Cornelis Zitman was born in 1926 into a family of builders. At the age of 15, he started studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. His studies terminated in 1947; he then refused to enroll in the required military service objecting to the Dutch political activities in Indonesia and thus left the country aboard a Swedish oil tanker that would take him to Venezuela.
He settled in the city of Coro, where he found employment as a technical draftsman in a construction company. He began to paint in his free time and make his first forays into the field of sculpture. Two years later, he moved to Caracas, where he worked as a furniture designer for a factory of which he would later become the director. In the early 1950s, Zitman, in partnership with the engineer Antonio Carbonell went on to create Tecoteca, his furniture manufacturing company. The exceptional curation of what Cornelis J. Zitman produced in the years he designed and manufactured furniture offered an insight into the manufacturing of modern furniture in Venezuela, which is still very much being discovered and rests on the shelf of the things that hope to be better understood and settled in the country's recent history. There is nothing but tremendous praise for the designer; his work is now reconnecting with the public, the audience for whom it was originally designed.
The life of Tecoteca itself was relatively short-lived, not due to the shortcomings of the furniture but to a series of unfortunate events and the social and political situation. Four years after its creation, Tecoteca went from one crisis to another. In 1956, his workshop in Boleíta caught fire. Although the project for its reconstruction and relaunch in Cagua had been programmed and carefully studied with the acquisition of machinery and the establishment of procedures of the latest technological ability, the business bankruptcy occurred admits a tidal wave of the economic and political changes in 1958, which proved unpredictable and unrecoverable. The name Tecoteca was liquidated along with its assets and acquired as a brand for the production of kitchen furniture. Today it survives as the name of a building located on Avenida Francisco de Miranda, south of the Atlantic building, in Los Palos Grandes, near where in its heyday Tecoteca had its most impressive store.
A mixture of admiration and disbelief is the feeling that best accompanies the life of Tecoteca. It was an era of splendor and misery. The portfolio of forms and functions furnished the Monserrat residential building in Altamira, the work of Emile Vestuti when he worked at the firm of architects Guinand and Benacerraf, and the renowned Club Táchira de Fruto Vivas, through a concerted program, focused on the production of standardized furniture for oil camps for Shell company in Venezuela, which Zitman conceived with managerial logic and quality.
Good quality and economical furniture was what Zitman had became known for, and it was a reputation he maintained within the Venezuelan school of design. Jorge F. Rivas Pérez describes and focuses Zitman's activity as The Decade of Design / 1947-1957: a crucial chapter in the production of conceived and manufactured furniture in Venezuela. After the company's closure, Zitman decided to give up his entrepreneurial life and moved to the island of Grenada, where he devoted himself entirely to painting and began to assert his character as a sculptor.
In 1961 he traveled to Boston in the United States to participate in an exhibition of painting and design. That same year he returned to Holland with the desire to study casting techniques. In 1964 he worked as an apprentice in the foundry of the sculptor Pieter Starreveld and then returned permanently to Venezuela. On his return, he was hired by the Central University as a professor of design. The following year he began to work more intensively on small-format sculpture modeled directly in wax. In 1971 he exhibited for the first time at the Galerie Dina Vierny in Paris, and from then on, he devoted himself exclusively to sculpture. During these years he held several individual exhibitions in Venezuela, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, Japan, and other countries. He won several national and international awards.
Zitman participated in several international exhibitions such as the Budapest Sculpture Biennial and the São Paulo Biennial, the FIAC in Paris, and the ARCO fair in Madrid. His solo exhibitions include the Galerie Dina Vierny in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, the Tokoro Gallery in Tokyo, the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá, and the Beelden Zee Museum in Scheveningen, the Netherlands. His sculptures seek to reproduce and exaggerate the morphology of the indigenous people of Venezuela, especially the female figure. His works are in private collections and museums in various countries, such as the National Art Gallery of Caracas and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas in Venezuela, and the Musée Maillol in Paris.
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