Otto Gutfreund

Otto Gutfreund

1889 – 1927

Otto Gutfreund was born on 3 August in 1889 in the town of Dvůr Králové nad Labem 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. In November Gutfreund travelled to Paris and enrolled to study at Bourdelle’s sculpture class at Grande Chaumiere academy. 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, the Netherlands, subsequently returning to Prague.
In 1911 Gutfreund became a member of Skupina výtvarných umělců (Group of Creative Artists) in Prague and exhibited there his first cubist 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 cubist 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.
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.
In 1920 Gutfreund moved permanently to Czechoslovakia and lived in Prague and his birth-place town Dvůr Králové nad Labem. His works of the 1920s are generally realistic in form,[1] 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.
Tragically, on 2 June, 1927 Gutfreund, at the height of his artistic powers, drowned in the river Vltava in Prague.