In Focus

The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952 by Theodore Roszak

This small model for an unrealised monument was the first work of post-war American sculpture to enter Tate’s collection.

Theodore Roszak, The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952

Theodore Roszak
The Unknown Political Prisoner (Defiant and Triumphant) 1952
371 x 476 x 229 mm
Tate N06163
© Theodore Roszak/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2018

Purchased by Tate in 1953, this steel maquette by Theodore Roszak (1907–1981) was submitted to a major international sculpture competition on the theme of the ‘unknown political prisoner’. Selected as one of the finalists, the sculpture is exemplary of the strange, creature-like forms that Roszak became famous for in the 1950s.

This In Focus explores the origins of the work’s forms through a series of drawings that were presented to Tate in 2015, and considers its connections to the politics of Cold War diplomacy, the traditions of the monument, and the visual cultures of popular science fiction. The study also foregrounds the social ambitions that underpinned Roszak’s work, and argues that his distinctive hybrid forms demand renewed scholarly attention.

Published in March 2019, the project is authored by Alex J. Taylor (University of Pittsburgh, formerly Terra Foundation Research Fellow in American Art, Tate) with a contribution by Robert Slifkin (New York University).

This In Focus project was made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

ISBN 978-1-84976-427-8