Girl at the Piano: Recording Sound

Girl at the Piano: Recording Sound

Theodore Roszak (American, 1907-1981)

Currently on View in K203
Image Licensing

  • A pensive pianist supports her head with one hand—a melancholic pose that has symbolized artistic genius since the Renaissance. With the other, she strikes a piano’s keys as the gramophone at left records her efforts.
  • Music and technology are dominant themes in the work of Roszak, who was a trained violinist and a mechanic.
  • Roszak studied in Europe from 1929 until 1931. During this period, the artist’s style changed radically as he encountered contemporary avant-garde movements. Here Roszak combines the geometric vocabulary of Cubism and the dreamlike imagery of Surrealism.
Influence of the Bauhaus

Theodore Roszak was born in Poland and moved to Chicago at the age of two. He studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago. Roszak began his career as a traditional painter, but his style changed when he was exposed to contemporary European art. His major influence was the German Bauhaus School, which combined architecture, design, sculpture, and painting to form a single aesthetic experience. Roszak is best known for his sculptures that reflect Bauhaus ideals. They were abstracted forms with clean lines and minimal detail. Many of these pieces resembled the amoeba-like shapes of Joan Miró.

In Girl at the Piano, Roszak combined geometric abstraction, Surrealism, and his fascination with the technology of the machine age to create visual descriptions of sound. Roszak was an accomplished violinist, and this painting portrays both the act of making music and the machine capable of recording it. As a trained toolmaker, Roszak believed in the integration of industry and art. His attitude is reflected in the colorful mechanism linking the keyboard to the recording stylus. The three enigmatic forms to the left of the pianist’s head resemble machine parts, but they could also be symbolic of the musician’s abstract thoughts. Here, Roszak blends the contemplative aura of the pianist with the sleek precision of his machines.

Dreishpoon, Douglas. Theodore Roszak: Paintings and Drawings from the 1930s. New York: Hirschl and Adler, 1989.

Object Information

Theodore Roszak (American, 1907-1981)
creation date
oil on canvas
37 x 48 in.
accession number
credit line
James E. Roberts Fund and Martha Delzell Memorial Fund
© Estate of Theodore Roszak/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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