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(Jürgen Hingsen)

By Dr. Volker G. Probst



The sculptor Arno Breker working on the sculpture of the Olympic champion Jürgen Hingsen.


Jürgen Hingsen, who holds the world record in the decathlon, won the silver medal in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Arno Breker became acquainted with the "King of Athletes," as the decathlete has come to be called, through a photo in a German newspaper. After crossing the finish line in a record-scoring race, Hingsen dropped to his knees and, although he was completely exhausted, raised his arms towards the sky as a sign of the victory he had achieved. In this gesture, Breker sees a vestige of antiquity, when athletes thanked the gods for victory. With regard to the religious character of this gesture, Breker writes: "Sports and religion, sports and myth--these are well-known associates.... If the sculpture of Hingsen has a special significance in the new dialog between sports and religion, sports and art, and art and religion, then it is expressive of a new development...and a new self-assurance."

The formal construction of the sculpture is governed by a strong symmetry, which nevertheless is not rigid, but functional, directed towards a fixed goal: Because the sculpture is meant to be exhibited outside, the symmetry has an architectural function. This work clearly illustrates that Breker the sculptor also thinks architecturally. The structure of the smaller areas of the individual groups of muscles, especially those of the back, are important because they make inner tension outwardly visible; the silhouette line is equally significant to Breker, especially for the larger-than-life sculptures: "Those sculptures which stand outside in open space are constructed so that the silhouettes are most effectively displayed against the blue sky."

After doing sculptural portraits of the swimmers Peter Nocke and Walter Kusch, Breker then did this decathlete, whereby the characteristics unique to each of these sports are captured in a portrait of a specific athlete's body. As can already be seen in the works of the early 1930s, Breker thereby documents in sculpture the physical portraits of each athlete. In these works we can see the differences and alterations in the human form, which is an expression of nature. In the following a maxim concerning the affinity to nature which the viewer finds in his work: "I cannot invent nature."



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