Argentine sculptor. He enrolled at the Escuela de la Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, in 1898 and soon afterwards joined the studio of the sculptor Lucio Correa Morales (1852–1923). In 1899 he won a scholarship to study in Europe. In Paris he attended the studio of the sculptor Jules-Félix Coutan, at the same time studying drawing at the Académie Colarossi; he made studies of corpses in the morgue and acquired a great mastery of human anatomy. At the Salon in Paris in 1903 he exhibited The Sinners (see Prins 1941), a major group of six female figures, influenced by Rodin’s Burghers of Calais in its rhythmic arabesques, open treatment of line and soft modeling. In 1904 it was shown again at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO, where it was awarded a major prize, but he renounced both the prize and associated commission because of a controversy about his youth.
Yrurtia exhibited for the first time in Buenos Aires, with great success, in 1905. The occasion marked the end of his period of experimentation and the start of his mature production as a sculptor. By 1907 he had received major commissions in Buenos Aires, and this enabled him to return to Paris, where he remained until 1921. Notable among these early commissions in Argentina were a bronze monument to the surgeon Alejandro Castro (1904–1905; Buenos Aires, Hosp. Clínicas), vigorously modeled in broad planes and precise in its symbolism, and a monument to Dorrego (bronze, 1907), commissioned by the Argentine government. The latter work, situated in the small square between Viamonte and Suipacha in Buenos Aires and consisting of an equestrian figure on an architectural base flanked by powerful allegorical figures representing Fate and History, was the first of his important sculptural groups. It was followed by the skillfully constructed Hymn to Work (1907–1909, see fig.), a group of fourteen life-size figures in bronze erected in the Plaza Canto al Trabajo, Buenos Aires, in which naked figures, arranged on an open and outward curve, advance in an excited throng that maintains its unity through the continuity of movement. Yrurtia’s struggle between Romanticism and Classicism is particularly evident in this work: the naked, ideal, timeless bodies are at the same time anti-classical in their dynamism, curved structure, and asymmetry. In his Cenotaph to Rivadavia (1916–1932; Buenos Aires, Plaza Miserere) Yrurtia subordinated the bronze sculpture to an architectural setting in stone inspired by Art Deco, through which he achieved an austere formal and conceptual simplicity.
On his return to Buenos Aires in 1921, Yrurtia taught for two years at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. In his sculpture, such as the portraits of family and friends made in the 1940s, he gradually reduced male and female figures to their essential characteristics. His adoption of an extreme economy of means characterized his development of a sculptural style that was modern but that also attempted to free itself of blind repetition of European formulae. On the opening of the Museo Casa de Yrurtia in Buenos Aires in 1949 he was appointed its honorary director.
- Rogelio Yrurtia. Preface by H. Caillet-Bois. Santa Fé, Argentina, Mus. Prov. B.A., 1938. Exhibition catalog.
- Prins, E. Rogelio Yrurtia. Buenos Aires, 1941 [Sp., Fr., and Eng. text].
- Rinaldini, J. Rogelio Yrurtia. Buenos Aires, 1942.
- Dibujos de Yrurtia. Edited by L. C. Morales. Buenos Aires, Mus. Casa de Yrurtia, 1964. Exhibition catalog.
- López Anaya, J. Historia del arte argentino. Buenos Aires, 1997.
- Malosetti, Costa L. and Cárcova, Ernesto. Cuadros de Viaje: Artistas Argentinos en Europa y Estados Unidos, 1880–1910. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2008.
- Loiácono, Erika. “Un Quiebre en la Representación del Prócer Argentino: El Monumento a Bernardino Rivadavia, de Rogelio Yrurtia.” In Arte Americano e Independencia: Nuevas Iconografía, edited by Fernando Guzmán and Juan Manuel Martínez, 107–116. Santiago: Dibam, 2010.