The Big U

Wander Bertoni

Codisotto, Italy 1925 - Vienna 2019

The Big U

from the series “The Imaginary Alphabet”

Manufactured by Art Foundry Slavko Mikic, Hof am Leithaberge

Bronze, polished
Edition size 7

H 84 cm

Signed and numbered: W BERTONI 6/7
Foundry stamp MIKIC


cf. Kristian Sotriffer, Wander Bertoni. Das plastische Werk 1945 bis 1980, Vienna 1981, ill. p. 82, no. 43 and p. 157, no. 126

Born in Italy in 1925, the sculptor Wander Bertoni came to Vienna as a foreign labourer in 1943. Encouraged by an Italian painter, he began to draw and paint in 1944. A year later, he first engaged with sculptural works. In 1946, he began studying with Fritz Wotruba at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Bertoni’s first works are still representational in their nature. It was only in the 1950s that he turned to abstraction. Bertoni never saw form as an end in itself, however: the driving force in his creative work always remained the content, the message contained in his works. In 1965, Bertoni was appointed head of the masterclass for sculpture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. His works were shown in numerous exhibitions both at home and abroad. Wander Bertoni died in Vienna in December 2019. Bertoni was constantly searching for new possibilities of expression. As early as the 1950s he oscillated between figurative and abstract sculpture – a creative dialogue which decisively shaped his work. He spoke of insights gained ‘that arose during the work, and that will hopefully remain the case my whole life that with every experience new forms emerge. That is the meaning of art – for me.’1
The ‘Big U’ shown here comes from one of the artist’s most important group of works, the ‘Imaginary Alphabet’ which was created in the mid-1950s and which consists mainly of highly polished bronzes. ‘Within the overall work and within the development of contemporary sculpture, the “Imaginary Alphabet” is shown to be an exemplary achievement, which garnered attention internationally following its creation. And not least of all because with this contemplative series, which was inspired by Wittgenstein and which included musicality and fantasy, yet metaphysical components too, Bertoni succeeded in providing evidence of the potential for integrating differentiated ideas into one sculptural work.’2
Wander Bertoni was co-founder of the Viennese association of artists, the ‘Art Club’, which existed from 1947 to 1957 and which acted as a progressive platform for young artists in the fight for autonomy in modern art.
1 Kristian Sotriffer, Wander Bertoni. Das plastische Werk 1945 bis 1980, Vienna 1981,
2 ibid., p. 18