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Life Size Bronze Horse Sculpture for Kentucky

Life size bronze horse sculpture of The Phoenix
    A Life size Bronze Horse Sculpture, "The Phoenix " Rises at the International Museum of the Horse for the Kentucky Horse Park.
A life size bronze horse sculpture unveiled -- The story of a life size
bronze sculpture of The Phoenix, a world champion.

On a special summer's day at the Kentucky Horse Park, people gathered in front of The International Museum of the Horse to unveil and dedicate, as the frontis piece for the museum, a Life Size Bronze Horse Sculpture. The sculpture is a portrait bronze of an American Saddlebred champion - five time World Champion "The Phoenix."

The Kentucky Horse Park had requested of sculptor Patricia Crane that she sculpt for this site a life size "horse with a legend." Show ring World Champion "The Phoenix" sported a unique personality and championship titles spanning nine consecutive years, from his first show ring appearance to his last, and was a popular choice as the subject of the life size sculpture project that was to span a year in the making.


Life Size Horse Sculpture for the American Saddlebred Museum


Bronze Horses Sculpture Gallery

Horse Artist - Four Decades of Bronze Horse Sculpture by Patricia Crane

Bio of Sculptor Patricia Crane
Life size bronze horse sculpture weight-bearing armature is 
constructedIn honor of their champion, the owners generously sponsored the creation of this grand life like work of art. This Life Size Bronze portrait sculpture, so faithful in appearance and spirit to The Phoenix, will long greet visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park and to all those who pass through the front doors of this museum.

The pictorial exhibit which follows, chronicles the creation of this magnificent life size sculpture. At the conclusion, a scale model of the life size sculpture is offered to the general public in a signed and numbered, very limited edition of museum quality bronze.

Creation of a Life Size Bronze Sculpture - Step by Step:

Patricia begins each life size portrait bronze with an in depth study of the anatomy of the individual horse, the proportion, way of moving and individual personality. Once a pose has been selected, a life size bronze horse sculpture must have a weight-bearing armature engineered and constructed that can support the many pounds of clay needed for such large scale sculpture work.

Life size bronze horse sculpture completed soft clay also becomes a successful portrait
 of The Phoenix.
After many months of labor the armature is not only totally covered and hidden by the sculpted life size clay, the completed soft clay also becomes a successful portrait of The Phoenix. This fragile clay is the original sculpture and stands eight feet tall from ground level, beyond vertical neck, to the ear tips of the horse.

Life size bronze horse sculpture interior plaster hardens in the shape of the horse.

Making Molds for the Life Size Bronze Horse Sculpture

Now that the life size clay sculpture is completed, the first in a series of three molds is begun. This first mold is called a "waste-mold". The life size clay is divided into sections. What will be a life size bronze horse sculpture begins as a clay, now in sections of head and neck, body from chest to rump, tail, and four separate legs. A mixture of plaster is slowly built up several inches thick to cover each section. A framework of pipe is embedded into the plaster for strength. Once the plaster has hardened, each section of plaster mold is pulled away from the clay. During this separation the clay, being soft, becomes damaged goods! But the inside of the hard plaster bears a perfect impression of the clay horse.  Each mold section is slightly larger than life size of course, so it's heavy to work with, yet a delicate touch is needed.

Life size bronze horse sculpture plaster is corrected by the artist.
The sections of waste mold are placed back together and liquid plaster is poured into the hard plaster waste molds of what will soon be joined together in the life size bronze horse sculpture. When the interior plaster hardens it is of course in the shape of the life size horse. To reach the plaster horse inside however, the exterior plaster mold must be "wasted" by chipping it carefully away until it no longer exists, which is why it is called a waste mold.
Life size bronze horse sculpture latex rubber mold accepts the wax pour.
We began with an eight foot soft clay and through use of the waste mold we now have a hard plaste rlife size horse in separate sections.  We are well on the way to a finished bronze, although there are months of work yet to be done.

