Obituary: Lucebert

Lubertus Jacobis Swaanswijk (Lucebert), poet, artist: born Amsterdam 15 September 1924; PC Hooft Dutch State Prize for Literature, 1968; books include Triangel in de Jungle gevolgd door de dieren der democratic (Triangle in the jungle followed by the animals of democracy) 1951; Lucebert Edited By Lucebert 1963; Collected Poems 1948-1963 1965; The Tired Lovers They Are Machines 1974; Van de roerloze woelgeest (From the motionless tumble spirit) 1993; married (one son, three daughters); died Alkmaar, the Netherlands 11 May 1994.

LUCEBERT, the Dutch poet and painter, was an autodidact in art and in literature. In both his poetry and his paintings he adopted an assault on the accepted aesthetic of respectable society, finding it productive to focus on what is ugly, repellent and reprehensible. He explored and experimented with the primitive and unrefined elements in his visual imagination.

A key formative experience was his discovery in 1943, in the public library at Dessau, in Germany, of the Romantic poet Friedrich Holderlin (1770-1843), whose rich, imaginative and free pindaric lyrics, with their originality of expression, provided Lucebert with a lifelong poetical inspiration.

In 1948, Lucebert made his public debut as a poet in Amsterdam, reading his 'Loveletter to our tortured bride Indonesia', a ringing poetic protest against the Dutch assault on its former colony. The poem is a Guernica in Dutch, a wild torrent of images somersaulting over each other, in an original and expressive language which, like Holderlin's, breaks free from all conventional grammatical and logical order.

The key to Lucebert's poetry is his self-proclaimed freedom to experiment - with words and images, with sound and rhythm, even with the syntax of the language. These experiments were aimed at restoring the primordial power of the word, freeing it from the stifling conventions of what is acceptable in society. Thus, Lucebert's experiments, deeply poetical in themselves, were at the same time radically political. For him, poetry was freedom, the freedom to break the rules of bourgeois society and its literary, aesthetic, religious, sexual, social and political discourse. Taking his inspiration from Blake, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Dada and the Surrealists, he became a master word-

fabricator, writing verse of linguistic virtuosity, freely experimenting with sound and meaning.

In the Fifties, Lucebert became the leading poet of the Dutch Experimental Movement. Known as 'the Emperor', he published eight volumes of poetry between 1951 and 1959 and, after a period in which his painting was more dominant, another four volumes between 1981 and 1993. His collected poetry forms an exuberant eruption of the imagination ranging from his defiant poetical programme in 'School of Poetry' and 'Defence of the Fifties Poets' through the raw force of his love lyrics and the passionate rap of his 'Spring Suite for Lilith'. In between, poems inspired by jazz music, modern art and fellow artists such as Miro, Klee, Brancusi, Max Ernst and Henry Moore vied with the chiselled economy of his Japanese epigrams and his spellbinding tribute to the poet Gerrit Achterberg at his death in 1962. And throughout, we find his poetico-political manifestos for the freedom of imagination and expression, the last of which, a short poem for Salman Rushdie, was published in February.

In the last lines of the final poem Lucebert wrote in 1993, 'Defeat', the fight seems to have gone out of him; he looks ahead and sees an eternity 'without dawn without the harbingers of spring without love / without the red morning sky without seasons without language'.

As a painter, Lucebert belonged, with Karel Appel and others, to the international CoBrA Movement and took part in its first group exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam, in 1949. His painted world is stuffed with disconcerting creatures; the uncanny sits alongside the revolting; and lyrical colours clash with the grim humour of his aggressive cartoons. His first exhibition was at the Galerie Espace in Haarlem in 1958, and in the same year his work was shown in the Arts Council's touring exhibition 'Trends in Modern Dutch Art', which visited London. This was followed by one-man shows in London in 1963 at the Marlborough New London Gallery and in 1966 at Marlbourgh Fine Art.

While Lucebert saw his poetry and painting as two very different and separate activities, the two were, in fact, often interconnected: modern art inspired quite a few of his poems, he made his own book covers and illustrations, he inserted poems into his paintings and welded images to his texts. And, as could be seen in the special Lucebert Exhibition in 1985 in the Stedelijk Museum, in both mediums he produced a dazzling wealth of compelling images. In 1990 he was awarded the Jacobus van Looy Prize of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, in recognition of his unique double talent.

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 People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering