Sunday, March 25, 2007

Art Blogging: Albin Polasek

After church yesterday, my wife and I visited the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in a suburb of Orlando. It is a lovely little museum built from the home and studio of the artist, a Czech-American sculptor and teacher who lived from 1879 to 1965. Polasek was born in what is now the Czech Republic and showed an early talent for art. He immigrated to the US at the age of 22 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He won the Prix de Rome in 1910 and relocated to New York City. In 1916, he took at teaching position at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he remained for thirty years. Chicago features many of his monumental sculptures. In 1950 he moved to Winter Park, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, and married. After his death, his home was converted into a museum dedicated to his work.

Man Carving His Own Image. Polasek saw America as a land of unparalleled freedom and opportunity. This sculpture is a tribute to his adopted country. He wrote: "I am like a piece of rock which has been broken off of the Carpathian Mountains in the heart of Czechoslovakia. Later this crude stone was transported to the Land of the Free: the United States of America. This block of stone was myself. Through the opportunities that this country gave me, I started to carve out my destiny, to free myself from the rock so that I might be useful. No one knows the deep gratitude I feel for all that I have received. So if, as an immigrant, I have been able to contribute to some small part of American life, I know that I owe it to the opportunities this country has afforded me."

Emily Fountain. Polasek's wife died within two years of their marriage. This is his wedding present to his second wife, Emily. It depicts her, although obviously not the body of a 62-year old woman. The water flows out in rivulets where the harp strings would be. It is a beautiful work of devoted love from a husband to his wife.

Eternal Moment. Striding through the garden with my wife, hand in hand, I could not help but empathize with this work.

Forest Idyll.

The Sower. My favorite of Polasek's works (beyond his explicitly anti-Communist compositions, which push all of my ideological buttons), this immense bronze sculpture shows perfect classical depiction and fluid movement. The viewer gets the sense that the sower is about to walk out of the garden.


Hypatia 370 said...

My extended family visited the Polasek museum a few years ago at Christmastime. (It's so obscure, I don't even remember how we found it) My 85-year old dad, a second generation Czech, was moved to tears by Polasek's art and love for his adopted country. Our youngest kids found the house "old and kinda stinky" but loved the kittens roaming about. And we all fell in love with the sculpture. It was bleak winter day when we visitied, and the docent indulged us with an extended tour. (She also gave the kids license to roam freely, a treat for us all.)

This museum is a true treasure in one of the loveliest parts of central FL. Thank you for featuring it; it's revived some sweet memories.

John said...

It's a lovely place. I was especially impressed by the Stations of the Cross setup that they had in the garden.

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