Tightrope Walker

Kees Verkade


In Tightrope Walker, one figure balances precariously on the shoulders of another as the two carefully cross a tight rope. The length of the walk is left to the viewer's imagination, with the sculpture presenting only one focused moment in the course of a longer event. The figures are tall and thin, with long arms held wide to help in their balancing act. The bottom figure looks straight ahead in concentration, while the figure on his shoulders watches his movements from above.

The surface is rough, with the bronze looking almost like thick slabs of clay layered on top of one another. The sculpture is placed on a pedestal approximately seven feet above the ground. Although it is not as high as a tight rope act might be, the placement does make the viewer stand with neck craned to see the work.

Tightrope Walker was commissioned for placement on Columbia Campus by friends of General William B. Donovan, a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School, and veteran of World War I [1]. In preparation for creating the piece, which was to be in memory of General Donovan, Verkade watched archive films of the general and interviewed people who had known him, thus becoming familiar with the personality of the man whom he was memorializing. Verkade then chose his subject matter to portray the courage [3] and "controlled daring [2]" of General Donavan.

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