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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

The Breath of the Wind

The saying goes, "The horse is formed from the breath of the wind, the beauty of the earth, and the soul of an angel." No one knows this, as well as veterinarian and artist Joerg Auer. Born in Chur, the Capital of the Canton Grisons, Switzerland, Joerg's love of horses began in childhood with dreams of growing up to be a jockey; however, as time passed, it became apparent Joerg was literally “outgrowing” his dream with a stature too tall for the profession. Joerg continued his love of horses by illustrating them in various media: pencil, pastel, pen and ink, and woodcarvings. While in college at the University of Zurich, Joerg’s art teacher introduced him to etching to extend and enhance his study of drawing mediums. Eventually, participating in sports and keeping up with his studies in veterinary medicine consumed most of Joerg's time, and art fell into the background. 

During his time at the University, Joerg lived with a friend who imported the first American Quarter Horses into Switzerland. The opportunity for a hands-on learning experience taught Jeorg how to care for horses properly and study their anatomy. In addition, he was introduced to the Western style of riding and loved it! Also, during this time, the show "American Rodeo Far West" toured Europe. The group disbanded in Italy, where the livestock was distributed throughout Europe. At this point, Joerg's friend acquired a few of the better American Quarter Horses. In 1972, Joerg and his friend traveled to Italy to meet world-renowned sculptor Harry Jackson, who kept his studio and foundry in Camaiore, Italy. Jackson also had acquired one of the quarter horses, which he boarded at his studio. This vital connection fueled a lifelong interest in bronze sculpture for Joerg, in the works of Alberto Giacometti, George Phippen, and John Coleman, depicting horses and Western themes.

Once Joerg completed his Veterinary degree, he traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, to enjoy the American West and further his skills in the Western riding style. He also assisted Dr. Wesley Lickfeldt at his Quartz Animal Veterinary Hospital. During this time, Dr. Lickfeldt and Joerg traveled to North Scottsdale, Carefree, and Cave Creek, tending to privately owned horses. Dr. Lickfeldt proved to be an important mentor and guide in the “tricks of the trade.” During this time in Scottsdale, Joerg fell in love with the Sonoran Desert and the equestrian lifestyle. Following his time with Dr. Lickfeldt, Joerg continued his training as a research fellow in Columbia, Missouri, for a year. He then moved on to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, for two years as a surgery resident. He accepted a faculty position at Brian/College Station, Texas, for 11 years. In 1982, while in Texas, he passed his surgery board exams. Finally, in 1989, Joerg returned to Zurich, Switzerland, to reconnect with his alma mater. 

Joerg, as an equine orthopedic surgeon, went on to build the Equine Department at the University of Zurich into a world-renowned specialty clinic and referral center for equine fracture treatments. He returned to his drawing and illustrating. Now equipped with a vast knowledge of equine anatomy, Joerg created illustrations for his publications and professional presentations. In 2002, while combining a speaking engagement in San Diego with a holiday trip, Joerg, his wife Anita, and their son Renato visited friends in Cave Creek and purchased a house. Joerg retired in January 2011, and he and his wife Anita began to split their time 50/50 between their home in Lenzburg, Switzerland, and Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2012, Joerg asked a friend, Swiss sculptor Andre Schwab, to help him create a bronze sculpture, which was a beautiful Gambles Quail. The following spring, in 2013, Joerg took a workshop from artist Curt Mattson entitled "Composition and the Horse" at the Scottsdale Artists School. For the first time, he began to look beyond his technical knowledge of horse anatomy into the beauty and grace of its elegant form. 

In 2020, Joerg sold the home in Scottsdale and returned to Lenzburg, Switzerland, about 35 Km from Zurich, dedicated to continuing his work in art. He found a studio, about 15 minutes from his home, fully equipped with room to create life-size bronze sculptures, which are the focus for a body of new work. Today, he exhibits at art exhibitions in the Zurich region. Joerg also enjoys the challenge of sculpture consignments; two of his best known are Lantinus, the former first-place world champion jumping horse, and the second sculpture, Where Dun Johnny, of a successful half-Arabian reining horse, depicted in a complete stop with the exact saddle blanket of the owner and show saddle, minus the rider. Joerg Auer’s bronze sculptures display a keen eye for detail, a stunning knowledge of his subject matter, and the ability to express the soul of each of his equine subjects.


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