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NIEUWE VLAAMSE SCHOOL recognises in itself THIS Flemish tradition, that the universal characteristic of modernity is contained in its own nature, i.e. the Flemish nature; … is dedicated to the conviction that authentic painting has never been formal or fashion-driven by nature, but of course only contained the essence, as a result of which it has the ability not to confuse the essence with the passing message of the earlier masters …

13  De Vree Paul, op. cit., p. 18 14  De Vree Freddy, op. cit., p. 19

The rest of the somewhat muddled text, drafted by Jef Verheyen and Paul De Vree, is dominated by an anti-Belgian discourse and criticism of the fads of contemporary art. (In an initial, unpublished version in Jef Verheyen’s archives the anti-Belgian theme is less prevalent, while the art system and its norms and fashions are more sharply lambasted). The bilingual pamphlet bears the names of artists Mark Claus, Herman Denkens, Jan Dries, Vic Gentils, Jef Kersting, Nico Klerks, Guy Mees, Guy Vandenbranden, Englebert Van Anderlecht, Wim Van de Velde and Jef Verheyen himself. These artists were also taking part in the exhibition, which was introduced by painter Nic van Bruggen. Under the signatures was a separate, unsigned text by Verheyen headed with a rhetorical question: “Does universality lie in tradition?” With the text and the exhibition, the group around Verheyen and Van Anderlecht clearly severed its ties with G 58, which opened a group exhibition in the Hessenhuis that same evening, and formulated “a declaration of war against the currently prevailing policy in the area of the visual arts”.13 The Verheyen-De Vree duo’s provocative initiative raised many questions. Freddy De Vree rightly points to the Flemish nationalist rhetoric and its inconsistency with the internationalism of the ZERO artists admired by Verheyen and De Vree. However, this strange and, to many people, paradoxical mix of Modernism and nationalism is not only seen in Verheyen and De Vree. It goes back to the activism of Paul Van Ostaijen, for whom sympathy for the Flemish movement and internationalism were not mutually exclusive. In any case, the point of the show eluded most observers. Pamphlet and exhibition consequently met with sharp criticism.14 Paul Vaucaire, for example, wrote in Le Matin daily newspaper (3 November 1960): “… immatérielle, sur la crête du néant, la peinture de Jef Verheyen est la moins flamande qui soit” (“… dematerialised, verging on nothingness, Jef Verheyen’s painting is the least Flemish possible”). Ben Klein stated quite plainly in Het Kahier (November 1960) that Verheyen had weakened his position by breaking away and had 125

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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