Carl Frederik Reuterswärd

Portrait of Infinity


Carl Frederik Reuterswärd born 1934
Original title
Portrait de l'infini
Object: 70 x 749 x 67 mm
Presented by Jean Pierre Cottier 1980

Not on display

Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Bronze, 2 3/4 × 29 1/2 × 2 5/8 (7 × 74.9 × 6.6)
Presented by Jean Pierre Cottier 1980
Prov: Jean Pierre Cottier, Lausanne (purchased from the artist)

The artist states that ‘Portrait of Infinity’ was cast in an edition of four. This bronze is no.2 and is the only one in a public collection; the other three all belong to friends.

He made it first in plastic (cast from an actual ruler), which he was able to heat and make pliable, then made a mould of the plastic and from this the bronze. Though the figures were marked on the plastic, they only appeared as vague impressions on the bronze and he had to reinforce them afterwards with a metal stamper.

There are several other works with knots, including a pencil, a horseshoe and a fencing sword. All the ideas for knots date from 1962 or 1963. The ruler was planned in 1963 but he had no opportunity to make it then as the plastics industry was insufficiently developed.

The pencil and the ruler were the first-they were the nearest tools on the table. ‘Medium's Memory’ (the title of the knotted pencil) was chosen to suggest that the tools also have a memory. The ruler has been reduced to less than 80cm. when knotted and was originally 100cm. Perhaps it too has a wish to regain its original length. The ideas behind these works, related to memory and time (see also his marble plaque ‘Exercise’ 1963 with the cancelled inscription ‘You are reading what I have censored’), were influenced by the writings of Wittgenstein, which became very influential in the early 1960s.

He got to know Marcel Duchamp and his work through acting in 1961 as Ulf Linde's assistant in the making of the Stockholm copy of Duchamp's ‘Large Glass’, and acknowledges a debt to him. He has also been much influenced, in a negative way, by the commercialisation of the contemporary art market, which has led him to produce various satires on the market and dealers (including the invention of an imaginary dealer called Pratt-Müller, who specialises in selling artists' signatures) and this has also stimulated him to explore different media and make many changes of style in order not to have an immediately recognisable ‘saleable’ style.

(Information from the artist, 8 December 1980.)

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984