S P R O N K E N
X A N D E R S P R O N K E N
A R T H U R S P R O N K E N
Hailing from one of Holland’s most celebrated artistic families, Landau Contemporary is proud to present an online exhibition of sculptures by Arthur and Xander Spronken.
Rarely exhibiting together, the Spronkens of Limburg each blazed their own artistic trail. Here we find the commonalities between uncle and nephew, the former patriarch and his successor, both master sculptors who innovated ancient processes through modern vision.
When Arthur Spronken died in April 2018 at age 87, he was perhaps Holland's most famous post-war, contemporary sculptor.
He is best known for his fragmented bronze horse torsos that capture a moment of intense physical exertion through isolated gesture, suspending the kinetic energy
in space, freezing it in time.
As an emerging sculptor in the 1950s, Spronken Sr. was largely indifferent to the prevailing theories espoused by the CoBrA movement. Instead, he embraced a more classical approach, first honed at the Academy of Applied Arts at Maastricht where he dove into studies of stone sculpture, drawing and anatomy.
In 1954, he earned the opportunity of a lifetime - a year-long scholarship to attend the famed Accademia delle Belle Arti in Milan to study under one of the greatest Italian modern sculptors in history, Marino Marino, an experience that would have an indelible impression on the artist that helped define his approach to sculpture.
Accademia delle Belle Arti, Milan (Photo property of Accademia di Brera)
Marini’s impact, as well as Spronken's fascination with classical subjects and the expression of movement and tension, led to a thematic devotion to horses in the 1960s when he began working in bronze.
Whereas Marini sought to express the modern tension between mankind and nature through both the horse and rider, Spronken highlighted the animals themselves to convey their strength, dynamism and purity. His first sculptures, dating from 1962-63, were mainly of the horse’s full figure, though he soon focused on particular anatomical features, kinetic movement and isolated gestures expressed through the fragmented torso.
These horses appear as suspended energy, frozen at the very moment of maximum exertion, dancing, jumping, rolling and spinning; tension evident in every lineament of the sculpture's form. Every work has its own nuances that pulsate with the rhythm of life, suspended in space, frozen in time.
Although he made a few monumental bronzes in the 1960s, most of the works were modest in size, like the present works, whose complicated shapes were modelled in wax and cast cire perdue, or lost wax, where the mould was subsequently destroyed, making each work unique.
"I am a young countryman from Limburg, and I love the hills here," Spronken said in 2013.
"If I hadn't become an artist, probably a farmer. Then you are part of nature, from which we borrow everything. ”
Spronken’s artistic break came in 1963 when he was awarded first prize by the Troisième International Biennale des Jeunes Artistes at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for sculpted art. His first exhibition was held soon after at the Frans Hals Museum in 1964, a springboard from which he gained considerable international attention. Yet, he never left his native Limberg.
In the first half of 1965, he created 43 bronzes, six of which were monumental. A retrospective of his work was subsequently held at the Museum Beelden aan Zee in The Hague, where his monument to the royal family is permanently installed.
More than 100 of Arthur Spronken's works can be found in public spaces around The Netherlands.
The images of his large, bronze, fragmented, expressive horse torsos are recognized worldwide.
Amazone, 1973, outside Westerbrink in Assen.
Spronken's legacy is secured by international recognition and an appreciation that very few sculptors achieve, as evidenced by the many sculptures that enliven important public spaces and private collections worldwide.
In 1955, he married the Finnish artist Varpu Tikanoja and they had five children together, including two artists Caius, whose partner is also an artist, and Siiri Spronken. Arthur's partner at the time of his death was Dutch sculptor Francesca Zijlstra. The Spronkens are a Limberg institution and the extended family of artists has created a lasting heritage. However, no other Spronken is as recognizable globally as Arthur's nephew, Xander.
Xander Spronken, now 64, continues to grow in reputation as an innovative sculptor and visionary.
He is best known for his forged iron sculptures that combine the sanctity of a tradition virtually untouched since 1784 with a clarity of execution wholly modern in form.
