When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gives an official gift to a dignitary or head of state, he gives a Vanderveen bronze bear. Sculptor Loet Vanderveen brings an incredible sympathy to every animal he creates. His sculptures capture an animal’s signature pose, revealing the essence not only of its form, but also its mannerisms. Vanderveen researches his subjects exhaustively, and has been on many African safaris to gather first-hand impressions.
As a young boy in Rotterdam, Holland, Loet went nearly every day to the city’s Victorian-era zoo. On May 14th, 1940, the Germans bombed Rotterdam, virtually flattening the city. 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 Vanderveen to get out of occupied Holland. So, he set off on his bicycle and escaped over the Belgian border. He joined the Dutch army and after the war, Loet lived in Paris and London where he designed sportswear.
He later moved to New York City to learn the challenging art of reduced glazes by studying with a master ceramicist. The cutthroat business environment of the city wasn’t to his liking and he and his new partner, the painter Alba Hayward, moved to California and bought twenty acres in Big Sur. Loet Vanderveen built a large ceramic studio with Hayward and spent the next years creating ceramic sculptures of animals with bronze tusks and horns. After rebuilding his home from the 1985 fire, Vanderveen began working fully in bronze.
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. Vanderveen’s collectors included 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 a Dutch boy who loved animals, and grew up to be one of the most famous sculptors of our time.