Jef Verheyen

Birth 1932
- Death 1984
Jef Verheyen, collection House of Literature, Antwerp.

Jef Verheyen worked during the years 1956 - 1978 as one of the last ‘modernist’ painters of the 20th century. In his works nature and colour are in dialogue with each other. In his quest towards visualising purity, his work evolves towards an absolute total experience of light and colour. Verheyen investigates this theme, founded in philosophy, not only plastic, but also literary. He writes lyrical, often poetic visions. The ‘ecstasy’ and the ‘essentialism’ are the important cornerstones around which Verheyen constructs his plastic and literary oeuvre. In 1959, he publishes his manifesto Essentialisme in Het Kahier. His outspoken, stubborn character places him outside the Antwerp art scene, and his works of art are not well-received in Flanders. He finds kindred spirits outside of Belgium, in the Zero-movement: Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Piero Manzoni (1933 - 1963), Yves Klein (1928 - 1962), Günter Uecker (1930), for example. He participates in various (inter)national (group) exhibitions, such as Monochrome Malerei in Leverkusen (1960).

Verheyen is educated at the Antwerp Academie and the NHISKA (1947 - 52). In 1953, he moves to Vallauris (France) and applies himself to ceramics. From 1957 he makes abstract paintings with which he positions himself against the materialisation of painting. In 1958, Verheyn becomes a member of G58, but in 1960 in a reaction against the Belgian lyrical abstract, along with Englebert Van Anderlecht, Paul De Vree and others, he establishes De Nieuwe Vlaamse School (The New Flemish School), which is dissolved not long afterwards. He feels himself aligned with the Zero-movement (1961-1965) and their communal belief in the connectedness with the four elements and a fascination for the mystical proportionality of the Golden Ratio, by which a divine, universal principle shall reveal itself via a formula. 

Verheyen feels compelled by Paul Klee’s (1879 - 1940) vision of the expression of black in his first ‘labyrinth-geometrical’ period, characterised by experiments with gold, silver and black planes. In the crucial year of 1958, Verheyen comes up with the concept of his manifesto Essentialisme, which is published in 1959 in Het Kahier. It marks the transition to monochromatic colour, by which he suggests space in his first experiments with dark blue, grey and brown planes. The meeting with Lucio Fontana in 1957 is crucial for Verheyen. In addition to being a fellow-painter (they collaborate on De Droom van Möbius/The Dream of Möbius (1962), inter alia), he is also an important brother-in-arms and supporter of his essentialism vision. Fontana also helps him build up a network in Milan.

In 1962, Verheyen investigates the effect of colour that issues forth from the confluence of raindrops and rays of light, (‘irisation’ is what he calls it), in his series called Zonnebogen/Sunbows. In his series Lichtkathedralen/Cathedrals of Light (1967), he combines this colour experiment with the principle of the Golden Ratio and the cathedral of the Dom in Milan. It is a concrete expression of his life-long fascination for geometrical structures. This series is a triumph of the harmony of colour and structure. It is the result of the quest for the ‘irisation’-technique that he has undertaken since the withdrawal from his first gold, silver and black canvases. In the beginning of the 1970’s, Verheyen investigates light in an intense manner in his series Eon (the term stands for timelessness). 

Verheyen’s monochrome works of art are considered part of the canon of the Belgian abstract art today, yet he encountered great resistance within the Belgian art scene. That is not only to attribute to his obstinate, uncompromising character, but also to his rigid adherence to the classic painting techniques and the creation of his ‘art that yearns for the abstract, the immaterial and the absolute’. In this sense Verheyen demands a truly separate place within the last phase of Modernism. 



Jef Veheyen is born in Itegem on 6 July 1932. His father is a house painter. His mother works in a paint store. Verheyen is born with an eye infection.

He learns to draw and mould after models, sketches, and glass-widow paintings. He follows the ceramics course with Olivier Strebelle (1927) and meets Dani Franque, his future spouse.

1946 - 1954

Verheyen learns painting with Jan Frans Ross (1883 – 1968) in Lier, specialised in the painting of the church interior of the church of Lier.

Afterwards until 1954, he studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and the NHISKA.

Beginning in 1950, along with Jan Christiaens (1929 – 2009), Fernand Auwera (1929 – 2015), Hugo Raes (1929 – 2013) en Frans Buyens (1924 – 2004), among others, he is a member of the group De nevelvlek. Their activities are centred around speeches and theatre performances. 

1953 - 54

In 1953, he departs with Dani Franque to Vallauris (France), where they engage themselves in the creation and restoration of ceramics. Verheyen earns his living by picking grapes. They travel across Spain back to Antwerp, where they, without much financial means, open a ceramics studio in the Rubensstraat 14.