Twenty years after Arthur Spronken abandoned the prevailing contemporary theories in favour of the more elegant and expressive approach he discovered during his career, as a young artist in the 1970s, Xander Spronken came to a similar realization, born through an application and appreciation of a process deeply embedded in our industrial, social and architectural history - forged iron.
Xander is a master blacksmith who learned the intricacies of his trade at the University of Applied Science at Aachen, Germany. His first works in iron were more utilitarian in nature and design; chairs and tables as house furnishings for his family, which served both a functional as well as aesthetic purpose. Only later did he develop the technology and knowledge to bend the material on an anvil, join it with welded clasps and design harmonious forms with fire as his only ally.
"It is Xander's soul of a smith that distinguishes him from his predecessors, but above all, it is his way of being and thinking that compels him to dominate each piece of iron on the anvil."
- Luis Elvira, Museo del Hierro
Xander Spronken's Studio (Photo property of Xander Spronken Studio)
Post-War sculptors Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza, who also notably worked with forged iron, were not blacksmiths. They employed artisans who facilitated the transition from artistic vision to material reality, the limitations of which are directly proportional to the artisan's range of understanding and skill.
By contrast, Spronken's direct contact with and understanding of his materials allows for absolute freedom, control and authority of expression, unfettered by any technical limitations experienced by his predecessors. In that regard, his work is revolutionary, as he can transcend the iron's density and inertia and imbue it with a sense of weightlessness, of energy, and movement - a true triumph of mind over matter.
The artist's love of nature, like his uncle's, is his point of departure in these monolithic sculptures. Combining both positive and negative space as defining features of the sculpture's presence, they interact within the natural archetype and its mutable atmosphere.
Spronken's tree-like constructions highlight the stark contrast that exists between the delicacy of his execution and the density of his material, harmonizing these contradictory elements. The solid trunks and folding leaves allow the interplay of natural light and form to complete the final shape, as shadows animate the space to reveal both organic and architectured forms.
"...With seemingly floating metal leaves, held in 'motion' by the changing light between two coloured planes...They evoke at the same time leaves and pages with a silent message."
-Annie Reniers, Professor University of Brussels
Sanayeh Garden, Beirut
Trees and leaves eventually metamorphosed into tables, books, and other objects, until the studio was filled with intimate and complex designs that suddenly launched Xander's career prominently onto the international stage.
These works question the human scale through an artistic language that celebrates architecture and human emotion, words and thoughts transcribed into physical expression. The table books, especially, with their spindly legs and an open book tabletop with freely curling pages, one of which submerges under the table, are a symbolic reference to the hidden mysteries that reside below the surface, to the unconscious.
The genesis of Spronken’s engagement with the environment and nature is rooted in the principles of Bauhaus design and the architectural concerns of the De Stijl. In his work, we witness the artist's masterful exertion of the Bauhaus tenets, sculptures that delicately balance void and volume, darkness and light. The wrought iron's patina gleams without being glossy, its surface beaten into undulating forms with a pneumatic forging hammer, a fluid result at odds with the coarse nature of its production.
Another commonality between his sculptures, design objects and the monumental works that we see in public spaces derives from the artist's predilection for architecture, inspired by his deep appreciation for the De Stijl movement. The branches of his trees, and the pages of his books, with steps and bars, add a graphic and architectural rhythm to the sculptural gesture, enhancing its presence.
The Spronken House was completed in 2018, and, as with his sculptures, negative space is valued as much as positive mass, air and void are animated by light and the inexplicable emotion of volume.
It is only natural, then, that after years of international exhibitions and public and private commissions for works that are strikingly contemplative and functional, Spronken would build a house, or as he refers to it, "a piece of art you can use."
"The Bauhaus design was part of rational architecture in steel and glass. The question then arises how to maintain human scale, human emotion and human spiritual needs in a highly technical environment, and how to develop a language that can immediately be “grasped”? By combining his intimate knowledge and experience of the tradition of craft and his equally personal training in spiritual traditions, Xander Spronken did find a synthesis and guidance, a path to reconciliation with the spirit of our time.
