Label Text: Short and stocky but with a bemused expression, Harlequin is a playful early work by Michigan artist Leonard Jungwirth. Carved for the Works Progress Administration–a Depression-era federal art program that provided a small monthly stipend to artists in exchange for artworks to be exhibited in federal offices or non-profit organizations–Harlequin was received by the KIA in the late 1930s. Although the sculpture is a bit disproportionate with a squat body and oversized hands and feet, Jungwirth shows a great aptitude for woodcarving, allowing the natural wood grain and texture to provide the striped decoration for the Harlequin's costume.
Born in Detroit, Jungwirth studied sculpture at the University of Detroit (now Wayne State) as well as in Munich, Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He learned the fine art of woodcarving from his father. Although he worked in other materials, wood was his preferred media. After working for the WPA, both as an artist and supervisor of sculpture, he became a professor of art at Michigan State University where he taught sculpture for 23 years. While his sculptures are featured in many museums, churches, and libraries nationwide, he is probably best known for his sculpture "Sparty", a 9ft. 7in. clay male nude which is the most revered symbol of Michigan State University.