Makes his first canvas at the age of 24.

Marries Dani Franque.


In this crucial year he comes up with the first formulations of his concept concerning ‘Essentialism’.

In August, he exhibits with Paul Bervoets (1931 – 2002), Vic Estercam (1920 – 1994) en Walter Van Ermen (1932 – 2002). He displays a monochrome white painting, with which the work not only draws on colour, but also on the relief of the paint. Shortly hereafter he abandons this relief-related aspect.

After a meeting with Lucio Fontana in Antwerp, Verheyen creates his first series of white paintings on wood, fibreboard and jute or canvas. The following year he departs with his first essentialistic (planes) canvases with the train to Milan. There he meets Fontana in the Galleria Pater.

In November 1958, he writes his first manifesto with the fundamentals of his oeuvre included within. The influence of Piero Manzoni is seen, who with his ‘achrome’ canvases, just as Verheyen, is enamoured with the idea of infinity.


Publication of the text Essentialisme in Het Kahier

The artist receives the prize of Switzerland for abstract painting.


Verheyen breaks with the group G58 and establishes his own art movement: De Nieuwe Vlaamse School/The New Flemish School. In October, the vernissage takes place. 

In 1960 Verheyen makes a portrait of the Parisian gallery owner Iris Clert upon commission. 

Publishes Pour une peinture non plastique in which he collects his own texts and citations of philosophers. 


The group De Nieuwe Vlaamse School takes part in the exhibition Forum 61 in Ghent.


The group participates in the Forum 62 in Ghent.

The first Zonnebogen/Sunbows appear.

Writes VAN A=A TOT PANTA RHEI, which finds a connection with Fontana’s Manifesto Blanco

Participates in the exhibitions Monochrome Malerei in Leverkusen and Zero in Amsterdam.

Fontana and Verheyen make De Droom van Möbius together in the villa Lucien Bogaerts (Knokke). The production is filmed by public broadcasting.


Verheyen collaborates with Fontana and Hermann Goepfert (1926-1982). The work of art is exhibited in Berlin by Rochus Kowallek.


De Nieuwe Vlaamse School is disbanded.

The collective installation of Fontana and Verheyen (Hommage à Fontana) is exhibited at the Documenta of Kassel.

A painting of Verheyen is acquired by Hans Mayer with Zero-Raum. Zero-Raum is purchased by the Koch family, which gifts it on loan to the Kunstmuseum of Düsseldorf. After a separate sale of the works, the museum makes a reconstruction in 1965 in a new Zero-Raum


Writes Bij een kleurtest (With a colour test) in which he attributes the experience of colour with a number of values.


Exhibition Lichtkathedralen/Cathedrals of Light in the Carrefour gallery in Brussels.

Takes part in the Biennale of São Paolo.

Beginning of the 1970’s

Verheyen is financially wealthy thanks to his participation in exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland. There is interest from Baron Jacques von Hoerde (Antwerp Gallery) and the new gallery Multi Art.

Is honoured on his 40th birthday with a large book, published by an Antwerp gallery. The book contains a colour photo of a deserted, misty meadow in Itegem. Five years prior, Verheyen completed a number of interventions there with Günter Uecker. They install windows there in order to admire the light and the landscape more precisely. 

Starts a solo exhibition with Iris Clert under the title Panchromies. The 1970 November issue of her publication iris.time is dedicated to him.

Participates in the Biennale in Venice with ten works in the Belgian pavilion. 

Realisation of Hommage to Monet, later Hommage to Monet/Mondriaan. It deals with a series of canvases of 97 x 97 cm, each subdivided into quadrants. 

Participates in the second edition of De individualisten van Iris Clert/The individualists of Iris Clert in the gallery De Zwarte Panter. 

Verheyen launches the term ‘Eon’: a gnostic term for timelessness. The series Eon is also called Laser.


Ryszard Stanislawski invites Verheyen for a one-man exhibition in the Museum Sztuki in the Polish city Lodz.


The artist exhibits with Marcel Stal, in his gallery Carrefour in Brussels. The catalogue bears the title 9 tableaux. In the text the theme of the Flemish consciousness is brought up again.


Exhibition Lux est lex in the abbey of Frigolet.


Verheyen experiences a turning point. His presentations belong now to another zone of consciousness.


Jef Verheyen dies at the age of 52 from a heart attack during a Judo training in Apt (Vaucluse, France).


Sergio Servellón


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Dia Gon
Black Space

Paul Van Hoeydonck

Birth 1925
Paul Van Hoeydonck

No biography available.

Jules Schmalzigaug

Birth 1882
- Death 1917
Jules Schmalzigaug, Collection Mu.ZEE, Ostend.