- Annie Reniers
Arthur Spronken Biography
Arthur Spronken was born in Stream, Limburg in 1930. He pursued formal artistic training from 1948-1952 at the Art Industries School, in Maastricht, with the encouragement of Paul Smalbach; a family friend who had helped his mother escape the war. At the school, he developed his talent through stone sculpture, drawing and studies of anatomy.
His love for sculpting flourished, and his admiration for Italian art drove him to pursue a year’s training at the Accademia delle Bell Arti in Milan in 1954. Under the tutelage of the world-renowned Italian sculptor, Marino Marini. Marini’s passion for the figure of the horse, along with childhood stories of his grandfather’s horses, played an influential role in directing Spronken towards sculpting the torsos of horses.
Upon his return to the Netherlands, Spronken began sculpting religious figures in wood. By 1961, the wood had evolved into bronze and the religious icons to distorted horses. Despite his classical training, he allowed figurative freedom in his work. He sculpted his horses in contorted positions, floating and spinning freely through the air.
His artistic break came in 1963 when he was awarded first prize by the Troisième International Biennale des Jeunes Artistes at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris for sculpted art.
1996 Scheveningen, Museum Beelden aan Zee
1995 Butte aux Bois, Lanaken K. H. Bärwald, Maastricht
1993 K. H. Bärwald, Maastricht1991 Singermuseum, Laren
1988 European Fine Arts Fair, Maastricht
1987 Tikanojan Taidekotti, Vassa, Finland
1987 European Fine Arts Fair, Maastricht
1983 Frans Halsmuseum, De Hallen, Haarlem
1983 Raadhuis, Heerlen
1982 Noordbrabants Musuem, ‘s-Hertogenbosch Middelheim, Antwerp
1981 Museum Van Bommel Van Dam, Venlo
1981 Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht Stokstraat 30, Maastricht
1979 Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent, Utrecht
1978 Philips Ontspanningscentrum, De Zonnewijzer, Eindhoven
1976 Kasteel d’Erp, Baarlo
1975 De Vaart, Cultureel Centrum, Hilversum
1975 Kunstpalast Ehrenhof, Düsseldorf
1975 Kunsthandel Ina Broerse, Laren
1974 Provinciehuis, de Boshof en Port Natal, Assen
1974 Bouvigne, Breda1974 De Keukenhof, Lisse
1973 Stokstraat 30, Maastricht
1972 Schouwburg, Meppel
1971 De Krabbedans, Eindhoven
1971 Cultureel Centrum, Venlo
1971 Gemeentehuis Park Jagtlust, Bilthoven
1971 Stokstraatkwartier / Stadswallen / Dejong-Bergers, Maastricht
1971 Kasteel Drakensteyn, De Lage Vuursche
1971 Stadtspark, Weert1971 Raadhuis, Heerlen
1970 Congrescentrum, Den Haag1970 Charlottenborg, Kopenhagen
1970 Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Kopenhagen
1970 Bellfires, Hapert
1970 Raadhuis, Marl
1970 Frans Halsmuseum, De Hallen, Haarlem
1970 Slotspark, Gavnø, Denmark
1970 Frans Halsmuseum, De Hallern, Haarlem
1969 Centraal Museum, Utrecht1969 Het Weefhuis, Zaanjijk
1969 Frans Halsmuseum, De Hallen, Haarlem
1968 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1968 Bussen langs beelden, Haarlem
1968 Kasteel Ooidonk, Bachte-Maria-Leerne, Belgium
1967 Cultureel Centrum, Venlo
1967 Schalkwijk, Wijkcentrum, Haarlem
1967 Goois Museum, Hilversum
1967 De Keukenhof, Lisse
1966 Economische Hogeschool, Tilburg
1966 Stadspark, Kerkrade
1966 Park Sonsbeek, Arnhem
1966 Stadswandelpark, Eindhoven
1966 Museum voor stad en lande, Groningen
1966 De Zonnehof, Amersfoort
1965 Frans Halsmuseum, Vishal, Haarlem
1965 Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
1965 Gemeentemuseum, Weert
1965 Frans Halsmuseum, Vishal, Haarlem
1965 Stadskantoor, Beverwijk
