Frederick Kiesler, Winged Victory, circa 1951
Detail of Frederick Kiesler, Winged Victory, circa 1951
Valerie Fletcher: Frederick Kiesler was born in Austria in 1890. As a young man working as an architect in the 1920s and 30s, he was an idealist who hoped that radical new ideas in architecture could help to create a better world for all humanity. World War II changed all of that in his mind.
In the late 1930s, as the Nazis gained power in Germany and Austria, he, like so many others, fled to the United States. After World War II, when the economy was returning to normal, Kiesler could once again work as a sculptor and an architect and designer. The sculpture here, Winged Victory from about 1951, expresses his feelings after the war and indeed the feelings of many of his generation who had survived such great trauma and suffering. Winged [Figure], the title itself refers to a famous ancient Greek sculpture, the Nike or Victory of Samothrace. An over life-sized figure, a female idealized perfect body clothed in flattering classical draperies, she strides forward in triumph. She has two great-feathered wings, like the wings of an angel, outstretched. Everything about her bespeaks confidence, optimism, and conquest. Kiesler took those famous wings, translated them from a light marble, uplifted, to dark bronze, bent and falling to the ground. In this sense, he was using clear traditional symbolism that is the aspirations and hopes of his generation hoping to create a new world, a better world, had come crashing down and was now lying in ruins.