Ian Pieters | Hommage à Leopold

Artist: Ian Pieters (1925-2020)
Art work: Leopold Teken - Hommage à Leopold (1963/1965) 
Collection: de Doelen
Acquisition: Rotterdamse Kunststichting 


In 1956, the artist Ian Pieters was commissioned by the Rotterdamse Kunststichting (‘Rotterdam Art Foundation’) to create a sculpture in memory of the poet and classicist J.H. Leopold (1865-1925), who also worked as a teacher of classical languages at the Erasmiaans Gymnasium. Pieters aimed to create a sculpture that was neither anecdotal nor realistic. So, rather than a statue or bust, he envisioned "a contemporary form, an abstract symbol". Initially intended for placement at the Erasmiaans Gymnasium, the school's administration was not enthusiastic about the work. After much refinement by Pieters, the sculpture was finally completed in 1963. It found a new location: the Leopold Teken was installed in the Doelen, fulfilling a long-held dream of the Rotterdam artist.

Art critic Piet Begeer saw the Leopold Teken as a kind of tribal ceremonial shield, akin to those used in festive ceremonies on the islands east of Australia. Pieters chose not to depict the poet realistically or literally but instead sought a more intuitive approach to Leopold’s rhythms, sounds, and thoughts. For this reason, the critic regarded the Leopold Teken as one of the most exceptional tributes to a poet.

Ian Pieters took great pride in his sculpture. He would often come over to de Doelen to inspect it, frequently expressing concern about damage to the artwork. In 1992, he wrote a letter to the management complaining about a "certain carelessness of the public." Metal fractures had allegedly occurred due to pushing and shoving. In response, de Doelen had the work restored, with funding provided by CBK Rotterdam.