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Karl Bitter


Centurion, 1902–1915

Full Name Karl Theodore Francis Bitter

Born 6 December 1867 in Vienna, Austria

Died 9 April 1915 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium, Middle Village, New York

Proposed by George F. Kunz and John Q. A. Ward

Elected 1 November 1902 at age thirty-four

Century Memorial

The quick heroism and tragic needlessness of Karl Bitter’s death made poignant the sorrow that in any event would have been felt at the untimely passing of so capable an artist and so true a man. Born in Austria, in 1867, he was schooled at a gymnasium, and partially educated in art at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. His spirit was too independent for that imperial institution, and his manhood revolted against the petty tyrannies to which he appears to have been subjected in his military service. If the Academy would have none of him, he would not endure the army, and fled to Germany, to find fruitful refuge in the studio of the sculptor Kaffsack. But, the Austrian authorities threatening trouble, he escaped to the freer air of the United States.

Bitter’s initial good fortune lay in his pocket in the form of an introduction to Richard Morris Hunt; but success was to come through the faculties of his mind and hand. He was a youth of courage and enterprise. So he competed at the age of twenty-one for the Astor memorial gates for Trinity Church, won the competition, and made the work the gateway of his fame. He was given the sculptures for the Administration and the Manufacturers’ Buildings at the Chicago Exposition, and executed commissions for patrons in New York, doing especially beautiful work for the George Vanderbilt house at Biltmore. He also did large portrait sculpture for public buildings. His work, combining broad conceptions and simplicity, met the requirements of decorative sculpture. Honors and responsibilities came to him. He was appointed Director of Sculpture for the Buffalo Exposition of 1901, then for the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, and finally for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, that is almost with us still. He was made President of the National Sculpture Society as a tribute both to his manhood and his art.

Henry Osborn Taylor
1916 Century Association Yearbook