Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Metaphysical Structure

  • Artist:

    Roszak, Theodore

  • Artist Bio:

    American (born in Poland), 1907–1981

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    ContГ© crayon, gouache, ink, and graphite

  • Dimensions:

    22 1/2 x 15 5/8 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Friends of the Wichita Art Museum

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

In the period immediately following his return in 1931 from a two-year study trip to Europe, the young American artist Theodore Roszak designed and ex­ecuted his first major sculptures in plaster. One of these, titled Metaphysical Structure or Musical Elements as Architectural Forms, consisted of a combination of biomorphic mechanical and musically derived images incongruously arranged as an architectural construc­tion. The work was more a comment on the nature of existence from the standpoint of the reality and function of the human mind than an architecturally inspired model. Regrettably, the original plaster has been destroyed, but the drawing shown here and dated 1933 is an interesting study from which the plaster itself was apparently designed.

Compositionally, this drawing is a pyramidal ar­rangement of forms rising from a broad base to a ver­tical tower-like member that terminates with three nar­row cylindrical tubes at the peak of the composition. Neither the forms nor the functions are fully interpretable. Yet many do clearly suggest musical in­struments as, for example, the tuba-like massing of the composition, the violin headstock, the lid of a grand piano, the pipes, tubes and valves, and the strings which appear to integrate and stabilize the compositional members and at the same time bring to mind the strings of a violin or lyre.

What is most significant, however, is the fact that this work is a highly personal statement consisting of forms which for the most part lie outside the realm of everyday experience yet, at the same time, appear vaguely familiar and, in the eye of the observer, stimulate a kind of emotional pull, an erotic appeal by virtue of the delicate color tones, the refined modeling and the soft and   smooth interlocking surfaces represented. Moreover, the strangely enchanting familiarity of both the elements and relationships invites our contemplation and brings to the conscious level of our minds the recollections of forgotten events and experiences ap­parently stored in our subconscious. Indeed, this work is veritably charged with mystery and magic and clearly illustrates how a work of art might lack all traditional subject matter and appear to be entirely meaningless, yet nevertheless can possess pure visual and tactile poetry as well as powerful forces of psychic suggestion.

Although with this drawing there is a sense of ex­istence in a three-dimensional space, the net result is ac­tually the production of an entirely new creation which does not exist in the world of everyday experience except in the form of the art object itself as brought into being by the artist. These characteristic features embody essential aspects of the system of surrealist thought which had developed by the mid-1920s and which by the early 1930s found expression in much American paint­ing and sculpture.

Theodore Roszak was born in Poznan, Poland in 1907 and was brought to the United States by his family in 1909. He studied at Art Institute of Chicago. In 1929 he was awarded an Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship for European study. It was in Europe that he first discovered contemporary art and where he was especial­ly influenced by the teachings of the Bauhaus. Today Roszak is best remembered for his post World War II sculptures. Yet his paintings and his constructions ex­ecuted during the 1930s are among his most significant and indeed most creatively exciting works. Roszak died at his home in New York City in 1981.