his country.

Subjects: Art.

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