Jef Verheyen

Born 6 July 1932 in Itegem, Belgium


1946
Studies painting with Frans Ros in Lier


1946-1952
Fine Arts education (drawing, etching, painting, applied arts) at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

 

1951
Receives a scholarship from the municipal borough of Nijlen, gives the money to his parents… rents a studio in the Kattestraat in Antwerp.
Meets Dani Francq at the Academy, love at first sight. They attend classes together,
and both enter the Higher Institute for Fine Arts the following year.

 

1952-1954
Post-graduate studies at Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Antwerp.
Drawing, ceramics, painting. Works at the Studio Paul van Vlasselaer for decorative arts and scenography (Verheyen would continue to visit the Studio until 1956-1957).
Engages in academic studies and explores figuration (landscape, portrait, still-life).
Attends the ceramics studio of Olivier Strebelle.

Verheyen and Dani Francq travel extensively and work abroad. In 1953 they spend three months in Vallauris (France) making ceramic pieces—with Raoul Dauphin, Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger—which are subsequently exhibited. They do the grape harvest in Provence, then travel to Spain.

Second Middelheim Biennial. Verheyen encounters the work of Lucio Fontana and Constant Brancusi: metal flowers (Fontana) and marble (Brancusi).

Michel Oukhow, who lives below Verheyen, is the first collector of his work. Verheyen works for a short time in the mines, then as a house painter. He has good contacts with Paul Bervoets and Lode Jacobs.


1954
With ceramicists Dani Francq, Marina Van Acker and Blanca Olmedo, Jef Verheyen sets up a studio/shop in Antwerp, opposite the Rubens House, an he calls it: l'Atelier 14. The official opening is 21 July 1955 (see also press 1955).

Exhibition in the Gard Sivik, a private club in Antwerp.


1955
Meets writer Ivo Michiels when a first article appears in the press (see the many articles and texts, including ‘Jef Verheyen , schilder, ook een verhaal’ [‘Jef Verheyen , painter, also a story’], published on 6 July 1972 in Bookmultiple Jef Verheyen “40.”


1956
Member of ‘Het Kahier’ in Antwerp; close association with Jan Christiaens. Verheyen finds Theedrinken the finest play ever written in Dutch.

- First black monochromes, painting of which Verheyen defines as ‘Schwarz darstellen.’

In September 1956 Verheyen hitchhikes to Madrid, visiting Paris and Bordeaux en route.


1957
Meets Jozef Peeters and Gianni Dova in Antwerp at the open-air exhibition (in September) at the Middelheim (the work Verheyen shows there, keramisch wit [Ceramic White, in grog, height 120cm] is broken, though covered by insurance).

- First white monochromes (on wood and canvas).

Collaborates with Wim Van Gils (architect) on a wall painting for a hospital at Stavelot and installs fluorescent structures in the tunnel of the press pavilion at the World’s Fair in Brussels.

Travels to Milan in September 1957; travels to Saint-Paul de Vence: visits Raoul Dauphin, whom he introduces to Iris Clert in Nice.

On the way back, stops in Paris with Dani Francq. Visits Yves Klein’s ‘installation’ – the empty room – at the Iris Clert Gallery (see letter from Verheyen, end of 1957).

Contact with Roberto Crippa and Lucio Fontana (exhibition opening, Galleria Pater).


1958
In February, Verheyen is first in Basel and then in Milan (letters from Jef Verheyen to Ivo Michiels and to Dani Francq mentioning, among other things, the work Verheyen sold to Lucio Fontana [20 February 1958], a blue painting).

Roberto Crippa is in Belgium for the World’s Fair (April). At of Verheyen’s and Ivo Michiels’ request, he places a sculpture in the Belgian pavilion.

In Lausanne, Verheyen’s manifesto, Essentialisme (Essentialism) is accepted for publication in art actuel international, issue 1959-13.


Having played an active role in founding the G-58 group in Antwerp (in the Spring of 1958) and having taken part in its first exhibitions, Verheyen tears away from the group after the opening of his first show at the Hessenhuis.

November 1958: first exhibition at the Hessenhuis. Lucio Fontana buys L’air est plein de ta chaleur (The Air is Full of Your Warmth) shown in that exhibition and in Milan and gives him what Verheyen describes as a ‘splendid black-green painting’. In a letter (November) from Italy: ‘I’m leaving G-58’.

Plans a major international exhibition with Guy Vandenbranden: they contact Piero Manzoni, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Günther Uecker, Engelbert Van Anderlecht, Jozef Peeters and several others to take part.
The exhibition (Vision in Motion, March-May 1959) is eventually held at the Hessenhuis, though Verheyen, Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana do not take part. Verheyen has his first encounter with Günther Uecker there (‘nailed balls’).

Verheyen meets the writer Guy Vaes and moves into a larger studio in his house in Lange Noordstraat.

