Man Walking, 1952
59 1/8 x 41 3/4 in. (150.2 x 106 cm)
Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation
© Belvedere, Wien / Vienna
Photo by Jerry L. Thompson
In 1945 Fritz Wotruba returned to his war-ravished native city of Vienna, having fled to Switzerland during World War II. Countering the uncertainty of the time, he emphasized clarity and uncompromising rigor, the need for increasing concentration, radicalization, and avoidance of beauty. He also worked to reclaim the figure for art, following more than two decades when figurative realism was manipulated to support fascist and Nazi ideals. “The human figure, now as much as ever,” he stated in 1959, “remains for me the starting point of my work; it stands at the beginning and will stand at the end.” Wotruba progressed from figurative cubic structures, such as Man Walking, which strides confidently despite the blocky mass in which it is encased, to slender columnar figures and, by the 1960s, to vertical constructions. Throughout his career Wotruba maintained deep ties with artists, architects, composers, and philosophers—often acting as a nexus for artistic and intellectual communities. Among his pupils was Josef Pillhofer. Works by both artists were acquired by co-founder Ralph E. Ogden early on in Storm King’s history.