Biographical / Historical
Austrian born sculptor Karl Bitter (1867-1915) was active in New York City, New York. He exhibited his works at worldwide expositions and examples of his sculpture and memorials can be found throughout the United States. Sculptor Gustave Gerlach (b. 1866) was a pupil and colleague of Bitter's and was also active in New York City.
Karl Theodore Francis Bitter was born in Vienna, Austria, where he trained as a sculptor. While serving in the Austrian military in 1889, Bitter immigrated to the United States and applied for citizenship. Ultimately, Bitter settled in New York City and worked as an assistant in a home decorating firm while establishing his reputation as a sculptor. After working as a sculptor at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and as director at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901, Bitter was named head of the sculpture programs at both the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California. Bitter was awarded the silver medal of the Paris Exposition, 1900; the gold medal of the Pan-American Exposition, 1901; and the gold medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904.
Bitter offered work to sculptor Gustave Gerlach after seeing some of his sculpture. Gerlach subsequently assisted Bitter at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition as superintendent of sculpture, and at the 1904 and 1915 expositions. Following Bitter's sudden death in 1915, Gerlach proposed the execution of a memorial fountain for him in Weehawken, New Jersey, based on an original design by Bitter. However, due to anti-German sentiment in the United States at that time, Gerlach was unable to proceed with the memorial and ultimately returned the money he had raised for the fountain.
Bitter and Gerlach worked with many prominent sculptors of the day, including Isidore Konti, Adolph Weinman, and Alexander Stirling Calder who was named acting-chief of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Bitter and Calder both employed the services of renowned model Audrey Munson.