Thistle in the Dream (To Louis Sullivan)

  • Theodore Roszak, Thistle in the Dream (To Louis Sullivan), 1955-1956, cut and welded steel, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.74

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
Luce Center Label

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 (To Louis Sullivan)
On View
Not on view.
41 3/8 x 40 1/2 x 30 in. (105.2 x 102.9 x 76.3 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

Mediums Description
cut and welded steel
  • Object – flower – thistle
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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