The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Arno Breker

The Wounded, 1938, bronze (ed. 3/4; late cast by Herbert Schmäcke, Düsseldorf), 147 x 125 x 118 cm.

The Hugo Voeten collection counts more than 30 works by German artist Arno Breker (1900-1991). The Wounded is without any doubt one of the most fascinating works of an artist often considered to be the most controversial sculptor of the 20th century. Arno Breker was a virtuous portraitist and realized the busts of nazi leaders Joseph Goebbels (1937) and Adolf Hitler (1938), but also portrayed artists and politicians like Otto Dix (1926), Jean Cocteau (1963), Salvador Dali (1974/75) and Leopold Sedar Senghor (1978).

When realizing The Wounded, Arno Breker used a photograph of the French cyclist André Leducq published in the French newspapers a few years earlier. Leducq was one of the favorite participants of the Tour de France but unexpectedly fell on the descent of the famous Col du Galibier in 1930. The photograph shows Leducq in his sport clothes lamentating about his fate. He nevertheless won the Tour de France that year, thus showing the strength of his motivation. For The Wounded, Arno Breker used the pose of André Leducq on the photograph, rendering him as a naked man, as a kind of answer to Auguste Rodin's famous Thinker.

The sculpture was intended as one of the four masculine figures created to surround a monumental sculpture of Apollo with his quadriga. The group of sculptures was never achieved. It was destined to occupy the main roundabout of the new Berlin to be built by architect Albert Speer. The complex iconographic program was intended to glorify the beginning of a new national socialist era. In the book published in 1942 by Charles Despiau on the occasion of Arno Breker's solo exhibition in L'Orangerie des Tuileries in Paris, the sculpture is entitled Le guerrier blessé (The wounded warrior). No injuries can be seen on the muscled body of the Wounded. Only the presence of a headband can indicate a physical injury or, most probably, a psychological injury. The sculpture could by then be read as an allegory of Germany seeking to recover its power after the defeat and humiliation of the First World War.

Although Arno Breker conceived the Wounded as a command for a public and allegorical monument, he nevertheless gave the sculpture a specific identity and introduced anecdotic elements in his project. Even if the facial expression of The Wounded couldn't be seen by the viewer, Arno Breker gave the sculpture the face of the French cyclist. A few years later, he even casted a separate sculpture as a portrait: The Head of the Wounded. One copy of this work is also part of the Hugo Voeten Collection. The Head of the Wounded functions as an autonomous portrait of Leducq, Arno Breker paying an homage to a man he stayed into contact with until at least the late 60's (as archives documents testify).

Text: Simon Delobel