Loet Vanderveen (Dutch, 1921 – 2015) Bronze Animal Sculpture Artist

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Loet brought life to every animal he created. His contemporary, limited edition bronze sculptures capture an animal’s signature pose and freezes it in time, revealing the essence not only of its form, but also its way of moving. He researched his subjects exhaustively and went on many African safaris to gather first-hand impressions, providing each bronze sculpture with an authenticity that can’t be replicated. Loet Vanderveen’s horses, elephants, panthers, and other popular animal froms are available in many different patina choices, offering each collector the chance to acquire a piece that is unique and personalized to their tastes.

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As a young boy in Rotterdam, Holland, Loet Vanderveen went nearly every day to the city’s Victorian-era zoo. “I thought animals were way beyond belief. I marveled at them,” said the artist. The zookeepers gave him free reign of the place and let him help care for the animals. Vanderveen remembered, “They had a little lion cub and I would feed it practically every day. Then he grew up and they put him in a cage and I was heartbroken.”

The Germans bombed Rotterdam on May 14th, 1940, killing 617 people and virtually flattening the city. When warned of the coming attack, the government ordered the Dutch army to shoot the animals in his beloved zoo, fearing that they’d get loose and endanger the population. “I got there right after the bombardment,” said Vanderveen, “and the whole place was in ruins. The lions and big cats—many of them were shot. But in the midst of it all, there was one elephant roaming. It was very, very poetic.”

Among all the stories of death and destruction, there were also some amazing stories of survival. The zoo’s chimpanzee somehow escaped and turned up later in a local bar. A seal was blown out of its pool and ended up in a canal in the city. But Loet Vanderveen’s life would never be the same.

The young boy was completely alone. His mother had died in a car accident when he was eight, and shortly after the bombing his father died of a staph infection when no medicine was available to treat him. With his half-Jewish heritage, it became imperative for Loet to get out of occupied Holland. He set off on his bicycle and escaped over the Belgian border. When he arrived in France, he was arrested by the Germans and spent three weeks in prison. After his release he joined the Dutch army and was decorated for valor by Queen Wilhelmina.

Post-war times were chaotic, but the young man had friends in the fashion industry who found him work doing sketches for designers. Loet went to Paris hoping to be a designer himself, but was only offered a job sketching by a young Christian Dior. He turned it down, “…like an idiot. It was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made.”

He did find work in London designing sportswear until his American visa cleared and he packed up and moved to New York City. For three years he studied with a master ceramicist, learning the challenging art of reduced glazes. But the cutthroat business environment of the city wasn’t to his liking, and he and his new partner, the painter Alba Hayward, set out for California to find their paradise, settling on the rugged Big Sur coastline.

They bought twenty acres 1600 feet above the surf and hired an architect who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright to build them a house. Loet built a large ceramic studio with a kiln and spent the next years creating ceramic sculptures of animals, some with bronze tusks and horns.

In 1985 a lightning-sparked fire burned his house and studio to the ground. The only survivors were the rosebushes, some giant redwood trees and a few large ceramic pieces that Loet had dragged outside. Using the original plans, the house was rebuilt with improvements, but with a much smaller studio for sculpting the wax originals that his new bronze animals were being cast from.

Loet began making ceramics for a living and soon was experimenting with bronze elements added to ceramic animals, which then evolved into creating cast bronze animal sculptures. Now Loet’s work is also available in Baccarat Crystal that is made in France. Each can be sculpted with customized patina of ebony, browns, burgundy, reds, jade greens, and silver grays-all carefully selected to enhance the sculptured forms. Some of Loet’s more famous elegant bronze sculptures include “Noah’s Ark”, Elephants, Cheetahs, Buffalos, Giraffes, Bulls and Lions.

This new medium brought Loet Vanderveen into the international spotlight. The combination of patina and polished bronze finishes added the finishing touch to his elegant sculptures. Works by Loet Vanderveen are now in the permanent exhibits of museums worldwide. Political figures, champions of sport, movie stars, wildlife organizations and heads of state, these diverse art collectors are united by an appreciation for the art of the Dutch boy who loved animals and grew up to be one of the most famous sculptors of our time.

The news of Loet Vanderveen’s death came to us in May, 2015. He passed away in his Carmel, CA home, sculpting and creating up until the very end. While it is certain that a shining star to the world has faded with his passing, we are honored and inspired to be able to continue sharing his work to our collectors.

Work Exhibited

  • Art Museum-Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Art Museum-Syracuse, New York

  • Crocker Gallery Museum-Sacramento, California

  • De Young Museum-San Francisco, California

  • Minneapolis Art Institute-Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Museum of Art-Oakland, California

  • Museum of Contemporary Crafts-New York City

  • Pasadena Art Museum-Pasadena, California

  • Monterey Museum of Art-Retrospective-Monterey, California

Architectural Commissions

  • U.S. National Bank-Omaha, Nebraska

  • Borax Building-Los Angeles, California

  • Bush Gardens-Van Nuys, California

  • Carthay Circle Building-Los Angeles, California

  • Church Leisure World-Seal Beach, California

  • Fireman’s Union Building-Los Angeles, California

  • First Hebrew Congregational Church-Salinas, California

  • Northern California Savings Bank-Santa Cruz, California

  • Northern California Savings Bank-Menlo Park, California

  • Northern California Savings Bank-Los Altos, California

  • Cuesta College-San Luis Obispo, California

  • San Bernadino College-San Bernadino, California

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