Shoulders of Giants

Shoulders of Giants, sculpture of two draft horses harnessed in team, large clay sculpture with rough textureheads of the two horses - one on the left is slightly ahead and looking towards the other

Iowa sculptor Nina de Creeft Ward was commissioned collaboratively by the University Library and the University Museums to create Shoulders of Giants, a low-fired clay sculpture with an oxide and light glaze surface. The sculpture was installed in the atrium of Parks Library in 1998.

Inspired by the horses depicted in the Grant Wood designed mural, When Tillage Begins, the sculpture characterizes a teaching and learning situation. The theme of mentoring is demonstrated by a team of Percheron draft horses. The older, experienced horse is teaching the younger horse to work in harness.

The title of the work of art is derived from a quotation of Sir Isaac Newton in 1675/6: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

About the Artist

"I consider myself a sculptor, not tied to any particular medium, but always involved in form, and changes of form. I am interested in surfaces, in color and pattern. Animals are the focus of my art. I am absorbed in their minds and bodies, feelings, habits, and concerns."

Nina de Creeft Ward

Born in New York City, Nina de Creeft Ward grew up in Santa Barbara and Ojai, California. She moved to Iowa in 1975 to reside in Cedar Falls, where she taught art at the University of Northern Iowa for nine years. Her father was the New York sculptor Jose de Creeft, and her mother, Santa Barbara sculptor Alice de Creeft, did bronze sculpture portrait commissions of horses and dogs for a number of years.

Nina Ward has loved animals from an early date, since her mother kept goats and a variety of other animals and her brother had a succession of riding horses. She was twelve when she bought her first horse, Red, out of a field in Goleta for twenty dollars. This horse predisposed her to favor draft horses, which she sketched at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, California in her twenties when she was attending Scripps College. Once in Iowa, she drew horses at the Cattle Congress in Waterloo, the Britt Horse Fair, and at the Iowa State Fair. Study drawings done in Illinois serve as reference material for both her printmaking and sculpture.

Ward has a 1956 B.A. degree from Scripps College, a 1964 M.F.A. degree from the Claremont Graduate School, and has done additional study at the Massachusetts College of Art. Solo exhibitions have been shown in the Philippines, California, Maryland, Iowa, Chicago, and Kansas City. She is now a full-time artist and carves wood and stone, works in wax for bronzes, and does soft sculpture, etchings, woodcuts, and monoprints. Her clay animals include a variety of different animals which are sold in a number of galleries and shops throughout the United States.