Jan Antonie Spiering (1937-1994)
This Dutch sculptor never led the fashion in the artistic avant-garde. Having begun his career as a modest academic in the Rijksakademie tradition, the talented traditionalist gradually made his mark on the national psyche however and its sculptural subconscious during his short life.
Through distinct themes in a modest collection of work, such as The Prodigal Son, the Ballplayers, the Wagtails and the Shepherd, Spiering reveals a sense of the contemporary in his very real sculpture. A reclusive type, who sought to provide for his family from his commissions, his attempts to ply an honest trade were not always easy.
In 1965, Jan Spiering won the Prix de Rome with The Flight. Although this was the height of the swinging sixties, the young sculptor’s first most notable work until then had been The Prodigal Son inspired by the awkward return home of his father after the war. The biblical title reflects the artist’s moral outlook, but was also a far cry from the wild ideological combat taking place in many artist circles.
The prestigious prize enabled him to travel to live and work in Italy, where he became acquainted with the work of Giacometti, Moore, Calder and Hepworth, as well as the Etruscans. On his way home, via Paris he came across Brancusi for the first time.
Commissions soon dried up however, prompting his wife to send a letter to the local authority in Weesp 1970 informing it that they had a talented sculptor in their midst that they should employ – resulting in them procuring The Mother and Child.
Spiering appears to have struggled to promote himself and thus fell on the offer in 1980 of a teaching post at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and a steady salary, until 1987. Inspired by homely scenes, the countryside and even fairy tales, Spiering’s work at no point was ever designed to create a ruckus or fanfare.
Mr. Carol Schade makes the catalog and describes the life and times of this forgotten sculptor.
(text: Alex Nevill)