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5  Ibid. p. 151

was one of the founders of Symbolism and Apollinaire collaborated with the Cubists. Some avant-garde movements actually owe their formation to the power of the word: Futurism is a literary concept coined by the poet Marinetti, while Dadaism is a creation of Tzara, and Breton was the pope of Surrealism till the day he died. In Belgium, Antwerp literati Paul Van Ostaijen (1896 – 1928) and Michel Seuphor (pseudonym of Fernand Berckelaers 1901 – 99), introduced international Expressionism, Dadaism, Futurism and Constructivism to a young guard of visual artists between 1918 and 1928. This “classic” avant-garde model, and the catalytic role of literary figures such as Van Ostaijen and Seuphor, was undoubtedly what poet and critic Paul De Vree had in mind when he sought a rapprochement with visual art in the late 1950s. In his programmatic text, De avant-garde. Plastisch: poetisch (The Avant-garde. Visual: poetic) of 1962, De Vree explicitly addresses this trans-media aspect of “parallelism” and makes specific connections with the paths established by the early twentieth century avant-garde poets. The author deals extensively with the parallels and collaborations between poets and painters: Paul Van Ostaijen and Oskar Jespers, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay, Michel Seuphor and Piet Mondrian, Hugo Claus and Karel Appel are all considered. Extending this avant-garde line to the contemporary neo-avant-garde of around 1960, De Vree describes how Jef Verheyen introduced “the avant-garde” to Antwerp together with author Ivo Michiels, initially with artistic input from Milan (from Lucio Fontana and others), and afterwards with “the offensive in favour of distinctly Flemish Essentialist painting”. But, De Vree writes, “the paths of the visual artists also cross those of the younger writers here. Shows and vernissages are the work of literary kindred spirits”.5 De Vree is referring here partly to his own role, as well as the fact that a reaction to Subjectivism and Existentialism was already under way in the progressive literary circles of the late 1950s, which were seeking an affiliation with visual modes of expression. In his essay, De Vree makes frequent reference to Verheyen, whom he describes as “the barometer of his generation”, and to his influence on contemporary poets. Language played a major role for Jef Verheyen. He read and wrote a great deal, and used text to organise, position and communicate his complex visual ideas. The catalogue from his first retrospective exhibition in 1979 117

Profile for Studio Luc Derycke

Jef Verheyen  

monography of the works of Jef Verheyen

Jef Verheyen  

monography of the works of Jef Verheyen

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