1964 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1964 Nederlandse Ambassade, Bonn
1964 Frans Halsmuseum, Vishal, Haarlem
1964 Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Kopenhagen
1964 Oratorium des Domes, Salzburg
1964 Frans Halsmuseum, Vleeshal, Haarlem
1964 Kasteel Hoensbroek, Hoensbroek
1964 Suermondt Museum, Aken
1964 Schloss Mosbroich, Leverkusen
1964 Provinciaal Begijnhof, Hasselt
1963 Maatschappij tot bevor dering van de schilder-en tekenkunst, Leeuwarden
1963 Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht
1963 Musée de l’Art wallon, Luik
1963 Beelden op Belmonte, Wageningen
1963 Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem
1963 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1963 Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
1963 Nationaal Hoger Instituut en Koninklijke Academie voor Schone, Antwerp
1963 Dordrechts Museum, Dordrecht
1963 De Keukenhof, Lisse
1962 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1962 Oratorium des Domes, Salzburg
1962 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1962 Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft
1961 Middelheim, Antwerp
1960 Heerlen Raadhuis, Tilburg, Utrecht, Almelo, Leeuwarden, Alkmaar, Deventer
1960 Kasteel Hoensbroek, Hoensbroek
1960 Stedelijk Museum Het Prisenhof, Delft
1960 Suermondt Museum, Aken
1959 Kasteel Hoensbroek, Hoensbroek
1959 De Krabbedans, Eindhoven
1958 Provinciaal Begijnhof, Hasselt, (B)
1957 Kunsthandel Dejong-Bergers, Maastricht
1957 Kansalis Teatteri, Helsinki
1956 Suermondt Museum, Aken
Works in Public Spaces
Amsterdam - Horse (Burg. Hogguerstraat)
Assen - 1972 - La Voltigieuze (Westerbrink)
Blerick - 1982 Siberia (Tuindorphotel Park on the Scholtis Coopmans Street)
Driebergen - 1968 unknown title (Horst Avenue)
Eindhoven - 1965 Flying (or Floating)
Amazon Beeldenroute Eindhoven University of TechnologyEindhoven - 1968 plastic on the facade of the Town Hall (Town Hall Square)
ofEmmeloord - 1984 Horse (Medemblikpad)
Geldrop - The Guardian (on Johan Peijnenburgweg)
Geleen - Centauer (BiblioNova, Herenhof 1)
Gulpen - 1992 Two Streams (Marktstraat)
Haarlem - 1967 The Sun Fighter (Market Square)
Heerlen - 1968 Title unknown (Henri Dunant Street)
Heerlen - 1985 Fountain (The Overloon, headquartered DSM )
Heerlen - 1987 Ir. CEPM Raedts (Douvenrade)
Heerlen - The Sun Rider (stored)
'S-Hertogenbosch - 1971 Horse Torso (Brabantlaan)
Province House (Noord-BrabantHilversum) - 1968 Horse and Rider (Diependaalselaan)
Maastricht - Ship Figurehead (Stokstraat - Plankstraat)
Maastricht - 1973 Amazon on horseback (The Spa)
Maastricht - Julius Solvay (Kommelplein, formerly Dominikanerkerkplein)
Maastricht - Faunus (Maasboulevard)
Oirschot - 1981 Elements (Market)
Schiphol - 1967 The Sun Rider (On the second floor above departures 2)
Sittard - 2000 bust
Toon HermansTilburg - 1972 Prancing Horse (On the patio of primary school "The Key", Eilenbergstraat)
Utrecht - 1969 Flight (along the Einsteindreef)
Utrecht - 1985 Julius Sulway ( Moreelsepark )
Utrecht - 1995 Paardje (Crossing Apollo Recherche / Volga Recherche)
Utrecht - portrait Jean Sibelius in VredenburgVlaardingen - 1970 Composition (Maasboulevard)
Xander Spronken Biography
Xander Spronken was born in Maastricht, Holland in 1956. As a blacksmith, he learned his trade at the University of Applied Science in Aachen, Germany before going on to study sculpture at the Stadsacademie in Maastricht. After graduation, he was able to purchase a heavy pneumatic forging hammer from a bankrupt foundry in nearby Liège, which he placed in the former garage of a small house where he lived. This soon became his art studio.
