“The genius of Port Lligat.” A painting done in 1985 by Dutch painter Johfra Bosschart. Johfra is pictured to the left of the giant Dalí head.
Up until his death at the age of 78, Dutch painter Johfra Bosschart was driven to create his art by mystical and occult ideologies. The artist himself has said that he has been inspired by many things, including astrology, magic, and organized religion—specifically citing the Bible as a creative force in his work. Following his passing, his large portfolio, including writings and never-before-seen paintings were shown in public eventually leading to the publication of a book in 2001 that compiled 60-plus-years of Bosschart’s inspiring endeavours, Johfra: Highest Lights and Deepest Shadows.
Like his art, Johfra’s life was a bit strange. Born Franciscus Johannes Gijsbertus van den Berg in 1919, he would work under the moniker “Johfra” beginning in 1945—a name he devised by borrowing the first three letters from his first two names, Franciscus Johannes. Later that same year his home in the Hague and approximately 400 of his paintings were blown to bits by a bomb, thankfully while the artist was not in it. During the German occupation of Holland, Johfra and his fellow artists were rightfully afraid to showcase their work and had little contact with the world beyond their homeland. It was during this time that the artist got his hands on a copy of a German publication that condemned the work of various artists whom the Nazis had labeled “degenerate” such as Salvador Dalí, Rudolf Schlichter, and Yves Tanguy. Deeply moved by the work of Dalí, Johfra began to cultivate his inner-surrealist once the war was over. His obsession with Dalí would culminate in Johfra traveling to Dalí‘s mythical home that he shared with his wife and muse Gala in Port Lligat, Catalonia, Spain. At the time, Dalí was working on his massive masterpiece, “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” The eccentric artist welcomed Johfra into his studio to see the painting, though the fairy-tale meeting with his idol left Johfra rather underwhelmed, prompting him to write an entry in his diary about it. Here’s an excerpt from the entry below:
“This visit left a storm of conflicting thoughts and feelings behind us. I found him repulsive yet sympathetic and tragic. An imprisoned person who is forced to be the figure that he himself has created. A victim of a world in which he is the fool, and of himself through his boundless vanity, making him impossible to break out of this situation. What I missed completely was every trace of joy and humour.”
Johfra would marry twice—both times to other influential painters, Diana Vandenberg in 1952 and later Ellen Lórien in 1973. This would be the same year that Johfra would receive a commission to paint posters based on the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac. The series was wildly popular and the artist and his wife—who often appears in Johfra’s paintings—would live out their days in a remote mountainous region in the French Alps. Sounds dreamy. I’ve included a collection of Johfra’s incredible, perplexing work below for you to peruse. Some of the images are NSFW.
“The Apotheosis of Dalí “1971.
“Self-portrait as a Faun” 1985.
A painting by Bosschart in the image of his second wife, artist Ellen Lórien.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Yves Tanguy: The master Surrealist who ate spiders and created smutty sketches just for fun
Dream of Venus: Inside Salvador Dalí‘s spectacular & perverse Surrealist funhouse from 1939
Salvador Dali’s signs of the Zodiac
Salvador Dali’s bizarre but sexy photoshoot for Playboy, 1973
The ‘degenerate art’ of Rudolf Schlichter