- Works in Milan, where he organizes exhibitions with other Belgian artists (October, November, and mid-December 1958; see also Frank Philippi: photo report in Milan).

 

1958-1960
- black paintings, gold, brown, silver, paintings with smoke, 1X1 = 1.
- travels through the Mediterranean: watercolours, works in ink.


1959
Is in Milan (1 November to 18 January) working with Frank Philippi (photo report). In April he returns there and concludes exchange with Lucio Fontana (the red painting shown in the Hessenhuis).
Stays in Albisola Mare with Piero Manzoni (they travel together from Milan), Lucio Fontana, Pol Bury, Ivo Michiels and others.
- Panarea-series (paintings, ink drawings). Panarea is also the title of an essay on ‘the sole dimension’.
Antwerp
Fifth Middelheim Biennial. Includes work by Lucio Fontana, Roberto Crippa and Olivier Strebelle.
Co-founds the ‘Nieuwe Vlaamse School’ (‘New Flemish School’) with Engelbert Van Anderlecht and Paul De Vree (see the article by Johan Pas).
Meets Swiss gallery and hotel owner Hans Liechti in December, in Grenchen, Switzerland. Liechti offers Verheyen a contract, providing very welcome financial security and the beginning of a long friendship at the start of the sixties. Through Liechti, Verheyen makes other connections in Switzerland.
Verheyen rents a studio in Weert, a village on the River Scheldt, in a farm called Tempelierenhof which he first shares with Guy Mees for a short period. He spends the summer there, writing and painting.


1960
Publication of Pour une peinture non plastique (For a Non-plastic Painting) (Weert) 1959.
- Verheyen and Engelbert Van Anderlecht collaborate on a series of ten works, Ni l'un ni l'autre (Neither One Nor the Other) (26-29 August 1960; see Frank Philippi’s photo report)
- Goes to Düsseldorf, where he stays with Günther Uecker, and to Frankfurt, where he stays with Hermann Goepfert and Rochus Kowalek.

 

1961
Verheyen moves to Charlottelei and establishes his studio there. Paul De Vree and Verheyen collaborate on a project for an international exhibition in Ghent to which they invite a number of Zero artists.


1962
- Verheyen and Lucio Fontana collaborate on two works, a triptych and Rêve de Möbius (Möbius’ Dream) at the villa of the collector Louis Bogaerts in Knokke, on the Belgian coast (see video with document and Karel Geirlandt interview, BRT, 3 December 1962; see also work with Hermann Goepfert and Lucio Fontana in 1963).
- Contributes work to the book project Das Weiße Buch (The White Book), as do Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Günther Uecker, Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, Christo, Walter Leblanc, etc.
- Günther Uecker works in Antwerp.
- Verheyen participates in almost every Zero exhibition and plays an important role as the contact person for the group and the artists in Belgium (collectors, gallery owners, etc.).

 

 

1962-63

- Works on several series: Sunbow Series, Rainbow Series, Lightbow Series, the 'Four Elements', Squares, the 'Painting = tests' series. Paints a number of canvases under the theme AB-BC.

 

1963

The journal De Tafelronde publishes Essentialisme at Paul De Vree’s suggestion.
- Verheyen works with Lucio Fontana and Hermann Goepfert in Frankfurt.

 

1964
- Verheyen makes the film Essentieel (Essential) with Jos Pustjens, Paul De Vree and others (see flyer for the Berlin and Frankfurt showings).
- Project and plans for a wall painting for a school in Frankfurt and for the international exhibition in ‘’t Fortje’.
- Venetian paintings in exhibitions in Basel, Solothurn and Brussels.

 

1965
Travels extensively as he prepares exhibitions; collaborates with Hermann Goepfert, Lucio Fontana, Günther Uecker and Rotraut.
- Exhibitions in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva.


1966-1967
Initial contacts for a solo exhibition in Mullem.
Paints Lichtkathedralen (Light Cathedrals); his designs for sculptures take shape. In chrome-plated metal: ruimte / le vide et le plein (Space /Emptiness and Plenitude). The first prototype becomes a multiple.
Marcel Stal meets Jef Verheyen and puts him in touch with the Brussels art scene. This Francophone gallery owner shows Verheyen’s work on several occasions over the years. The painter shares the former soldier’s liking for horseback riding, refinement, and the pleasures of life.


1967
- With Günther Uecker, Verheyen organizes the open-air exhibition/happening, Vlaamse landschappen, in Mullem (see report by Gerald Dauphin).
- Paints Aurora Pink and Le sens de la couleur (The Meaning of Colour).
- In November Verheyen travels to New York and Brazil, when he takes part in the São Paulo Biennial with Vic Gentils and Dan Van Severen. He is fascinated by South America.

 

1968
Lucio Fontana dies. Verheyen works on a tribute (see 1969 exhibition).
Travels with his wife and children to Andalusia, where he stays in the fishing village of La Rabita. He produces a series of watercolours and ink drawings in large and small formats. Preparation of the Farbsinn exhibition in Cologne.


