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Thistle in the Dream (To Louis Sullivan)

1955-1956 Theodore Roszak Born: Poznan, Poland 1907 Died: New York, New York 1981 cut and welded steel 41 3/8 x 40 1/2 x 30 in. (105.2 x 102.9 x 76.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation 1986.6.74 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

The prickly, spikey forms of Thistle in the Dream (To Louis Sullivan) combine associations of threat and cautious hope for the future. While it has the look of an avian predator with a spearlike beak and powerful wings, the menacing shapes protect a vulnerable life-form within. For Roszak, who had worked in an aircraft factory during World War II, the pairing of aggression and safekeeping may have symbolized a duality of existence that blends defiance and hope.

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008

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Theodore Roszak built planes for the Brewster Aircraft Corporation during the Second World War, where he learned the welding techniques that he later used to create Thistle in the Dream (To Louis Sullivan). The war was shattering to those, like Roszak, who believed in the progressive power of the industrial world. After 1945, his sculptures changed dramatically to spiky, threatening constructions that represent Roszak's disillusionment with the world. He used violent means of welding, hammering, and scoring metal to create these frightening sculptures. Thistle in the Dream is ironically dedicated to Louis Sullivan, the early modern architect from Roszak's hometown of Chicago who embellished his buildings with elegant designs found in nature. The sculptor's frightening mutation of a thistle stands in stark contrast to Sullivan's often gentle adaptations of organic forms.


Homage - Sullivan, Louis

Object - flower - thistle


metal - steel

About Theodore Roszak

Born: Poznan, Poland 1907 Died: New York, New York 1981

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Theodore Roszak