He began by creating functional works in iron like chairs, tables and credenzas as house furnishings for his family. His sense of responsibility toward the environment and nature is rooted in Bauhaus design and the architectural concerns of the De Stijl, thus it is not surprising that he became a master of furniture design. Eventually, he learned to bend the material on the anvil, join it with welded clasps and design harmonious forms with fire as his only ally.
Spronken translated his love of nature into tree-like constructions where the ‘trunk’ of the iron bar was spread out to form leaves that twisted and bent over themselves, where the interplay of natural light and form completed the shape of the sculpture. Trees and leaves eventually became tables, books and other objects until his studio was filled with an array of complex designs. More recently the artist has been producing a series of “iron plate” reliefs enhanced with paint.
By now Spronken has mounted many successful exhibitions in Europe and his monumental works can be seen ‘in situ’ in public spaces throughout the Netherlands.
2015 Harmakhis, Brussels, Belgium
2014 Art Nocturne, Knokke, Belgium
2014 GAF, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2013 Expositie Urmond, The Netherlands
2012 Art Gallery Kuub, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2012 Eastmen Gallery, Hasselt, Belgium
2011 Luxx international Art Gallery, The Netherlands
2011 TEFAF Maastricht, Deborah Elvira, The Netherlands
2010 Leon Salet, Maastricht, The Netherlands
2009 TEFAF Maastricht, Deborah Elvira, The Netherlands
2008 Exhibition, Barcelona, Spain
2008 AAArt Foundation, Kitzbuhel, Austria
2008 Leon Salet, Maastricht, The Netherlands
2007 Landau Contemporary at Gallery Dominion, Montreal
2006 Landau Contemporary at Gallery Dominion, Montreal
2006 Paris Biennale des Antiquaires, Landau Fine Art, Paris
2006 Leon Salet, Maastricht, The Netherlands
2005 Landau Contemporary at Gallery Dominion, Montreal
Singermuseum, Laren, The Netherlands
P.A.N. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Frankfurt Fine Art Fair, Germany
Museo del Hierro, Castellon, Spain
Art Contemporain, Strassbourg, France
Holland Art Fair, Den Haag, The Netherlands
The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, London, U.K.
Gallery Leeman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Keerder Kunstkamer, Cadier en Kerr, The Netherlands
Singermuseum, Laren, The Netherlands
Boterhal Hoorn, The Netherlands
Gallery Ligne, Brussels, Belgium
Gallery Cisly, Brussels, Belgium
Kunstverlag, Hamburg, Germany
P.A.N. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Rob van Rijn, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Selected Public & Private Commissions
L. Schep, The Netherlands
G. Kleisterlee, The Netherlands
J. Raeven, Belgium
Emir of Lebanon
Municipality of Beek, The Netherlands
Carcu Holding, The Netherlands
Mr. Clive Worms, Paris, France
Carcu Holding, The Netherlands
Two commissions from the Park Theater in Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Caesargroep, The Netherlands
Three commissions Allen & Overy, The Netherlands
Bauwbeheer Bv., The Netherlands
Municipality Meerssen, The Netherlands
Carlos Building, Lisbon, Portugal
Literair Theater Branoul, The Hague, The Netherlands
World Trade Center, Amsterdam
B. Huskamp Hospital, Germany
County Council Limburg, Maastricht
Castle de Hocht-Lanaken, Belgium
Dutch Centre for Public Libraries and Literature, The Hague, The Netherlands
B. Smidt, Wuppertal, Germany
F.I.S. Steel, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
Xander Spronken sculptures in situ at the Spronken House
We thank you for visiting our online exhibition. Please contact the gallery to find out more about these two exceptional artists.