Theodore Roszak

The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant)

1952

Medium
Steel
Dimensions
Object: 371 x 476 x 229 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1953
Reference
N06163

Display caption

This maquette was made for an international competition on the subject of 'The Unknown Political Prisoner'. The competition was designed to promote interest in contemporary sculpture as well as 'to commemorate all those unknown men and women who in our time have been deprived of their lives or their liberty in the cause of human freedom'. The artist wrote about this work: 'in thinking about the forms for the maquette, I was strongly motivated by the moral and social values implicit in the subject. In this instance, I envisioned the individual as politically committed either by accident or design against tyranny and oppression.' However, he depicted the individual as ultimately triumphant against this oppression.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Theodore Roszak born 1907 [- 1981]

N06163 The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952

Not inscribed
Steel brazed with nickel-silver, 14 5/8 x 18 3/4 x 9 (37.2 x 47.5 x 23) excluding wood and steel base; height including base 16 1/8 (41)
Purchased from the International Sculpture Competition (Grant-in-Aid) 1953
Exh: International Sculpture Competition: The Unknown Political Prisoner (American Preliminary Exhibition), Museum of Modern Art, New York, January-February 1953 (11); International Sculpture Competition: The Unknown Political Prisoner, Tate Gallery, March-May 1953 (35); Theodore Roszak, Whitney Museum, New York, September-November 1956 (12, repr. p.45); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, December 1956-January 1957 (12, repr. p.45); Los Angeles County Museum, February-March 1957 (12, repr. p.45); San Francisco Museum of Art, April-May 1957 (12, repr. p.45); Seattle Art Museum, June-August 1957 (12, repr. p.45)
Repr: Art News, LI, February 1953, p.20; Art Digest, XXVII, February 1953, p.9

For particulars of the International Sculpture Competition: The Unknown
Political Prisoner see the note on the maquette by Consagra [N06166]. In a letter of 28 April 1953 to the Organiser, Anthony J.T. Kloman, Roszak wrote of his entry:

'In thinking about the forms for the maquette, I was strongly motivated by the moral and social values implicit in the subject ... In this instance, I envisioned the individual as politically committed either by accident or design against tyranny and oppression.

'While we have history to attest to the endless forms of human incarceration as a reward for "sinning" against the state, we have, nevertheless, witnessed the slow and hard won gains of those beliefs that have been sustained ... ultimately finding varying degrees of integration within the social structure. This clearly indicates to me not only the vindication of an individual morality, but the force with which ideas break through, however belatedly, and triumphantly assert themselves upon society as a whole.

'In focusing my attention on this aspect of the theme, I tried to arrive at a corresponding equivalent that I hope in some measure has come through in the forms of my submitted entry.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.653-4, reproduced p.653