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TE216

Observations in a museum

Cornelis Zitman
In the 1940’s this builder’s son from Leiden attended the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague where he made friends with Co Westerik and fell in love with Vera Roos. When the defense of the Dutch colonial empire threatened to call up the young painter, he fled to Venezuela.
After moving to the capital Caracas, around 1950, he started his own furniture factory that developed into a company called Tecoteca, a kind of Ikea. But in 1958, during a holiday on the island of Grenada he came to the conclusion that he had had enough of the business and they stayed for three years.
The young family then stayed for three years in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as Zitman wanted to learn the craft of bronze casting which he did at Pieter Starreveld’s foundry in Amersfoort.
But the Zitmans had too much Latin verve to settle in the polder. This became abundantly clear when Zitman shifted the front door of his house from one canal to another, driving the municipal authorities to despair. In about 1964 Zitman was invited to teach at the design department of the School of Architecture in Caracas and he and his family settled in the hills above Caracas in a centuries-old sugar mill that Zitman converted into a unique place for living and working as a sculptor. His earliest sculptural work – a group of 23 small-scale sculptures – was exhibited in 1968 in the major art museum of Caracas. He enjoyed growing recognition as a visual artist. Shortly afterwards he received a visit from Dina Vierny, the famous artist’s model who had established a flourishing art business in post-war Paris and who would open the Musée Maillol in 1995. Vierny’s meeting with Zitman resulted not only in the purchase of much of his works, but also signalled the start of his international career, as Vierny would organize exhibitions of her ‘cher sculpteur’ all over the world.
Zitman is unknown in The Netherlands. Only two museum collections there have any of his work: at Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam (sketches) and Beelden aan Zee Museum in Scheveningen (two sculptures). Queen Beatrix and premier Lubbers were presented with works by Zitman on a state visit from the Venezuelan president, and some private collections include Zitman pieces.

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Additional Photos by Rob Zwemmer (alvaraalto) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5618 W: 329 N: 10882] (42648)
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