The adolescent tragedies of Heinz Schwarz

Swiss sculptor Heinz Schwarz (1920 -1994) was a genius. “Genius” is a big word, I know. It is the anatomist in me that is filled with admiration for his rendering of the human form. But there is more: much more. His works are true-to-life, poignant and smooth. They tell stories. Geneva is fortunate to be home to two of his most well-known statues: both touchingly evoke adolescence but speak also of tragedy and loss.

Heinz Schwarz 1

L’adolescent et le cheval, 1976.

There is a story in these parts of a young boy who, many years ago, was swimming on the lake edge with his horse. The boy drowned. Schwarz made this tragedy the theme of this huge work. The distress of the horse is evident. But how does Schwarz denote the boy’s tragic end? The beautiful solution he found can only be seen from a particular angle as you come down Avenue de France towards the lake. In the last moment of his life, the sinking boy’s desperate hand reaches up from the waves of the horses back. Genius!

Heinz Schwarz 2

View from Avenue de France.

From the lake edge, take yourself up to Place Bourg de Four in the old town. Prepare to have your heart-strings pulled!

Heinz Schwarz 3

Clementine, 1974.

Schwarz’s “Clementine” is much more than an exquisite statue. She is a symbol of solidarity for women and girls – especially those forced into prostitution – all over the world: the reason why there are often floral tributes strewn at her feet. Clementine is overpoweringly sad and beautiful in her budding adolescence. She is unspeakably delicate and stands fully and unashamedly naked.  She is quiet but her vulnerability screams out. You can only weep for her innocence that has been or is soon to be brutalised. And Schwarz has evoked all this in bronze! Genius!

I have to wait to take my photograph because an obese man  – to the amusement of his tourist friends – drapes an arm around Clementine’s shoulder and fingers her right breast. Digital shutters click amid giggles. My disgust wells inside. Clementine doesn’t flinch. She’s seen and felt it all before.

Heinz Schwarz 4

Gondebaud by Roger Ferrier, 1957.

But there is hope. Clementine has a guardian high on a wall nearby. King Gondebaud “des Burgondes” (480-516) looks like such a nice old guy. He watches over her. He may just unleash reasoned violence with that sword if one more person violates her adolescence.

Heinz Schwarz’s sculptures were sponsored by Ville de Geneve, Fonds d’art contemporain.

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