Magnificent buildings aside Groningen also boasts 400 sculptures and other artistic creations within its city limits. To be found all over in parks, public places, on bridges and street corners, they are permanently on show and open to the elements. Often we see them with such regularity in our daily lives that we don’t really see them anymore.
One such sculpture along the Boteringesingel in the Noorderplantsoen is of a large bull, ‘de Wisent’ (European bison). Created by the Groninger artist Wladimir de Vries (1917–2001), it measures two by three metres long and weighs ten tons and is one of ten statures that can be accredited to him in the city. The bull is a solid primitive form with limbs and head fused into a solid imposing grey mass. Taking a year and a half to sculpt during which eight tons of stone were chipped away before the creature finally emerged.
A sculptor of the old school, Wladimir de Vries would first work out his idea in clay, then once satisfied go to work on the designated piece of stone with chisels and sledgehammers: a time consuming and arduous task. His work is predominantly figurative which exudes a sense of pride and joy. Woman is often a reoccurring theme; the sensual nature of which often caused much debate with not only his clientele but also the public.
Probably his most renowned work is that of ‘Landbouw en Veeteelt’ (Agriculture and Cattle breeding), to be found on the Herebrug (Here bridge) and depicts an urban virgin. She is naked except for a few ears of corn wrapped around her middle and has her foot placed on a calf lying at her feet. In 1953, when it was placed on the bridge it was received with mixed emotions. Some found her too naked, whilst others found the rather strange proportions of her body disturbing. Children on the other hand, were bothered by the plight of the poor calf under her large foot. However, over the years she has obviously grown on the Groningers who have dubbed her ‘Blote Bet’ (Bare Bet).
© Alison Day
© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #15 Spring 2007,
a publication of Connect International
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