Jan Couperus

Jan Couperus' Biography

My grandfather, Jan Couperus was born on October 13, 1890 on a farm in the small village of Gaastmeer, situated in the northern Dutch province of Friesland. Two years later his family moved to another small town called Gaast where he received his first private lessons in drawing. In 1902 his family moved again to Heech where his talents were noticed and was told that he should become an artist (painter). Unfortunately, financial circumstances did not allow this and Jan attended a vocational school from 1904 until 1907 to learn the house painter trade. After a short stint as a house painter's mate, he opened up his own house painter's business in Sint Anna Parochie, at the same time continuing his education in the art of painting and drawing. In 1922 he was offered a temporary teaching job at the vocational/trade school in Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. A year later this became a permanent job, teaching technical drawing at the school until his retirement in 1955.

In his personal life, he married Antje Groenveld on May 19th, 1918. They first had a daughter (my mother), Sjouk born on March 5th, 1920 followed by a son, Epeus Gerardus six years later on November 28th, 1926.

Throughout his life, Jan Couperus loved to sketch and paint. He could be found anywhere in Friesland sitting on a portable stool either sketching out the scenery to be turned into a painting later or when equipped with his supplies, painting on the spot. Besides painting the Dutch landscape, he also did a number of still lifes while later in life his art became more and more abstract. For a time, he produced illustrations for several Frisian magazines and books. After the death of his wife on November 1st, 1960, he frequently visited his daughter's family in the US and added American landscapes to his repertoire. There are literally hundreds of his paintings and sketches in existence today, some of which were shown in an exclusive 1972 exhibition at the Frysk Letterkundich Museum (Frisian Literary Museum) in Leeuwarden. It is the goal of this website to show and preserve as much of his artwork as possible.

Apart from his career and his passion for painting, he was very active in the practice of Theosophy: the system of beliefs and teachings of the Theosophical Society, founded in New York City in 1875, incorporating aspects of Buddhism and Brahmanism, especially the belief in reincarnation and spiritual evolution. As a result he was also a vegetarian for most of his life.

During World War II, Jan Couperus maintained a journal consisting of newspaper clippings and personal notes dealing with the world-wide, national and local ramifications of the war. This journal has been donated and is available at the Historic Centrum in Leeuwarden.

Jan Couperus died on May 8th, 1980 at the age of 89 after a short battle with cancer.

Newspaper Interview

The following newspaper clipping is an article about Jan Couperus from October 30th, 1972 in the Leeuwarder Courant, the main daily newspaper in the province of Friesland. The article is in Dutch and Frisian, but will be translated with a future update.