VISIONARY REVUE

JOHFRA AND DIANA
IN THE HAGUE

      Diana had studied painting at the Academy from 1941 to 1943 and had already spent some time in Paris. As this was one of Johfra's long held dreams, the two went to Paris together in 1947. They discovered the Existentialists at Café de Flore in St. Germain de Pres, visited le Dome in Montparnasse, and took in the view of the city from Montmartre.
       In this way, each summer became a time of travel and discovery. In 1948, they went to Rome to study its antiquities. In 1950, they went back to Paris, where Johfra made a number of studies at the Louvre, admiring the paintings of the old masters and the Attic Greek scupture. In 1951, they returned to Rome where Johfra intensified his study of antiquity and experienced ‘his own personal renaissance’. Particularly the fountains of Rome became a major source of inspiration for him.

DRUMMELS
DRUMMELS

      Meanwhile, back in the Hague, the two continued to work on their painting. They took a studio together on Prinsestraat and often worked side by side. Despite the finely rendered copies of antiquities in his Sketchbooks, Johfra’s paintings pursued strange, surreal, and even humorous themes. The ‘drummels’ made their appearance in unending variety - bizarre, growing, organic forms combining human and animal anatomy. Johfra garnered a series of solo exhibitions at Galerie Bennewitz in 1947 and 1948.


 
 
 


PARIS - SPRING 2003

      The year 1953 marked a turning point in their lives, when Johfra and Diana became acquainted with Cor Damme, a Dutch American who commissioned esoteric illustrations from Johfra. Through him, they became acquainted with the Lectorium Rosicrucianum in Harlem. The two began what Johfra called their 'apprenticeship' in the study of Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism and other esoteric teachings.
      During this time, Johfra illustrated a number of esoteric texts printed by the Rosicrucians."These were years of intense work,” he later reminisced, “that occupied us totally. It was our society, our world." (Symphonie Fantastique p. 89) In the end, he would spend nine years at the Lectorium. Diana would stay on, spending eleven years there. And, his future wife Ellen spent a total of six.

JOHFRA AND DIANA
UNLOADING DRUMMEL PAINTINGS
FOR AN EXHIBITION

      All this time, Johfra and Diana continued to paint and often exposed their work together. Johfra’s surrealist works underwent a slow metamorphosis as more and more classical motifs began to appear: here some roman ruins in the background, there an attic torso in the foreground.
      In 1959, the two artists made a pilgrimmage to Port Lligat in order to meet Salvador Dali. After seeing their work, the Surrealist took the two painters into his confidence, seriously discussing painting. Afterwards, Johfra wrote a long account of the event, reflecting on the nature of the artist in his Journals. He also rendered a portrait of the Surrealist in pen and ink.


 
 
 


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