- Category : 1912-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 2
Dutch abstract expressionist sculptor.
Couzijn was a son of Mozes Couzijn (15 November 1889 6 am, Amsterdam - USA) and Adèle de Smitt (18 April 1890, Amsterdam). His father was a Jewish furniture maker, who moved in 1913 from Amsterdam to New York. Wessel and his mother followed two years later. The main reason to emigrate seems to have been an economic one, as poverty was a prominent feature of most Jews in Amsterdam. For this reason, the social democratic workers party had more appeal to them than the shul.
In New York Wessel got polio, so he had to spend years in hospitals. Nevertheless, he followed as a teenager lessons at the famous Art Students League of New York. At the end of the twenties, his mother sent him back to the Netherlands for a thorough education. In 1930 Couzijn was admitted to the painting department of the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. This department often worked with models of plaster. Couzijn was so enthusiastic about them that he signed up for the sculpture department, where he was taught by Professor Jan Bronner. Couzijn was a great admirer of Bronner. In 1936 Couzijn won the Prix de Rome , his 'Orpheus and the lyre' was made entirely in the spirit of Bronner's architectural sculpture. Because of this award Couzijn was able to make a study trip to Rome (1936-38). After spending a year in the Bloemstraat in Amsterdam (Febr 1938 - Nov 1939), he went to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Ronson (1939-40).
As a Jewish anti-fascist, Couzijn fled the Nazi violence by emigrating to New York in 1940. During the war he worked in America as an accountant for the Royal Dutch Steamer Company. He came into contact with other artists in the United States, including Ossip Zadkine, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. In 1945 he also met a student of Zadkine, the sculptress Pearl Perlmuter (23 September 1915, New York - 8 May 2008, Amsterdam), a daughter of orthodox Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. In her Jewish orthodox culture picturing art was prohibited. Nevertheless, in 1934 she changed from Law to Art. December 1945 he married her. They got one daughter. In 1946 they went to the Netherlands and settled December 1946 in Amsterdam. Both hoped to find a career in the Netherlands, but it was Couzijn who profited most. See the Dutch Royal Academy of Science (Huygens) resources for her merits. Both became prominent art teachers in the Netherlands.
His first assignment in the Netherlands was a bronze memorial relief. In 1947 he made a stone memorial in front of the platform of the town hall of Made. Bronner was not so enthusiastic about this work. Couzijn was disappointed by Bronners reaction and sought his own way. Because of youth paralysis he could not use one arm optimally, the physical side of sculpture was therefore a heavy task for him. From 1948 he started to work more with bronze. This design for the National Monument for the Merchant Navy in Rotterdam from 1951 marked a breakthrough for him. The open, loose shapes that he used were still fairly new in the Netherlands. Some compared his expressionistic style with a crashed airplane.
Couzijn was from 1947 teacher at the Arts and Crafts School (Kunstnijverheidsschool) of Amsterdam, forerunner of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. He was a member of the Dutch Circle of Sculptors from 1948 to 1962 and for some time. He founded the Group Amsterdam in 1959, together with Carel Kneulman, Ben Guntenaar, Hans Verhulst and Shinkichi Tajiri and he was involved in the founding of Ateliers '63 in Haarlem.
In 1960, Couzijn broke through nationally and internationally. In that year, the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale was almost entirely devoted to his work. Couzijn showed for the first time the bronze sculpture 'Corporate Entity', which was placed in front of the Unilever building in Rotterdam in 1963. In 1967 he took part in the International Sculpture Symposium in the Canadian city of Toronto. His work Midsummer Night's Dream is shown in the High Park. In 1978 Couzijn and Perlmuter divorced. In September 1983 he remarried with Dineke Blom (22 October 1952, Paramaribo), one of his former students at Ateliers. His last statue Souffleur was commissioned by the municipality of Haarlem on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Couzijn died before the statue was placed, at the age of 71.