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  • Writer's pictureDr. Elisabeth Paige

My Very Favorite Art Exhibit: The Modern Menagerie

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

Vanderveen's Antelope

The best exhibit I’ve ever been to at a museum…of course, featuring animals!

Modern Menagerie: Sculptures by Loet Vanderveen at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento

It’s important to understand the story behind these amazing statues in order to really appreciate them.

Running Herd of Elephants: Loet Vanderveen

Vanderveen, as a young man, spent much of his free time in the Netherlands at the zoo where he assisted in caretaking duties.

However, on May 14, 1940 in preparation for the German’s attack of Rotterdam, they shot the dangerous animals. This, along with atrocities of humans deeply affected Vanderveen.

Of Jewish decent, Vanderveen escaped Rotterdam through Belgium although he was later captured for three weeks. He later joined the Dutch Army and the Royal Air Force and received a medal of valor from Queen Wilhelmina.

After the war, Vanderveen spent brief periods in London, Zurich and New York. In New York he met Fong Chow, and studied ceramics with him for three years.

The Camel: One of My Favorites

He eventually made his way out to California, settling in Big Sur and began sculpting animals, first out of ceramics and eventually out of bronze. Many with bronze and ceramics.

Vanderveen's Running Ostriches

What I was most impressed with was his uncanny ability to capture expression without a lot of detail. His work has mostly smooth lines and only some of his sculptures have detailed eyes.

Stalking Cheetah: Loet Vanderveen

His sculptures ranged from running ostriches, to leaping cheetahs, to running herds of elephants, to a mother and child giraffe, and a wonderful camel.

Vanderveen remained in Monterey until his death at the age of 93 in 2015.

If you ever have the opportunity, his work is very much worth seeing.

(all photos taken from Crocker Museum's website)

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