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Biography

Theodore Roszak’s paternal family were farmers in Poland. His mother, a dress designer at the Berlin Hohenzollern court, came from an artistic and intellectual family which included members gifted in music, the fine arts, and mathematics. Roszak emigrated from Poznan, Poland, to Chicago when he was two years old. His early passion was for music. Forced in adolescence to choose between a serious study of music or fine art, he chose art, but music remained an important presence in his life and his work. Most of Roszak’s art training was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was a star pupil through the decade of the 1920s. He spent a brief period of time in New York in 1925–26, where he studied art with Charles Hawthorne and George Luks, and also philosophy at Columbia University. 

In 1929, Roszak was awarded the prestigious Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship to travel in Europe. The experience was transformative, as Roszak began to incorporate bits and pieces of diverse influences into his own unique style. He was greatly influenced by Italian Quattrocento art, as well as by the distinctive surrealism of Georgio de Chirico, new developments in film, and futurist architecture.

Roszak returned from Europe in 1931 and established a studio in Staten Island, New York. He soon began working on a series of constructions, abstract sculptures made of wood, plaster, and metal, that he undertook until about 1945. The constructions produced during this period range from small-scale reliefs to free-standing, futuristic towers and strange, anthropomorphic machines. These works reflect his growing fascination with surrealism, constructivism, technology, the urban metropolis, and sculpture. 

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