Historical information

Karl Duldig carved this marble sculpture of a mask in the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in 1921. His teacher, Anton Hanak, the Professor of Sculpture at the School, encouraged him to carve directly into the stone. It was an accomplished work for the 19 year-old student and was selected by Hanak to represent the students of the School at the Deutschen Gewerbeschau (German Applied Art exhibition) in Munich in 1922, an early accolade for the young artist. The sculpture and another Kneeling Nude were reproduced in the journal Deustche Kunst and Dekoration in 1923-24 in an article on the Hanak-Klasse. In 2011 Mask was exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Vienna: Art and Design.

The sculpture is one of ten substantial sculptures in marble and stone, and a larger group terracotta sculptures and masks, portrait busts and small stone sculptures created by Karl Duldig in Vienna that are held in the Museum collection. These art works are complemented by an archive of contemporary documents including letters, photographs, documents and ephemera. In 1938 Duldig’s Viennese sculptures were sent to Paris in 1938 for a proposed exhibition, and were hidden in Paris by Slawa Duldig’s sister Rella, throughout the Second World War, and arrived in Australia post-war over 5 decades.

Karl Duldig was a student of the Kunstgewerbeschule from 1921 until 1925, and then attended the Akademie Der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) from 1929 until 1933. He was accepted into the Professor Josef Mullner’s “Meisterschule” at the Academy of Fine Arts from 1929 until 1933. His teacher at the Kunstgwerebeschule was Austria’s foremost contemporary sculptor Anton Hanak, and he was a formative influence on Duldig’s work. Hanak had been a member of Viennese Secession, and worked with Josef Hoffman on architectural commissions prior to the First World War. Hanak shared both his love of the expressive quality of materials and a humanist vision with his students.

Various writers have written about Duldig’s interest in masks. His interest may have been stimulated by his classical education, the Greek and Roman antiquities in the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna, or the ethnological collections in Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology (now known as the Weltmuseum). The mask was a motif explored by expressionist and cubist artists whose work was exhibited at the Vienna Secession. Duldig would have been familiar with the psychological investigations of the neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, who established his practice in Vienna. In the Duldig Studio library, Duldig’s keen interest in the arts of a myriad of visual cultures is apparent. Of particular note are two well-thumbed copies Rudolf Utzinger’s, Masken, published by Ernst Wasmuth in Berlin in 1923, depicting masks from around the world. It is likely that a multitude of influences were at play. Slawa Duldig also worked with this motif, and also carved a smaller mask in Salzburg marble as well as a remarkable mask in clay, and these are held in the collection.

Ann Carew 2016


The Mask has national and international aesthetic significance. It is one of the earliest works by Karl Duldig in the Studio collection, and is a subject that he would continue to explore throughout his working life. The sculpture demonstrates a high degree of technical skill and mastery at an early age. It is evidence of Duldig’s engagement with the art of his peers during this period – the mask is a motif that inspired contemporary expressionist and cubist artists. It also demonstrates his interests in portraiture, human psychology, and the creation of identity and transformation of personalities. The Mask also provides an important link to the studio practice in the Vienna Kunstgwerbeschule, the teaching of Anton Hanak, and the program of international art exhibitions in Europe during the period.

It is also of historical significance: the story of its survival and eventual recovery provides a counterpoint to the story of the Nazis’ confiscation of art during the Second World War.

Ann Carew 2016

Physical description

Carving in Salzburg Marble.
Holes for eyes and mouth cut through the block.
Highly polished finish at front contrasting with rough finish at back and stylised curled hair.
Marble base separate (75 x 275 x 198, wt 9000) and added later by artist.

Inscriptions & markings

Karl Duldig 1921 incised on back