Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2001.49
People
Dieter Roth, Swiss (Hanover, Germany 1930 - 1998 Basel, Switzerland)
Title
Chocolate Lion (Self-Portrait as a Lion)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Schokoladenlöwe, Selbstportrait als Löwe
Classification
Multiples
Work Type
multiple
Date
1971
Culture
Swiss
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/174434
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Marbled chocolate
Dimensions
24 x 18 x 15 cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Provenance
Private Collector, North Rhine Westphalia, Auction, Germany, 1990, 2001.
Galerie Marion u. Roswitha Fricke, Düsseldorf, Germany, 2001, 2001.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Purchase in memory of Eda K. Loeb
Copyright
© Dieter Roth Estate / Hauser & Wirth
Accession Year
2001
Object Number
2001.49
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Commentary
Dieter Roth (1930-1998) was a Swiss-German sculptor, poet, graphic designer, performer, publisher, musician, and most of all, provocateur. His interest in ephemeral materials and experimentation with different kinds of food (chocolate, dough, candy, bread) began in the mid 1960s. Attempting to visualize the dimension of time, Roth wanted his works to have a life of their own. The objects were and are literally still changing (decaying) after they were "finished," and the entrance of other life forms – such as insects and bacteria – allowed for the continuation of life in art. Roth was also interested in the factor of chance in art making. The work could not be fully controlled by the artist, but developed according to the conditions in which it was kept. Temperature, humidity, light, and the presence of other insect or bacterial life form continue to alter the object.

The "Chocolate Lion", 1971 was planned in an edition of 210 in dark, white, and marbled chocolate. But, according to the artist, he produced less than 100 between 1969-1971 (Dobke, no. 1969.13). This object, also known as "Self-portrait as a Lion", reveals the artist's wit – and even nose-thumbing – as its construction from a material is so opposite in stability from that of the traditional sculpted portrait in bronze. As such, it remains closer to a true "portrait" of the artist as a human body that lives, changes and dies. In terms of representation even, the "Chocolate Lion" counteracts the traditional, stern painted self-portrait, for example, of Max Beckmann's canonical "Self-portrait in Tuxedo", 1927. Furthermore, the "lion" Roth presents to the viewer looks more like a very unthreatening dog.

Chocolate is also culturally connoted with positive feelings: it is sweet, gratifying, and connected often times to childhood rewards and memories. By working in such a material, Roth creates a sort of sugary bridge to the museum audience, yet not to the museum as an institution itself. Chocolate, for example, is much more connected with the everyday lives and experiences of the viewer than is cast bronze or copper. In short, Roth plays with the dichotomy of audience and institution by varying the artistic elements of material and form. For Roth, food was a vehicle for concepts and critique of the art world itself – change and growth are seen in opposition to the institutionalization of ideas and art.
Exhibition History

Eat Art: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Sonja Alhäuser, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 10/04/2001 - 12/16/2001

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This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu