Corneille: Artist who helped set up the CoBrA group which placed spontaneity ahead of theory

In November 1948 six artists walked out in protest from a conference on surrealism being held in Paris. They resolved to form a new group, which they named CoBrA, after the initials of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the home cities of its founders: Asger Jorn, Joseph Noiret, Christian Dotremont, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Karel Appel – and Corneille, who was the last surviving Dutch member of this original core.

Their manifesto, La Cause Était Entendue [The case was heard], written by the former surrealist Dotre-mont, eschewed what they saw as surrealism's overly theoretical approach. Instead, they advocated spontaneity and complete freedom of expression, undertaking to "...maintain international activity... through experimental and organic collaboration, which avoids sterile theory and dogmatism." Corneille later explained, "We used everything and loved everything. We took from children's drawings, folklore, drawings by the insane, negro masks...". The short-lived CoBrA group would go on to change the face of Dutch and Scandinavian art, bringing a welcome renaissance after the gloom of wartime.

Corneille was born Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo in 1922 to Dutch parents who had emigrated to Liège from Rotterdam. While primarily a self-taught painter he also studied briefly at the Academy of Art in Amsterdam but found the environment too conservative and stifling. He drew inspiration from the works of Paul Klee and Joan Miro, especially in their use of colour and form.

Corneille's first solo exhibition was held in Groningen in 1946. A year later he joined up with his friend Karel Appel for a show at 't Gildehuys in Amsterdam. CoBrA's debut group exhibition was held at the Stedelijk Museum in 1949 and attracted controversy, critics variously describing it in terms such as "Madness elevated to Art" and "Scratching, Blathering and Daubing". That same year Corneille illustrated Dotremont's Promenade au pays des pommes, a beautifully-produced book in an edition of 12 copies.

In 1950 Corneille moved to Paris, his base for the next 60 years. The second – and final – major CoBrA exhibition took place at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Liège in 1951, showing works by the group, which by now numbered 17 members. In addition to his painting and drawing, Corneille had been a frequent contributor of poetry to the 10 editions of CoBrA magazine published up until 1951. Internal disagreements led to the group disbanding that year, although many members remained in contact as friends and colleagues.

During the 1950s and '60s Corneille travelled widely and collected African art and sculpture, which was to provide a further influence on his work. While his earlier paintings tended to use muted colours and were semi-abstract or presented indistinct figures, in 1963 he started to paint using a table top as his "easel". This horizontal plane gave him easy access to all parts of the canvas and allowed him to work on a larger scale, with themes including animals in nature and nudes, using bright primary colours.

Throughout his artistic life he had been involved with printmaking. A suite of his lithographs, For Jorn (1975-76), is in the Tate collection. In 1988 he assisted with the making of the film by Jan Vrijman, CoBrA, een opstand tegen de orde ("CoBrA, a revolt against the order"). That year also saw the publication of a monograph by Marcel Paquet titled Corneille ou la sensualité de sensible ("Corneille or the sensuality of the sensitive"). In 1997 he was made a commander in the Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw [Order of the Netherlands Lion], one of the country's highest honours.

Corneille had been involved in supporting the activities of the CoBrA museum in Amstelveen since its foundation in 1995. The exhibition CoBrA Museum: 15 Years! opens in October and will include some of his work. "He was the best 'ambassador' for the CoBrA art movement," Lieke Fijen of the CoBrA Museum said of him. "In his special way he made it very clear and explained wonderfully, as an initiator and witness, why CoBrA was so very important, especially for modern art in the Netherlands. For the CoBrA Museum it always was a great pleasure and enormous honour to work with him... Now CoBrA definitively belongs to history."

Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo (Corneille), artist: born Liège, Belgium 3 July 1922; married Natacha (one son); died Auvers-sur-Oise, France 5 September 2010.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected