"The Highjumper", a bronze sculpture by Arno Breker, for which Ulrike Meyfarth stood model.
ULRIKE MEYFARTH, holder of a world record in the high jump, posed for the sculptor Arno Breker. Here, in her article taken from the West German magazine BILD AM SONNTAG, she tells why:
Sports and art belong together. This has been so since mankind's earliest beginnings. What draws people to the world's museums? The human image, preserved in marble and bronze, a testimony of mankind and human achievement.
It is an extraordinary stroke of luck for me that Arno Breker is creating, as he says, "a life-like sculpture" of me. I have rejected such requests from all other artists. But I could not say no to Breker because he is the sculptor of today, a sculptor who glorifies the human form. He is absolutely the greatest!
My friends have named the sculpture of me the "Olympia." That was not done casually, for already in his youth, Arno Breker had begun to focus on the human body in his work. Athletes of various decades have been the models for his Olympia-cycle. I agree with Breker when he says that he "is the sculptor of the human being and its triad of beauty: body, spirit, and soul."
Breker, as old as the century, sees in the athletically-trained body the ideal image of man, which art has the power to immortalize. He glorifies man and the creative power and achievement which human existence has the capacity to produce. Any athlete would be honored to help transfer the ideal of beauty and achievement to a sculpture which will survive for thousands of years.
Like a medium
That is more difficult than one would think. It is not easy to stand in one position hour after hour. My self-discipline and ability to concentrate served me well. While posing, I observed the master: dressed in a white smock, he stands quietly in front of the mass of clay which is to take my form. He looks at me. I and the clay model. Breker seems as absent as a medium.
In many ways he is like an athlete. Discipline, endurance, and achievement--that is what we have in common. Jürgen Hingsen, Michael Gross and I--we have only ourselves to thank for our accomplishments, not political favors.
When Breker sculpts the modern-day man, he does so not in a commercial aspect, but with the conviction that humanity must find expression in man himself. We live in a society which emphasizes achievement, and athletic activity is one means of achievement. Breker distinguishes himself from other sculptors not only through his masterly artistic skill and his positive, future-oriented view of life, but he is also the only one who uses real people as models for his sculptures.
It is not true that fit and healthy people have become a minority in this atomic age. On the contrary: in a health-conscious society such as ours, one which does homage to the cult of beauty and youth, there are more healthy people, both young and old, than morbid critics think. Anyone who doubts this has lost his eye for beauty. He need only go to a sports field or a swimming pool and he will realize his mistake.
Another thing that I like about Breker is that he is a sculptor of both men and women. "The female body is a sacred vessel that deserves to be preserved," says Breker. That is not only a modern and tolerant attitude, but also a compliment to women. Why shouldn't I as a female athlete, or any other young woman, pose for a sculptor?
The sculpture which Breker is making of me is about 70 centimeters tall. It will be made of bronze and marble and I hope that many people will see it. After that Breker plans to make a larger-than-life sculpture of me. I am already looking forward to working with him again.
ULRIKE MEYFARTH, the Olympic champion in the high jump, is a member of the Arno Breker Society, International (10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York 14031), which was formed to promote the exchange of art in the classical tradition between Europe and the United States.