Karl Bitter (Austrian-American, 1867-1915)
Reclining Woman, 1897
Bronze, 10 ¼ H. x 10 ¼ W. x 4 D. inches
Signed: Bitter 97
Stamped: GORHAM M F G CO.
Initially from Vienna, Karl Bitter first studied art at the city’s Kunstgewerbeschule and the Kunstakademie before being drafted into the Austrian army. He deserted his position in the military while on leave, and departed for New York City where he would discover considerable success. Early on, he won a competition for the Astor memorial bronze gates at Trinity Church, which awarded him enough capital to open his own studio. He went on to execute sculptures of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson at the Cuyahoga Courthouse in Cleveland; he also created portraits of Jefferson for the state of Missouri and the University of Virginia. These commissions caught the attention of sculptor Richard Morris Hunt (who famously designed the façade of the Metropolitan Museum), earning Bitter the duty of producing the portrait medallions that now appear near the top of the museum’s grand face.
Notably, he presented at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and directed the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901. Over his career, his artwork became more flexible – his early academy training is easily identifiable within his work, but after moving to America, conventions of Modernism became more prevalent within his sculpture. In addition to many awards, Bitter presided over the National Sculpture Society in 1906-1907, and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Design, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Architectural League, and the Art Commission, New York. His public work can be found at the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC; Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA; Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, WI; United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD; Riverside Park, New York, NY; Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, AL; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and many more.