The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum lies just east of Zilker Park and the Barton Springs Pool. In 1985, sculptor Charles Umlauf and his wife Angeline gifted this property and 168 sculptures to the City of Austin. Six years later, a garden and gallery building were built in the lower section. Their house on top of the hill has been restored and is available for private events. Both the house and his studio will be opened to the public in the near future.
Umlauf’s sculptures are scattered along a walking path which meanders through the scenic garden and around a pond. Much of the area is shaded and benches are abundant. Visitors can pick up a brochure in the museum gallery which explains each piece in detail.
Umlauf was an art professor at The University of Texas from 1941-1981, and some of his sculpture is displayed on the UT campus. The Three Muses (above) have been temporarily relocated to the Umlauf Garden while the new UT medical center is being built.
Umlauf’s wife Angeline was the inspiration for The Poetess. With its flat, shaded pathways and accessible sculptures, all ages can enjoy this garden. The grounds are not large and it’s easy to view everything in under an hour.
My favorite piece was The Skater. I loved the sense of motion in the small bronze figure. The brochure explained that Umlauf’s inspiration for this piece was Peggy Fleming’s performance in the 1968 Olympics.
Many of the sculptures have a religious theme, and some are models for church commissions. Umlauf’s version of Michelangelo’s Pieta is unusual because Mary Magdalene is also grieving behind the figures of Jesus and Mary. Several lovely variations of the Madonna and Child theme are also displayed on the museum grounds.
The museum gallery building contains restrooms, offices, and an indoor space for rotating exhibits. The current exhibit is REFLECT by Margo Sawyer . At first glance, this exhibit seemed just like a pretty, but quite random, assortment of tiles, mirrors, silver balls, vases, and other items arranged on the the museum gallery’s floor. But then a volunteer told me how she has signed up for extra shifts just so she can gaze at this exhibit more. So I sat down for a few minutes and did my own gazing. She was right—REFLECT is a zen-like, peaceful experience. Photographs were not permitted inside the gallery, so you will have to visit yourself to see what I mean.
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