Between Rodin and Przybyszewski. Edward Wittig's Dionysian Classicism
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The paper outlines the Parisian period (1900-1914) in the activity of Edward Wittig, a well-known sculptor of the period between the two world wars. At that time a decisive influence on the young artist's imagination and sculptural language was exerted by the work of Auguste Rodin (assimilated in the workshop of Rodin's pupil Marguerite Jouvray and Lucien Schnegg's atelier) in conjunction with the impulses coming from the circle of Stanislaw Przybyszewski. It was to Rodin that Wittig owed a symbolic, freely moulded form as well as a tremendous intensity of expressiveness achieved by modelling the entire figure, by showing the tension and contraction of each muscle. This characteristic mode of depicting the emotional expression of a sculpture through the play of the body appeared in, among other works, his 'Burden' (1902/1903) and 'Nostalgia' (1903). The psychological air was 'supplemented' in an equally suggestive manner by the stooped figures of 'Destiny' (1903), 'Despair', and 'Mourner'. Likewise, 'Anxiety' (c. 1904) remained within the range of Rodin's direct influence as one more interpretation of the French sculptor's 'Danaides' theme (1885). The female nude of a supple, slender figure and the face covered with her hair, who is clinging to the ground, brings to mind yet another sculpture by Wittig - 'Youth' (1907). His 'Woman in a Pensive Mood' reveals the same source of inspiration; it takes up Rodin's famous 'non finito' motif, a figure emerging from the rough block of marble in which fragments of the sculpture are still buried. In some of Wittig's sculptures we can find obvious echoes of the philosophies of Stanislaw Przybyszewski and Otto Weininger, while other works betray his fascination with Nietzsche. Inextricably involved in their epoch, they excellently reflect the overlapping of diverse relations. Nevertheless, Wittig succeeded in giving his sculptures the stamp of individuality. His symbolism based on the popular leitmotivs of the epoch was accompanied in the formal aspect by moderation and an intellectual command of media. This can be very well seen even in the works which evidently had their origins in the Young Poland movement, such as 'Destiny', 'Sphinx', 'Challenge' or 'Idol', which despite their small sizes evoke the impression of monumental enclosed compositional spaces. The turn of 1907 and 1908 witnessed the artist's growing tendency to replace his characteristic flowing, free line by the moulding of a sculpture on the basis of precise, mathematical calculations. In 1908 Wittig sculptured 'Awakening', a work which in terms of stylistic changes constituted a kind of turning point in his oeuvre, closing the period of Rodin's inspiring influence.
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