Dutch puppeteer and puppet creator. Originally a painter, Harry van Tussenbroek later began making masks, designing theatre and ballet sets and costumes. His first puppets dated from 1920, and were initially inspired by the shows that the Swiss artist Paul Brann gave in the Netherlands. According to his brother Otto, Harry was a born aesthete, who appreciated all things beautiful, and an inveterate collector.
For his puppets, and later his marionettes (string puppets), Harry van Tussenbroek used minimal means for maximum effect. Each character, before being manufactured, was thought out in great detail and received a name. He found inspiration in poetry and literature, in found objects – shells, animal skeletons, feathers – and especially from his own imagination, combined with great ingenuity.
His work occupies a very special place in Dutch puppetry arts. In his performances without words, his puppets reflect oriental influences in the structure of the puppets’ faces and the richness of their costumes. In a sense, he is the godfather of contemporary puppeteers, notably Feike Boschma and Damiet van Dalsum. It is remarkable that Harry van Tussenbroek’s puppets, as objects of art, received a Grand Prix at the Paris Exposition Internationale of 1937.
In his will, Harry van Tussenbroek, who never sold any of his works, ordered that his puppets be destroyed after his death, an action that was carried out. The only trace that remains of this extraordinary artist is a short film, Tussenspel bij kaarslicht (Intermezzo by Candlelight), directed by Charles Huguenot van der Linden, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, and a small book which he authored, Poppen en marionetten (Glove and String Puppets, 1950).
- Gouwe, W. F. De poppen van Harry van Tussenbroek [The Puppets of Harry van Tussenbroek]. Rotterdam: W. L. & J. Brusse’s Uitgeversmaatschappij N.V., 1929. Winkler Prins Encyclopedie. 6th ed. Amsterdam, 1953.