Urgent Museum Notice

4 Seated Figures

Close up of 4 Seated Figures

Four androgynous figures rendered in stiffened, brown burlap sit atop vertical, rectangular metal frames. They lack necks, heads, lower arms, and clothing, and their upper torsos slump slightly forward. The burlap’s color and bumpy texture evoke bark and mummy wrappings.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, 4 Seated Figures, 2002; Burlap, resin, and iron rods, 53 1/2 x 24 1/4 x 99 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Magdalena Abakanowicz

4 Seated Figures
Magdalena Abakanowicz

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s 4 Seated Figures blends her personal memories with her broader vision of a modern world shaped by war and political upheaval. Both headless and handless, these figures reflect the artist’s direct experience—she witnessed her mother being shot in the hands as soldiers stormed their home in Poland during World War II. Abakanowicz noted, however, that the figures are genderless and do not suggest any particular race: “They are naked, exposed, and vulnerable, just as we all are.”

Abakanowicz was a leader in the international fiber-art movement that began in the 1960s. She became renowned for her innovative, off-loom sculptural techniques using rope, burlap, string, or cotton gauze. Abakanowicz created 4 Seated Figures from plaster molds of human models she had made in the late 1970s. Pressing burlap soaked with resin and glue into the molds, she shaped each figure individually. With a texture resembling tree bark, they appear to have been stripped of skin, revealing muscles, arteries, or cords suggestive of the nervous system.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Magdalena Abakanowicz
  • Title

    4 Seated Figures
  • Date

  • Medium

    Burlap, Iron rods, Resin
  • Dimensions

    53 1/2 x 24 1/4 x 99 1/4 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of the Artist
  • Photo Credit

    © Magdalena Abakanowicz
  • On Display