Otto Gutfreund

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Otto Gutfreund in the Foreign Legion, 1914

Otto Gutfreund (August 1889 – 2 June 1927), also written Oto Gutfreund,[1] was a Czech-Czechoslovak sculptor.

Early life[edit]

Otto Gutfreund, Don Quixote, 1911–12
Otto Gutfreund, Violoncelliste (Cellist), 1912–13
Josef Gočár's Legiobank Building, Prague (1922–23). Relief on facade by Gutfreund.

Otto Gutfreund was born in the town of Dvůr Králové nad Labem, Bohemia, as the fourth of five children of Karel and Emilie Gutfreund. During 1903–1906 he studied at Škola výtvarných umění (School of Creative Arts) in the town of Bechyně. After completion, he attended Umělecko-průmyslová škola (College of Decorative Arts) in Prague for the next three years. In 1909 Gutfreund discovered the works of Antoine Bourdelle during his exhibition in Prague organized by the artistic group SVU Mánes. He studied with Bourdelle from 1909 to 1910.[2] In November Gutfreund travelled to Paris and enrolled to study at Bourdelle’s sculpture class at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In Paris he met Auguste Rodin and discovered medieval art. After a year Gutfreund left Bourdelle’s teaching course and travelled to Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands before returning to Prague.


In 1912 Gutfreund became a member of Skupina výtvarných umělců (Group of Creative Artists) in Prague and exhibited there his first cubo-expressionist sculpture Úzkost (Anxiety). The next year he participated in the second exhibition of the Group and showed his works Hamlet, Harmony and Concert. Between 1913 and 1914 he used the principles of analytical cubism in his work. In the third exhibition Gutfreund displayed the cubo-expressionist works Viki and Head with a Hat. He exhibited at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin and at the fourth Group exhibition in Prague. In 1914 he travelled to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Guillaume Apollinaire and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.[citation needed]

World War One[edit]

At the declaration of the First World War Gutfreund was in Paris and decided to join the French Foreign Legion. He participated at the fighting on the Somme, at L'Artois and Champagne. In 1915 he applied to join the French Army and the following year had been imprisoned after his application was refused both for the French Army and the Czechoslovak Legion. He spent two years in Saint-Michel-de-Frigolet prison camp near Bouches-du-Rhône. In 1918 he was moved to a civilian camp at Blanzy and after his release he settled in Paris to continue his work. For a short time he returned to Prague to accept a membership of the artistic group SVU Mánes.

1920s and death[edit]

In 1920 Gutfreund moved permanently to Czechoslovakia and lived in Prague and his birthplace town Dvůr Králové nad Labem. His works of the 1920s are generally realistic in form,[3] and exemplify the postwar "return to order" in the arts. He executed many small works in polychrome ceramic, such as the Textile Worker (1921) in the National Gallery in Prague. In 1921 he participated at the third exhibition of Tvrdošíjní held in Prague, Brno and Košice. In 1924 he exhibited at the Exhibition of Modern Czechoslovak Art in Paris and in 1925 in the Czechoslovak Pavilion of International Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris. The following year Gutfreund was made a professor of architectural sculpture at Umělecko-průmyslová škola (College of Decorative Arts) in Prague and took part in the Société Anonyme exhibition in New York.

On 2 June 1927 Gutfreund, at the height of his artistic powers, drowned in the river Vltava in Prague. He was buried in Vinohrady Cemetery.[4]


Jiří Kotalík, Director of the National Gallery in Prague, wrote in 1979:

Otto Gutfreund is one of the few Czech artists whose work is of significance not only in his home setting but internationally. He was greatly conscious of the contemporary problems in European sculpture at a decisive stage of development, and he made an original contribution towards their solution.[5]

Selection of works[edit]

Gutfreund's Vlastní portrét (Self-portrait, 1919) and Podobizna umělkovy choti Milady (Portrait of the Artist's Wife Milada, 1923–1924) at the Veletržní palác, National Gallery in Prague
  • Anxiety (1911–1912)
  • Hamlet II (1912)
  • Don Quixote (1911–12)
  • Viki (1912–13)
  • Cellist (1912–13)
  • Head with a hat (1913–14)
  • Group: Lovers (1913–14)
  • Head (1916)
  • Sitting Woman (1916)
  • Woman’s Head (1919)
  • Mask with a Necklace (1919–20)
  • Own Portrait (1919)
  • Legions’ Return – relief on Josef Gočár's Legiobank Building, Prague (1922–23)
  • Portrait of Artist’s Wife (1923)
  • Sitting Woman II (1927)

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ "Artist biography – Oto Gutfreund 1889–1927". Tate. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Cooper, Philip. Cubism. London: Phaidon, 1995, p. 102. ISBN 0714832502
  3. ^ Metken 1981, p. 240.
  4. ^ Vinohrady Cemeteries,, retrieved 20 November 2013
  5. ^ Kotalík, Jiří (1979). Otto Gutfreund 1889–1927 Sculpture and Drawings (exhibition catalogue). Edinburgh: Scottish Arts Council. ISBN 0-902989-58-8. 
  • Metken, G. (1981). Realismus: zwischen Revolution und Reaktion, 1919-1939: [Ausstellung im Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 17. Dezember 1980-20. April 1981: Ausstellung in der Staatlichen Kunsthalle, Berlin, 16. Mai-28. Juni 1981. München: Prestel-Verlag. ISBN 3-7913-0540-9 (German language)

Further reading[edit]

  • Císařovský, Josef (1962). Oto Gutfreund (in Czech). Prague: Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury a umění. OCLC 468836191. 
  • Cannon-Brookes, Peter (1983). Czech Sculpture 1800-1938. London: Trefoil Books / National Museum of Wales. pp. 82–88. ISBN 0 86294 043 5. 
  • Jiří Šetlík: Otto Gutfreund – Zázemí tvorby, Odeon, Praha 1989
  • Jiří Šetlík a kolektiv: Otto Gutfreund, Národní galerie v Praze, 1995–1996
  • Michal Novotný: Jistý pan G., Dauphin, Praha 2000

External links[edit]