Theodore Roszak Biography

Theodore Roszak




Theodor Roszak was born on May 1, 1907 in Poznan, Poland. The family moved to the United States in 1909 and settled in Chicago, Illinois where there is a large Polish community. While in high school in 1922 he began attending evening classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduating from high school in 1924 he became a full-time day student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1926 Roszak traveled to New York where he studied briefly with Charles Hawthorne at the National Academy of Design, after which he began private instruction with George Luks. In 1927/28 he moved back to Chicago and resumed studies at the Art Institute with John Norton.

He joined the faculty at the Art Institute as a part-time instructor of drawing and lithography. He was awarded an American Traveling Fellowship of $250, which enabled him to visit museums on the East Coast and to practice lithography in Woodstock, New York. Upon his return to Chicago, he was appointed full-time instructor of drawing and lithography at the Art Institute.

In 1929/30, supported by a $1500 Anna Louise Fellowship for European Study, he spent eighteen months abroad. In Europe he discovered the work of Giorgio de Chirico and was introduced to Bauhaus ideology by Czech industrial artists and Moholy-Nagy’s The New Vision. He acquired an appreciation of Cubism, Surrealism, and Constructivism. He returned to New York and the Great Depression.

In 1934 he moved to 241 East Thirty-third Street in Manhattan, where he established a studio, finding employment through government-sponsored projects instituted by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After buying a lathe he began to devote more time to sculpture, creating pristine objects and reliefs reminiscent of the polished metal constructions of Bauhaus artists such as Moholy-Nagy, Rudolf Belling, and Oskar Schlemmer.

After a two-year stint on the faculty of the Laboratory School of Industrial Design, originally the Design Laboratory, a tuition-free school of design sponsored by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, he took a job in 1940 at the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, Newark, New Jersey, designing aircraft (including an experimental bomber) and teaching aircraft mechanics at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Throughout the 1940s through the 1960s Roszak continued to execute commissions, exhibit and teach. In 1960 he was commissioned by Eero Saarinen to fabricate a thirty-seven-foot, two thousand pound aluminum eagle for the front facade of the American Embassy in Grosvener Square, London. He also executed another eagle for the Federal Court House, New York. In 1978 Zabriskie Gallery, New York, presented an exhibition of his constructions dating from 1932 to 1945.

Theodore Roszak died in New York on September 2, 1981