Since 1932 – Our Story

In 1932 John Spring opened an art casting foundry on Astoria Avenue in Queens, NY.  Initially named Bedford Bronze, it was established as Modern Art Foundry in 1944 upon moving to 41st Street in Astoria, Queens. This relocation brought the company in proximity to the piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons.  In fact, our office space was once the stables for the “mansion on top of the hill” once owned by the Steinway Family.
View of the Steinway Stables – Date Unknown
John Spring (1902-1975) was born in the United States.  He returned to Europe as a young child but as a United States citizen he returned to New York in 1923.  Through a family connection he was hired and began working at Roman Bronze Works.  Roman Bronze Works was an established lost wax casting foundry of high profile, and was responsible for multiple, significant public and private art castings.  John learned the foundry craft during the next nine years and in 1932, the year his youngest son and third child, Robert, was born, he ventured into foundry ownership.

We don’t know much about those beginning years.  Unfortunately, few records remain.  In 1971 John was interviewed and referred to Bedford Bronze as a one-man foundry, working Saturdays and Sundays.  As it grew, he hired helpers. John shared his belief that in the art foundry business the relationship to the artist is of central importance.  “Every piece of work is … a different story, a different challenge”.  The foundry is here to serve the artist who is the customer.

In 1944 when John changed the location of the foundry, and the name to Modern Art Foundry, paper records began to be saved.  The written history of Modern Art Foundry can be found in Job Log Journals, Job Cards, and Customer Files.  Jacques Lipchitz was a regular customer of Modern Art Foundry’s in the 1940s-1960s.  John mentions other artists in the 1971 interview: Doris Caesar, Mary Callery, Maria Martins, Malvina Hoffman, Reuben Kramer, Anna Hyatt Huntington, and Jose de Creeft.

Maria Martins The Impossible, III 1946
John worked full time until the early 1970s.  At that time the day-to-day operations were passed on his youngest child Robert (Bob) Spring (1932-2020).  Foundry records indicate he received his first paycheck from Modern Art Foundry in 1949, but it is usually told that Bob began full time foundry work in 1955, following his honorable discharge from the United States Air Force, and nearing the time the casting of the Alice in Wonderland sculpture would begin production.  This remains a signature sculpture in the history of Modern Art Foundry.  We have found over the years that many New York City residents, as well as visitors, all have their own story about visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue. Installed in Central Park in 1959, this significant statue represents the spirit of craft and personality that is still part of the Modern Art Foundry brand to this day.
1959 Modern Art Foundry Staff finish the Alice in Wonderland Sculpture.
Pictured here in Astoria Queens just before traveling to Central Park NYC.
In the early 1980s Modern Art Foundry was introduced to Louise Bourgeois.  Louise and her sculpture would certainly have a major impact on the years ahead.  Crucial to this relationship was Bob’s interaction with Louise.  The letter below identifies an integral part of how a foundry and an artist can work together.
While our relationship with Louise Bourgeois was one of great importance for Bob and the business of Modern Art Foundry, it simply belongs to a standard John followed early on: service to the artist. The list of sculptors who have passed through our doors and engaged our services is extensive. While we are far from perfect, we do our best to treat each one with the attention they deserve. The spirit of Modern Art Foundry is to serve each customer to the best of our ability. The customer may have just one or two works to cast or may become one we develop a long-term relationship with that lasts for decades. Every job is important. It represents an opportunity for Modern Art Foundry to help someone achieve their goal. From small works to large scale public monuments, it’s our tradition to provide foundry services offering traditional time-tested art services along with every day technological advancements that are part of a new environment for manufacturing and creating art.

Bob served artists for over fifty years. He became an iconic elder statesman in the art foundry scene around the world. In 2019, the National Sculpture Society acknowledged his contributions with the Sculpture House Casting Award, recognizing Bob’s service to the art world. In April 2020, Bob died at age 88.

The year 2022 was Modern Art Foundry’s 90th year in the art casting business. Having moved from first to second generation, Bob’s youngest son Jeffrey began working in 1993, joining his sister, Bob’s eldest daughter Mary Jo in a transition plan. In the early 2000s Jeffrey and Mary Jo became the third generation of the Spring Family to run the day-to-day operations started by their grandfather.

At Modern Art Foundry, on any given work day, you will find critically acclaimed artists working with our staff, and at the same time a young artist or emerging artist will be engaged in the process to have their works cast. These encounters will take place in our conference room, modeling area, wax room, finishing room, with our patina specialist. It will include sculpture headed to prestigious art institutions, to private collectors, and to group shows in smaller exhibition settings. Modern Art Foundry may not have seen it all, but we’ve seen and cast quite a bit. It would not be any surprise if the number of works we’ve cast sits close to one hundred thousand.

Modern Art Foundry is first and foremost a fine art lost wax casting foundry. While it strides toward its’ centennial year in 2032 it remains committed to serving artists and the art community worldwide. Modern Art Foundry has made significant contributions to the history of art casting. In 2021 the Modern Art Foundry Foundation was established to preserve and protect the archives of Modern Art Foundry. In addition, the Robert J. Spring Endowment for Sculptors was launched to continue the spirit and influence Bob provided to sculptors during his lifetime. The goal of serving artists with fine art casting services, conservation services, design services, educational opportunities and more, has weaved its way through all three generations of Modern Art Foundry.