Duldig Studio Museum – a Modernist Marriage

Towards Heaven - Karl Duldig
Towards Heaven - Karl Duldig

DULDIG Studio Museum at 92 Burke Road Malvern East is the former home and studio of sculptor Karl Duldig (1902-1986) and his wife, artist and inventor, Slawa Horowitz (c1902-1975). Karl’s original studio, kiln, tools, work and the adjoining garden with bronze and terracotta sculptures remain as he left them.

Opening as a museum in 1996, it achieved full accreditation with Museums Australia (Victoria) in 2015; in 2016 it was a Finalist in the Museums and Galleries National Awards for Interpretation, Education and Audience Engagement. Karl was born in Przemysl Poland in 1902; in 1913 the family moved to Vienna.

In his youth he was an outstanding sportsman, won the Austrian table-tennis championship, played international soccer and was a highly ranked tennis player. In 1921 he joined the University of Applied Arts in Vienna where his work was chosen to represent the institute in major national and international exhibitions. From 1926 he was at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and 1929-1933 he was a member of the Academy’s prestigious Master School in Sculpture under Professor Josef Mullner.

In 1931 Karl married Slawa Horowitz and in 1938 their only child, Eva, was born. In 1939 they moved to Singapore where Slawa worked as an artist and teacher and also restored valuable paintings in the municipal collection. When war was declared they were designated ‘enemy aliens’ and sent to Australia in 1940 for internment at Tatura. They eventually settled in Melbourne and in 1944 Slawa began teaching at Korowa Anglican Girls School; in 1947 she became Senior Art and Craft teacher at St Catherine’s Girls School, a position she held for 16 years. An annual art prize is presented in her name and in 1992 an exhibition paid tribute to her work at the school. After her retirement from St Catherine’s until her death in 1975, Slawa worked on private commissions.

The bather
The bather

In addition to the Duldig Studio her art is in private collections in Australia and overseas and was shown alongside Karl’s in the Vienna and the Early Twentieth Century exhibition mounted at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1990. Running at the studio until 2019 is Slawa: modernist art and design, an exhibition of Slawa’s work – including prototypes, designs, art and modernist furniture.

Slawa is most well-known for her folding umbrella design. Beginning with the simple question, ‘why on earth must I carry this clumsy thing?’ her design has endured for generations.

The Modernist art of Karl Duldig is internationally acclaimed and is represented at the Australian War Memorial, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria as well as in Vienna, Tel Aviv, New York, Singapore and China. His professional achievements in Australia spanned many facets of the arts. He was Director of Art at Mentone Boys Grammar School 1945-1967; founding and Honorary Life President of the Bezalel Fellowship of the Arts; President, Association of Sculptors of Victoria and Honorary Life Member from 1982. In 1956 he won the Victorian Sculptor of the Year Award.

Karl regularly participated in group exhibitions and his solo shows in Australia included the Retrospective at the Hawthorn City Gallery, 1975 and the Survey exhibition at McClelland Gallery, 1982-83. Examples of Karl’s work in public places: City of Caulfield Municipal Offices; Melbourne General Cemetery War Memorial; Council House, Little Collins Street; Kadimah Cultural Centre, Elsternwick; Kew Junction (Raoul Wallenberg Monument); and St Mary’s Church, Altona.

Interested in volunteering at Duldig Studio Museum & Sculpture Garden? You could lead tours or assist with their Jazz Nights, Austrian High Tea, Lectures and school programs such as Clay for Kids. For further information contact 9885 3358 or email enquiries@duldig.org.au

About Raine Biancalt 11 Articles
Raine Biancalt has a Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing & Editing) and a background in both government and corporate worlds. She enjoys art, history, writing and old movies.