VISIONARY REVUE

      And I remember that first glance. In the window of a bookshop on Yonge Street, I stopped to admire a poster of The Water Bearer from the Zodiac. The image intrigued me, drew me in, and I searched out the name of the artist - Johfra. The year was 1978, and I was still a teenager then, living in Toronto.
      Over the years, more works by Johfra captured my gaze and demanded its attention. In an Esoteric Bookshop in Munich, I found his little
Astrology book, with all 12 signs of the Zodiac explained by the artist. In Paris, I acquired a poster of his Unio Mystica. Alone in my studio, I dedicated an evening to meditating on its images - entering through their rich symbolism to the Sacred they invoke.
      Finally, I decided to make contact with the artist himself, to learn more about his work, his ideas. But - too late - Johfra died a few years ago. Still, the invitation came from Ellen Lorien to visit their home in Dordogne. And that is how I found myself alone in his studio, attempting to see it all through his eyes, and engaging him in silent conversation. Though dead, he still has so much to tell me.
      So, from his autobiography
Symphonie Fantastique and from conversations with people who knew him, I’m now piecing together a brief account of Johfra’s life. Reading the Dutch texts is like looking through a dusty window - I can just make out the shapes and their meaning. It is the same with my understanding of his life - a life too rich to be contained even in his numerous journals, sketchbooks and canvases. The most I can offer here is a silhouette - a brief outline of a rich and eventful existence.

                                                            L. Caruana



 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2003

JOHFRA
YOUTH AND ACADEMY YEARS

      The artist signed his works Johfra an acrostic of his full name, FRAnciscus JOHannes Gijsbertus van den Berg. At times, he added the name Bosschart to his paintings, taken from his mother’s maiden name. With the sun in Sagittarius and Aquarius ascendent, Johfra was born on Dec 15, 1919 in Rotterdam.
      According to his second wife, Ellen Lórien, “He was a dreamer as a child, very contemplative, who had difficulty concentrating in school. As opposed to his algebra lessons, he prefered to observe the minute patterns manifest in stones, roots, and the bark of trees. Clouds fascinated him especially, as he'd search them for faces and the play of light and shadow.”
      A talent for drawing manifest itself very early, and was recognized by the Royal Acadamy of Arts in the Hague when they accepted him, as an exceptional case, at the age of fourteen.
      In fact, he gained little from the lectures and spent most of his time studying copies of antiquity from the collection in the cellars of the academy. Particularly the works of Da Vinci and Michelangelo appealed to him, and these masters remained a source of inspiration throughout his life.
      However, a certain professor Meier introduced Johfra to Max Doerner’s classic work, The Materials of the Artist, and this book revealed to him the methods of the old masters. While at the academy, he began applying these methods.



 
 
 


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