No biography available

Dynamic expression of the movement of a dancer
Impression of a Dancing Room

Jean Rets

Birth 1910
- Death 1998
Jean Rets

Jean Rets makes up a part of the Association pour le Progrès Intellectuel et Artistique de la Wallonie, the Walloon counterpart of La Jeune Peinture Belge, which has as its goal to open up the art in Wallonia for the contemporary international and progressive movements. Rets is primarily known from his non-figurative, geometrical perspective, his monumental works of art and through the integration of the plastic arts in architecture. He is mainly active in the region around Liège, and more specifically with a glass window in the station of Guillemins.


Source: House of Literature, Antwerp


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René Magritte

Birth 1898
- Death 1967
René Magritte

No biography available

The Blacksmith

Walter Leblanc

Birth 1932
- Death 1986
Walter Leblanc, collection House of Literature, Antwerp.

Around the late 1950’s, the artist Walter Leblanc explores the sense of law of classical painting. Leblanc is active within the international, neo-avant-garde network of the Nouvelle Tendance, Zero, op art, kinetic art, concrete art and (neo)constructivism. The international group exhibition Anti-Peinture (1962), which he organises in the Antwerp G58-Hessenhuis, where he is a member and later board member, serves as his manifesto. Both in Belgium and abroad, Leblanc is involved in high-profile exhibitions.

Leblanc is trained at the Antwerp SISA (1949 - 1954), the Academy and the NHISKA (1955 - 1956). In the latter institution he gives lessons from 1977 to 1986. In 1956, Leblanc paints his first real abstract works. By way of plastic experiment, he adds sand and cotton thread. In 1958, Leblanc becomes a founding member of G58. He creates his first relief-like monochromes (or twisted strings), after which he systematically evolves towards strictly functional works of art. Around 1960 he takes part in a few controversial (inter)national group exhibitions, amongst which are Monochrome Malerei (Leverkusen, 1960) and Anti-Peinture (Antwerp, 1962). He finds an association with Zero and also participates in expositions with Zero artists, but does not become an active member of the group. Leblanc’s repertoire finds a close connection with the neo-constructivist tendencies for the Nouvelle Tendance, op art and kinetic art. The artist takes part in the Ghent Forum Exhibition of 1962 and 1963. Although the figurative neo-avant-garde begins to take the upper hand, Leblanc’s stark geometry is still well received. It results in an individual exhibition at Glaerie Ad Libitum in 1962 and participation in the important group exhibitions such as The Responsive Eye (MoMA, New York), Zero Avant-garde (Milan), Werk van de internationale avant-garde (Work of the international avant-garde) (Amsterdam) and Licht und Bewegung—Kinetische Kunst (Light and Movement—Kinetic Art) (Bern, Baden-Baden, Düsseldorf). From the late 1960’s, with his repetitive geometry, Leblanc no longer fits in with the arising conceptual tendencies. His participation in exhibitions now increases on the national art scene, in which he realises a few important architectural projects. He is invited to participate in Serielle Formationen in 1967 in Frankfurt am Main alongside the Americans Sol LeWitt (1928 - 2007) and Carl Andre (1935). It is a turning point between the neo-avant-garde and the upcoming conceptuals. Around 1980, the oeuvre of Leblanc no longer has any association with the upcoming neo-expressionist and post-modern style trends. His purified oeuvre with timeless charisma becomes a classicism within Modernism.

After a figurative, abstract and subsequent monochrome period, Leblanc puts away the paint for good and explores alternative media in reliefs and spatial constructions. This exploration of media is ultimately synthesised in the ‘torsion’. This pictorial element, made from cotton threads, plastic or metal allows him to bring rhythm, light and repetition into his work. He does that in a variety of compositions. The dynamic that these creations internalise brings them into the fold of visual, kinetic art. With his quest for flexibility within his self-imposed rigid system, Leblanc goes in search of new possibilities. Hereby he compels the viewer towards reflection, the intuitive and internal experience. The viewer becomes part of the material.



Walter Leblanc is born in Antwerp on 26 December. His father was a naval officer, captain on the great channel and later hangar on the Schelde. His mother was a teacher.

Up to 1949

Attends lower and middle-school education at the Athenaeum in Berchem.

1949 - 1954

Enrols in the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, outside of his father’s knowledge, who was against an artistic career for his son, but with the endorsement of his mother, who would always support him. With the choice of Walter’s studies, his father required him to follow training in advertising at the same time (in 1951 he receives his diploma), but without offering him any financial help.

Rents his first studio space in the Vlaaikensgang (a lane from 1591) in the old, Antwerp centre.