A latex and rubber sculpture mold is now made of each plaster life size section. The image shows the rubber mold of the horse's head (upside down with the nose pointed at the viewer). The rubber mold for our life size bronze horse sculpture is red, in the photo. It is kept from being able to move or sag by a plaster outer layer. The plaster outer layer, or "mother mold" is clamped tightly shut while hot liquid, red colored wax is poured inside.
Life size bronze horse sculpture wax sections inside the plaster mold.
Once the special sculpture wax is cooled and has hardened, the plaster mother mold is unclamped and the rubber mold is opened and in this instance the back portion of the torso is revealed in perfectly formed wax. (plaster life size head in background). In this way each plaster section is translated into a wax section in this stage of work toward a life size bronze sculpture. Each wax sculpture section requires hours of hand labor to "correct" all blemishes and seam lines left by the molding process. (The rubber mold is saved for future use but remains viable for a limited time.)
Life size bronze horse sculpture wax head
When all wax sections are perfect, a third and final sculpture mold is made - the "investment". Each wax is coated layer upon layer with what will become a concrete hard investment material capable of withstanding great heat. A system of "gates" or air vents and channels are engineered into this mold so no air bubbles will destroy the actual casting of the life size bronze horse sculpture.

The investment has hardened and is complete, and now the wax section inside, which took so many hours to correct is "burned out". The wax is destroyed by heat; and the empty mold remains. This is the time-honored, centuries old "Lost Wax" sculpture method of bronze casting when working life size or any size.

Life size bronze horse sculpture molten bronze poured into mold.

Pouring the Life Size Bronze:
Each sculpture mold of the horse is placed in a sand pit for heat dispersal. Liquid bronze at 2200 degrees F and resembling liquid fire rather than molten bronze, is poured from a furnace into a special, portable container called the "crucible". From the crucible the liquid bronze is carried to the sand pit and each mold is filled. Once cooled, the solid bronze must be freed from this final mold. To do this the investment material must be carefully broken away. First power tools then hand tools are used, so as not to mar the sections of the life size bronze inside of each sculpture mold.
Life size bronze horse sculpture correction of raw bronze casting.

Once each bronze section has been freed from the investment mold, the life size bronze sections are first spot welded together, then each area is arc welded so all the parts of the sculpture are together once again and we have a united bronze horse, being brought to life at last.

Life size bronze horse sculpture raw bronze is now completed
The now standing bronze horse must be again "chased" painstakingly by hand until all evidence of weld marks is gone and all surface blemishes of the bronze sculpture are corrected.

The bronze horse, being life size,  weighs about 1700 pounds. Bronze sculpture does not rust, but the elements in mother nature form a "patina", or coating, the color of green on the surface of the raw, yellow bronze. An enduring man made patina can be achieved by using an acetylene torch to etch chemicals into the surface of the raw bronze, to create a more pleasing color and to help protect the life size bronze, which is now looking truly like a magnificent sculpture.
Life size bronze horse sculpture with finished patina
The true and enduring patination process of a sculpture must be achieved by heat and many, many hours of applying thin layers of chemical over and over, to every square inch of the total surface of the bronze, which for life size work takes a ton of hours!

When an artist casts a bronze edition, each casting in that sculpture edition must begin with pouring wax into the rubber mold. The mold is always kept until it loses its accurate shape. Each wax must then proceed through all of the stages previously described.  Bronze casting is not for the lazy or weak of heart.
Life size bronze horse sculpture installed at Kentucky Horse
The Unveiling of a Life Size Bronze Sculpture in Kentucky:

The Phoenix arrives at the Kentucky Horse Park, in his final form as a completed life size bronze horse sculpture.   The bronze remains draped until the day of unveiling. Work on the black granite cobblestone base of the sculpture continues.

Life size bronze horse sculpture unveiled in front of cameras.
On the day of dedication, The Phoenix Bronze is slowly unveiled while the public, media representatives, and TV cameras record the event. Phoenix graces the front door of the museum as guests stream by to view the bronze sculpture. Many of them have known this horse and applaud applaud the realism of his detailed  life size portrait.
Life size bronze horse sculpture completed.

The life size "Phoenix Bronze" sculpture can be seen at The International Museum, at the Kentucky Horse Park, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Supreme Sultan life size horse sculpture at the American Saddlebred Horse Museum

Now read about another bronze  Life Size Horse Sculpture: for the American Saddlebred Museum, a monumental portrait of a very famous stallion.

For Saddlebred lovers, this link is provided which leads to many of this breed's site pages.

© All Photos and Sculpture Copyright 2000 - 2017, Patricia Crane.