Shorewood man turned Picasso painting into famous sculpture
By BRIAN STANLEY email@example.com February 17, 2013 4:20PM
Anatol 'Tony' Rychalski was a supervising engineer who constructed the Daley Center's Picasso sculpture as seen in his residence Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Shorewood. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Picasso and Chicago
When: Wednesday through May 12
Where: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.
What: The institute rips open its vaults of about 400 Picasso works and chooses 250 for the exhibition. Explore all of the artist’s periods — including surrealist, cubist and blue — plus the maquette for his “baboon” sculpture, and 50 pieces owned by Chicago collectors. The rest of the museum falls under Picasso ’s spell, too: A dozen side exhibitions explore the artist’s Chicago ties, and his influences and contemporaries.
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:10AM
While the Art Institute begins a special exhibition on “Picasso and Chicago” this week, Tony Rychalski of Shorewood just needs to walk into his living room to see links between the 20th century’s preeminent artist and a city he never visited.
Rychalski, 87, was the supervising designer responsible for turning the artist’s 41-inch “maquette” model into the 50-foot steel sculpture displayed in Daley Plaza.
After fighting for the Polish Division of the British Army during World War II and the U.S. Army in the Korean War, Rychalski earned an engineering degree and joined U.S. Steel Corp.
“The desire to make something, to build ... is innate within us. Inside every man and every woman is a Picasso and a Pharoah,” Rychalski said.
Rychalski believes Picasso’s adaptation of primitive forms is what gave his work a lasting impact and popularity.
Over the years, Rychalski has spent his free time painting in several different styles using acrylics (he’s allergic to oils) and “imitates Picasso every so often, just for the heck of it.”
Rychalski has also sculpted his own designs, which were installed at malls and public areas in Pittsburgh, where he lived before retiring.
Rychalski was splitting his time between Chicago and Pittsburgh in 1966 when Mayor Richard J. Daley’s architects contacted him about building the Picasso.
“The first time I saw (the maquette), I was affected. It was a creation ... (something) made,” he recalled.
That response would sustain Rychalski through the project’s two major challenges: enlarging the artist’s work as precisely as possible — and convincing his bosses and subordinates it was worth undertaking.
With the upper echelon of U.S. Steel gathered in his LaSalle Street office, Rychalski unveiled the original model.
“The first question right away ‘What is it?’ Someone called it a ‘monstrosity’,” Rychaski said. “I had to romanticize it without being dishonest.”
Rychalski saw a feminine profile that reminded him of an expression his mother would make and the piece has remained “a woman” to him for nearly half a century.
Rychalski and three assistants used projectors to reproduce the angles of the models onto the office walls to make enlarged templates that would be cut at the American Bridge mills in Gary, Ind. Some 162 tons of 6-inch thick Cor-Ten steel was used for the asymetrical sculpture, which has darkened as it’s aged.
“My deep-seated responsibility was to make sure we did it right to Picasso,” Rychalski said. “The ironworkers didn’t know what to make of it, they knew a beam or a bridge.”
But as the project continued it became commonplace for Rychalski to find the laborers had invited their wives and children to see what they were working on at the mills.
After the sculpture was assembled for the first time in Gary, the bottom right side of the “face” support was recast to better match the original maquette before it was hauled piece by piece to Daley Plaza.
The Chicago Picasso was dedicated Aug. 15, 1967. For several years afterward, Rychalski presented lectures to universities and engineering groups about its construction.
Rychalski believes while Picasso disdained art collectors, he was pleased one of his creations could be viewed by “common men.” Picasso turned down his commission for the piece saying it was a gift to the people of Chicago.