Youth and education
Cees Kortlang was born in Harderwijk in 1926 and grew up in Ermelo. After secondary school (HBS), he went to the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague from 1946-1952, where he majored in drawing. He took his exams but failed them. After his period in The Hague, Theo Swagemakers helped Cees Kortlang and his then wife move into a studio on Zomerdijkstraat in the Rivierenbuurt area of Amsterdam. Other residents on Zomerdijkstraat included Jan Wolkers, Piet Esser, Jaap Hillenius, Mies Hillenius, Theo Swagemakers and Jaap Wagemaker.
For a long time, Cees Kortlang lived and worked in the studios on Zomerdijkstraat in Amsterdam, surrounded by other artists. But he also spent a lot of time abroad. From the middle of the 1960s, he spent several weeks a year in the Graphic studio Druckwerkstatt in Wolfsburg Castle in Germany, founded by Gustav Kurt Beck in 1962. He also received funding from the French government to work for a while in Stanley William Hayter’s ‘Atelier 17’ in Paris in 1965. In the summers of 1976 and 1977, he worked in the Printshop in St. Michaels, Newfoundland. He also travelled to Prague, Iceland, Greenland and Ireland. He was inspired by the scenery he encountered in these countries, which is reflected in his work.
Exhibitions and awards
In 1954, Kortlang held his first solo exhibition in hotel ‘Zeezicht’ in Harderwijk. During this time, his work was exclusively figurative. Newspaper reviews of the exhibitions praised his expressive portraits and characteristic interiors and harbour views. The Volkskrant of 9 September 1955 reported favourably on the artist’s potential. He is described as a diligent worker who is aware of the hard grind involved in building up a good reputation. Kortlang also exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam during the Liga Nieuw Beelden exhibition (1961) and the Lucas exhibitions of 1959 and 1960. The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam currently has twenty of his works in its collection. The exhibitions continued to come and Cees Kortlang exhibited at home and abroad, among others in Galerie De Drie Hendricken in Amsterdam, Galerie Frederic in Amsterdam, Galerie Horn in Luxemburg, Galerie de Luxembourg in Luxembourg and in Schloss Wolfsburg in Wolfsburg. In 1963/1964, Cees Kortlang won the Talens award for his work Malá Strana. The jury called the work "more complete, more mature and as a result more fortunate" than that of the other nominees.
In 1992, after the death of his mother and his divorce from his wife, Kortlang returned to live in his parental home in Ermelo. By this time, his daughter had grown up. During a holiday in Venezuela in May 1997, Karin Kortlang and her boyfriend went missing. This event marked an all-time low in the life of Cees Kortlang. In 1997 he created various etches which he dedicated to Karin and through which he tried to achieve closure on the event. He later wrote about his daughter in the book Balans (“Balance”), an autobiographical story about his life. The Karin Kortlang Foundation is named after his daughter. On 5 April 2008, Cees Kortlang died in Harderwijk following a stroke.