Wessel Couzijn

Vliegend ('Flying', 1961)

Location: On the Groene Loper, in front or Matrix

During the nineteen sixties Wessel Couzijn makes a number of quite expressive sculptures in bronze. He is one of the first artists in the Netherlands to do so. One of these works is Vliegend of 1961. Also known as 'Afrika ontwaakt' or 'Rising Africa', it was purchased from the artist in 1967. Many of Couzijn's sculptures could be distinguished by a sort of wings, and a high-rising posture with sharp protrusions. Couzijn puts them on display for the first time in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 1960, that is devoted almost entirely to his work. This exhibition at last brings him (inter)national recognition.

Couzijn (Amsterdam, 1912 - 1984) grows up in New York. When he neglects his schoolwork his mother sends him to relatives in Amsterdam. In 1930 he enters the Rijksacademie (Amsterdam Academy of Visual Arts), wins the Prix de Rome and also works in the Italian capital for some years. During the Second World War Couzijn, a Jew, finds refuge in the United States, where he becomes acquainted with famous artists as Zadkine and Jackson Pollock.


Having returned to Amsterdam he teaches and works on traditional sculpture. When in 1950 he establishes the Groep A'dam, together with Tajiri, Kneulman and Guntenaar, his work becomes more modern with increasing freedom of form and expression.

At the core of Couzijn's work is the yearning for freedom. This is supported by abstract and plastic elements. Couzijn applies wild forms and bulges into which he integrates all sorts of materials he finds: bottle caps, pieces of tubes or tiny sticks of rattan. Only in 1958 does he at last find a foundry that can cast his complicated molds using the lost wax technique.

Couzijn is co-founder of the Ateliers '63 (Haarlem) where he teaches until his death. The goal for which the Ateliers aim is expressive freedom. With the guidance of experienced artists students learn to "Express themselves in their work, in order to achieve something that is their own", as Couzijn phrases it at the time.

Links Wessel Couzijn
(second article)

See also: Ben Guntenaar; Edith Imkamp; Carel Kneulman; Shinkichi Tajiri.

Photographs of his work