Former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush plan to have placed in their memorial archives portrait busts which were modeled by the German sculptor Kurt Arentz. The busts, commissioned while these political leaders were still in office, are already part of their collections. In thank-you notes to "Dear Kurt", both men expressed their satisfaction with the works and their admiration for the 62-year old artist.
"Men and animals are the central theme of my work," said Arentz during an interview with the Associated Press in his studio in Leverkusen. "To give artistic form to creation means to awaken responsibility for the preservation of creation." In addition to sculpting animals, Arentz has sculpted more and more of the so-called "higher animals" in the last 15 years. Included in the "Gallery of Leading Contemporaries" are portrait busts of Franz Josef Strauss, among others, which are now displayed in official places. The bust of Axel Springer in the Berlin Publishing House was also done by Arentz, as were the busts of conductors Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. Both of the latter were acquired by the U.S. Museum of European Art in upstate New York.
A bust of Ulrike Meyfarth, two-time Olympic winner in the high jump, also numbers among the works of Arentz, who seeks to combine realism with the abstract in his art. "In a portrait bust, the person portrayed should be recognizable in every respect," says Arentz. "Upon the real, I place the surreal, which allows me to depict the hidden essence of a human being." This is just as important with politicians as with other personalities. "Not just the good side, but also the soul should be visible. This does not always please the model."
According to Arentz, numbering among his more pleasant models were, in addition to both U.S. presidents, former German president Karl Carstens, SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt, Sir Peter Ustinov and the Viennese painter Ernst Fuchs. "German politicians find it more difficult to let themselves be sculpted. They fear they will be criticized for showing off." Arentz considers this fear unreasonable however. "What visual reminders do we have today of the first German chancellor Konrad Adenauer or the economic miracle man Ludwig Erhard? Primarily the portraits which artists have painted and sculpted.
The portait busts of Reagan and Bush have brought Arentz international acclaim as the "presidential sculptor". The "American affair" began already during the term of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's predecessor Helmut Schmidt. The former SPD Chancellor bestowed upon Reagan a gift from the nation of a pair of bald sea eagles which had been bred by wildlife conservationist Horst Niesters at the Hellenthal Game Preserve. This pair of threatened species was released in a game preserve in the United States. Arentz sculpted these eagles for the White House in Washington.
Another of Arentz's eagle sculptures was ultimately chosen as the ecological prize of the "International Committee of Artists for Ecology," which German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel and committee president John Zavrel presented to the British heir apparent, Prince Charles. For the ecological prize of the Foundation for Environmental Studies, Arentz sculpted the "far-sighted falcon". One of these will soon be "flying" on the desk of former German foreign minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher.
At the suggestion of wildlife conservationist and television writer Heinz Sielmann, Arentz sculpts animals threatened with extinction. "These small and large bronze sculptures are meant not only to give joy to art lovers, but also to stimulate environmental awareness," says Arentz. In addition to his favorite subjects of the bull, the horse and the owl, the Master has plans for something even bigger: a cycle of "man in the year 2000" for the turn of the century. "I cannot imagive anything in art more beautiful than portraying over and over again man as he was created."
Several small sculptures -- bulls, eagles, and portraits -- by Kurt Arentz are on currently on display at the Museum of European Art, 10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York (USA). Also two interesting books about the life and work of Kurt Arentz are available. Interesting information about Kurt Arentz can be also found on the World Wide Web at: http://www.meaus.com
Copyright 1999 Museum of European Art