In pursuing the story of Karl Duldig, three coincidences occurred. Firstly one of my four grandparents and Slawa Duldig's father were both called Horowitz. Secondly on the very day I started at Mount Scopus College in 1960, I met Eva Duldig who became my teacher. Thirdly this week I heard a symposium paper* on Karl Duldig, as planned, and found the book The Duldig Studio: A History by Helen Kiddell, totally unplanned.
Kunstgewerbeschule/University of Applied Arts
taught by Anton Hanak, 1921-5.
Karl Duldig (1902-1986) was born in the Polish part of the old Austrian Empire. In 1914 the family moved to Vienna, where he discovered his interest in sculpture, leading to study at the Kunstgewerbeschule (1921-25) under Anton Hanak. Duldig acknowledged Hanak’s teachings in Crouching Figure 1923, a work carved from soapstone with a knife, rather than the traditional hammer and chisels used for harder materials like marble. Duldig had followed Anton Hanak’s method of carving directly into the stone, without preliminary drawings or models.
Crouching Figure, 1923, sandstone
Their daughter Eva was born shortly before the 1938 anschluss when German troops entered Austria. At that very moment, Duldig was sending his sculptures to a Paris exhibition. Unbelievably Karl's artworks lay hidden throughout the war, in the cellar beneath the Laisnés’ apartment building (Slawa's sister and brother in law). Like others in 1938 and 1939, the very Jewish Duldigs had to hand their surviving assets over to Nazis and flee, as quickly as possible. Karl and Slawa moved to Switzerland, then Singapore in May 1939 and finally Australia. Slawa's sister Aurelie Laisné survived the Holocaust by living in Paris.
Mother and Child, 1942, now in bronze
Released in April 1942 to enlist in the Militia, the family eventually settled in their favoured urban environment and formally became Australian citizens after the war. Then two good things happened. Karl held his first one-man exhibition in Australia at Kozminsky's. And he was appointed art master (1945-67) at a prestigious grammar school in Melbourne, while simultaneously establishing a small ceramics business with Slawa. He exhibited regularly with the Victorian Sculptors’ Society and in the all-important Adelaide Festival of Arts (from 1960).
Commissioned glazed ceramic relief murals were a second string to his art bow. Karl made a special contribution to contemporary taste in Melbourne with modernist statements like the Progress of Man mural St Kilda Road 1960, and the Kadimah relief Elsternwick 1972.
Karl Duldig in his Melbourne studio, now a museum
His last and most poignant work was the Raoul Wallenberg monument (1985) at Kew Junction.
In 1977, some of Slawa’s sculptures were included in a retrospective exhibition of her work at the McClelland Gallery in Langwarrin. Her work also appeared in the major exhibition, Vienna and the Early 20th Century, held at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1990.
Before Karl died in 1986, he and his daughter had already discussed what would happen to the house and collection going into the future. In 1996, the The Duldig Studio opened to the public - the residence, sculpture garden and art studio. The house museum in Malvern East holds an extensive collection of sculptures in terracotta, marble and bronze, paintings, drawings and decorative arts presented in the artists` original home setting.
Their custom-designed Viennese furniture, as seen in the photo below, as well as the prototypes of the first foldable umbrella invented by Slawa in 1929, are in the house-museum. Duldig’s work is also represented in the National Gallery of Victoria, and since 1986, the National Gallery of Victoria has held an annual lecture on sculpture in his name.
Sigmund Jaray Furniture, 1930 in the collection of The Duldig Studio
During 2003, a major programme called Karl Duldig Sculptures and Drawings celebrated the centenary of the artist’s birth. The exhibition featured 80 works from the museum’s permanent collection and travelled to the cities of Vienna, Krakow etc. The Viennese-Melbourne sculpture had “gone home”.
*Alison Inglis' paper was called Karl Duldig and Vienna. The Vienna Art and Design symposium was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in August 2011. Inglis showed that Karl's experience as an art student and his work in Vienna before 1939 were replete with Secessionist and Workshop values. Presumably the furniture in the Duldig home in Melbourne also provided a strong link to Viennese cultural history.
A book called Karl Duldig Sculpture was written by Pamela Ruskin and published in limited edition by Cheshire Pty Ltd in 1966. It divides his life and work into three chapters: Vienna 1913-38, Singapore 1939-40 and Melbourne 1940-64. My mother's copy of the book, number 21 of 500, was signed by Karl Duldig in Sep 1968.