Rudolf Uher — A Girl

Rudolf Uher was a unique artist of the Slovak sculpting scene of the 20th century – a nonconformist solitaire. He is considered one of the founding figures of a new Slovak sculpting tradition...

Inventory No.: P 3

Artist: Rudolf Uher
Title: A Girl

Year: 1960
Technique: woodcut; polishing
Material: wood
Dimensions: height 117 cm; width 29 cm; depth 34,5 cm
Signature: none

Rudolf Uher was a unique artist of the Slovak sculpting scene of the 20th century – a nonconformist solitaire. He is considered one of the founding figures of a new Slovak sculpting tradition. He worked on both subtle and monumental projects that could be classified as a combination of figurative and abstract tendencies. He is known for using combinations and synthesis, whether it is the case of massive materials and delicate lyricism or local themes and archetypal symbolism. His early works typically use figurative motives that he started leaving behind in the early 1960s when his focus switched to non-figurative, reduced and geometric shapes. Most of his work was based on the relationship of nature (Earth), its forms and materials (he mostly used stone, wood, clay and sometimes metal) and human.

The wooden sculpture titled simply A Girl is a part of the Nitra Gallery’s collection. It dates to the artist’s period of depicting bodily forms – these often included heads, torsos or full female figures. The realistic, anatomically perfect young girl’s figure stands on a pedestal made of the same piece of wood. Her arms are lifted with her right one bent in the elbow and behind her head while the head is resting on the left one. Her left leg is in a light contraposition – it is positioned opposite to the right one which seems to be bearing most of the weight as it is slightly bent. This posture adds vigour and dynamics to the overall composition. Uher’s approach combines classical human posture guidelines with modernist modelling and detail reduction. The polished surface of the statue has an interesting effect as it does not resemble wood at first sight. Its colour and structure rather seem to correspond to bronze. Even though the statue is not one of the artist’s best works, its simple and natural graciousness and fragility    attest to his return (even though a temporary one) to his creative beginnings.

Rudolf Uher was born in Lubina near Nové Mesto nad Váhom on July 19, 1913. Between 1930-1932 he studied at the Teachers’ Academy in Prešov and between 1933-1935 at the Teachers’ Academy in Modra. After the graduation, he worked as a teacher at several town schools. Between 1941-1944, he studied at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava at the Department of Drawing and Sculpture under the leadership of prof. Jozef Kostka and Ján Koniarek. From 1946, he completed several study trips abroad and attended sculpture symposiums (Paris, Moscow, Yugoslavia, Italy, GDR, Austria…). In 1946, he became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and later held several positions in the cultural world (he led the art department of the Commission for Culture and was the vice-president of the Slovak Visual Artists’ Union). In 1965, he installed a statue of a Partisan at the Slovak National Uprising Memorial at the Roh [Horn] Hill near Lubina. He participated at several national and international exhibitions. Some of his most important presentations include EXPO 67 in Montreal and the award-winning entrance into the Czechoslovak pavilion at EXPO 70 in Osaka. In 1971, he participated at an international sculpture symposium in Burlington, Vermont, USA. He created a composition titled Sculpture for Concreteat a highway rest stop at the New York – Vermont highway. In 1972, his visit to the “imperialistic enemy of the regime” was punished by suspending his membership in the Slovak Visual Artists’ Union and restricting his exhibition activities. Several of his exterior sculptures were consequently removed and destroyed. In 1973, he suffered a stroke which left his right hand paralysed and he had to learn how to work with his left one. He continued to work with the help of his son, Michal. He died in Bratislava on August 27, 1987.

Omar Mirza
June 2018

BARTOŠOVÁ, Zuzana: Sochár Rudolf Uher. Levice : Vydavateľstvo L. C. A. – Koloman Kertész Bagala, 2001.