1969
- Paints Lichtstromen (Light Currents) and goes back to La Rabita, where he produces more watercolours.
Meets Gerhard and Anna Lenz: the beginning of an intimate friendship and a great art collection.


1969-1970
- Intensive preparation for the Belgian pavilion and for his participation in the Venice Biennial. There was considerable stress due to uncertainties about participation and funding. He was happy with the final result, however, according to Jean-Paul Laenen, who shared the pavilion with him.


1971-1973
- Paints Lichtpijlen (Light Arrows), and the laser paintings Eonen (Aeons), Continuité de la couleur (The Continuity of Colour), Hommage aan Monet (Homage to Monet).
A lot of travelling. Contact with former Eastern Bloc countries; exhibition in the Sztuki museum in Lodz, Poland. That summer, in search of some peace and quiet, Verheyen spends a month in De Panne, on the Belgian coast.
Travels to Düsseldorf (Günther Uecker), Frankfurt (Hermann Goepfert), Munich, to Austria (Gerard Lenz), to Schwäbisch-Gmund (Edith Wahlandt), and of course to Switzerland (Hans and Kathi Liechti).
- Joint exhibition with Albert Szukalski at the Casino in Knokke (1971).
Verheyen’s children Olaf and Steve live in Wallonia for a year, attending school there in preparation for the move to Provence.
In Belgium, Verheyen works with Paul Ibou (design), Frank Philippi (photos) and Ivo Michiels (text) on a publication intended to mark his 40th birthday, Bookmultiple Jef Verheyen “40”. During this period, he also has frequent and close contact with Axel and May Vervoordt, Antonio Giglio, Jack Von Hoerde, Marcel Stal, Claire Bataille and Pol Ibens.
With Axel Vervoordt, Verheyen and Dani Francq discover horseback riding; they ride together regularly. Horses will occupy an important place in Verheyen’s life at Les Talons. Verheyen and Dani Francq take walks through nature. He visits the Lipizzaner stud and later, in France, becomes friends with Pierre Delgado, a gifted horse-breeder and dressage trainer from the Vaucluse.


1974
Having bought a house in the Vaucluse in 1972, Verheyen starts to make arrangements for the move to France. In the summer, the Verheyen family (Jef, Dani, Léonore, Olaf and Steve) move to Provence.
Verheyen travels regularly between Antwerp and Provence, preparing an exhibition at Frigolet Abbey in the Vaucluse (1975). He becomes friends with its abbot, Father Gérard.
- Paints Lux-Lex and shows it at Axel Vervoordt’s and at the Carrefour Gallery in Brussels.


1975-1976-1977
- Paints the series Diagon, Spectachromie, Spectra Veneziana (large screen in muslin).
- Olaf goes to study in Italy and Verheyen makes several trips to Venice and to Carrara, where he works with the sculptor and photographer Dominique Stroobant (several works in granite and marble).


1978-1979
- Paints Urbino, L'espace Idéal (Urbino: Ideal Space) and Le Pic du Midi.
Plans for his retrospective exhibitions in the Paleis voor Schone Kunsten/Palais des Beaux Arts (Brussels) and the Musée Rath (Geneva) take shape; Verheyen moves his studio, swapping his place in Antwerp (Van Schoonbekestraat 60) for a studio and flat in the coach house of Ten Bosch Castle in Heist-op-den Berg (the home of Marcel and Lily Van Hool).


1980
- Works on Grand Œuvre and Megaron.
Dani is diagnosed with cancer.


1981
- Publication of Millennium Éclair, a collaborative project between Verheyen, Guy Vaes (poems) and Frank Maes (design). There is a gala presentation of Millennium Éclair on the island of Torcello, in Venice. Publication of Grand Oeuvre: lithographs in greys  by Verheyen and texts in colour by Ivo Michiels (Erker, Sankt-Gallen)


1982
- Presentation of Grand Œuvre in Antwerp: with an introduction by Julien Schoenaerts. Travels to Romania (with Günther Uecker, Gerhard Lenz and Karl Prantl), looking for traces of Brancusi. Works on Megaron, Dia-logos, and Diamant (Diamond). Meets Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who writes the introduction for Verheyen’s exhibition at the Erker Gallery in Sankt-Gallen.
- Works on the preparation for an exhibition at Janssen Pharmaceutica, in Beerse.


1983
- Verheyen is commissioned to paint the official portrait of the Rector of Innsbruck University; the portrait is presented, together with an exhibition of his work, at the Claudiana in June 1983.
2 March 1984
In late February, Verheyen goes to Austria with his judo club. Shortly after his return, he suffers a fatal heart attack on the mat of the judo club in Apt, Vaucluse, France.


1989
-Dani dies at home in Les Talons in september : she loses the fight with the illness.