Saturday, September 10, 2011

Frederickus Reinders and His Memorial Icons

Fred Reinders (1874-1959)
Liberty (after The Statue of Liberty)
painted cement
ca. 1945
photograph by versluis, 2011

This piece is one of several statues which can be found in Hospers, Iowa (pop. 690) on Main Street, in the Hospers Memorial Park (adjacent to the library and community center). The pieces were made by a local artist, Frederickus (Fred) Reinders, who wanted to commemorate the end of World War II in 1945. According to the local library’s website, “There was a formal dedication held on Saturday September 15, 1945.” About twenty-five years earlier Reinders had constructed an elaborate memorial in the middle of Main Street to memorialize the sacrifices of World War I.

It has been said that these statues are in the Folk Art tradition; however, the statues as well as other works by Reinders show a complexity that reveal some artistic training and cleverness. The charming look and naiveté of the pieces result from the rather rudimentary medium which Reinders had to work with.

To build the pieces Reinders modeled the figures in cement on an armature of steel and chicken wire mesh. The Liberty statue is positioned on the east side of the park but interestingly, that was not Reinders’ initial intention. The library’s website states that Liberty is “holding a torch that was to have lit the north end of the park. She clutches a book inscribed with the word LAW. For without law, liberty cannot be upheld.”

Here’s a brief biography of Reinders from the library’s website:

The Hospers Memorial Statues were built by Frederickus (Fred) Reinders. Reinders was born in Groningen Netherlands on December 18, 1874. Reinders was enrolled in an art school in the Netherlands at the age of six. He immigrated to the United States in 1893. Reinders first made his home near Platte, South Dakota. After a year or two of farming Reinders left the Platte area because of severe drought conditions and came to the Hospers area with his newlywed wife Jantje Dolphin Reinders. Fred Reinders went into business in Hospers as a house painter but soon discontinued the work due to health reasons. He then sold furniture and obtained a license as a mortician. In 1935, Reinders retired at the age of 61 and devoted his time to his hobby of portrait and picture painting and sculpting. Fred Reinders died on January 10, 1959 at the age of 84.
The statues have been carefully restored by Dordt College Art Professor Jake Van Wyk and repainted by Dordt alumnus Josh Wynia. In fact, the dragon of war piece in the Memorial Park is a terra cotta recreation by Professor Van Wyk.

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