Arthur Spronken

'Vliegende amazone (Flying Amazon), 1965

Location: Between Atlas Building and Auditorium

The horses' torsoes by Arthur Spronken don't run, but seem to float above the surface or are suspended on a strut. Gravity seems to have no hold on these large and muscular animals. They dance, roll, spin and jump through space and express dynamism and power. So too does 'Vliegende Amazone' ('Flying Amazon', 1965, acquired by TU/e 1967).

Spronken's grandfather is a horse trader and his father breeds horses for pleasure. Spronken feels the horses' broad shoulders, brushes their shining skins, shelters under them from the rain, perhaps dreams of them.

Spronken (1930 - 2018) is educated for a life in commerce. But from his seventeenth to his twenty-second year he makes weekly 70-kilometer bike rides to create his first wooden sculptures at the home of a friend. This friend, Paul Smalbach, encourages him to enter the Academy of Applied Arts at Maastricht, which he visits from 1948 to 1952. A scholarship enables him to follow a one-year traineeship at the Academia delle Belle Arti in Milan in 1954. There he is taught by Mario Marini, a specialist in horse sculpture.

Back in the Netherlands, Spronken starts out creating religious figures in wood, shifting to bronze only in 1961. His new works depict dashing dancers, full of movement. Horses come only later, but the dynamism stays. Spronken's horses trot, whirl and rear expressively. His statues teem with movement and tension.

Spronken always went his own way within the Dutch art world, ignoring the prevailing trends of Cobra and of abstraction. Even though having had a classical education, he takes much liberty with regard to anatomy. Where Greek and Roman sculptors usually focus on the rider, Spronken's main point of attention is the strength of the animals themselves. He omits body parts and concentrates on the essential: the horses' torsoes in all their strength and liveliness.

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