Follows lessons with Antoon Marstboom, whose teaching he highly values, and with René De Conninck for training in the art of engraving. At the same time he follows evening courses at the Vakschool voor Kunstambachten, led by Roger Avermaete. With René Guiette he learns colour composition, and with Berthe Thieren he learns bookbinding.

1954 - 1955

Military service in Lombardsijde and Bruges, (among other places), where he follows night courses at the Royal Academy in 1955.

1955 - 1956

Studies at the Nationaal Hoger Institute voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp. After his military service, he returns to the studio in the Vlaaikensgang. After the academy and military service he works as a window dresser. 

28 April 1956

Leblanc marries Nicole Labedz, despite resistance from her father.

Works as a colourist for the warehouse A L’innovation in Brussels.

Designs large advertising panels for an Antwerp real estate company.

Is a representative for a painting brand for a short period of time.

Later, he receives regular projects for a few years from Flemish television for the realisation of titling for variety programmes.


Designs a brochure for the world’s exposition in Brussels.

Becomes a co-founder of the group G58-Hessenhuis.

Tours through Germany, Switzerland and Italy for various years. He exhibits there frequently as a member of the young, international avant-garde.


The ‘torsion’ manifests itself as an important pictorial element in his work.


With the help of his brother, he builds the third and now definitive ‘turning machine’ with which he can make the metal torsions very accurately.


Receives his first large, individual exhibition in the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels. Although the presented works are of high quality, the Belgian public shows not the least bit of interest.


Along with Jan Gloudemans, Francis Lauwers and Filip Tas Leblanc organises the exhibition Anti-Peinture in the Hessenhuis. Afterwards he associates with the international group Nouvelle Tendance and participates in the international exhibitions of the Zero group.


Emergence of his first architectonic integrations.

The artist receives the Prize of the Young Belgian Painting.


Receives the Europa Prize for painting from the city of Ostend, thanks to the international composition of the jury (Roland Penrose, Umbro Apollonio, Edy de Wilde, Max Imdahl, Jean Leymarie, Bertie Urvater, Maurtis Bilcke, Philippe d’Arschot and Léon Koenig).


Laureate of the fifth Biennale of Paris.


Receives the Eugène Baie Prize for painting from the province of Antwerp.


Participates in the 35th Biennale of Venice.


Is knighted in the Order of Leopold II. He sets up an individual exhibition at the Kunstmesse of Basel, Art 5’74, and receives the Prize of the Kamer van Koophandel of Basel.


Leblanc goes to work at the Hoger Instituut voor Bouwkunst en Stedebouw (NHIBS) in Antwerp. He teaches colour to future architects and designers. Stays for a short time in New York.


Leblanc realises the decoration of the Simonis metro station in Brussels.

14 January 1986

Has a car accident during a ride to the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels, where Phil Mertens is organising the exhibition Tussen Vlak en Ruimte (Between Plane and Space). Walter Leblanc dies from consequences of the accident.


Ceremonious opening of the Simonis metro station (Brussels).


Sergio Servellón


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Research box
Sculpture mobile
Torsions (Mobilo static)
Twisted Strings
Twisted Strings

Jo Delahaut

Birth 1911
- Death 1992
Jo Delahaut

The painter Jo Delahaut is one of the pivotal figures of the geometric abstraction in Belgium. He does his training at the Liège academy where he also obtains a doctorate in the history of Art (1939). During World War II his work is still figurative. After an exhibition in Charleroi (1942), he makes his first abstract works. Within the group La Jeune Peinture Belge, in 1947 he is the only representative of abstract art. In 1946, he becomes a member of Réalitiés Nouvelles in Paris. Under the influence of the work by Auguste Herbin, he evolves more and more towards the geometric abstraction. In 1952, he establishes Art Abstrait along with Pol Bury, Jean Milo, Georges Collignon and Albert Saverys, among others. Subsequently, Delahaut establishes Art abstrait-Formes (1956) and Art Construit (1960). With Bury, he writes the manifesto La Spatialisme in 1954. One of his last major retrospective exhibitions is held in the Musée d’Art wallon in 1990.


Source: House of Literature, Antwerp


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Gris et noir
Colour - Form
La Somnolence
Printemps 4
Signe n° 3

Jacques Moeschal

Birth 1913
- Death 2004
Collection Middelheimmuseum, Antwerp, © SABAM Belgium [YYYY], photo Gert Jochems

Jacques Moeschal follows an architectural training and attends school at the Academy of Brussels (1929 - 1941). Later, he also gives lessons at the same academy. Technically the most challenging and impressive sculpture realised in Belgium is done by Moeschal. It is the Pijl of the Pavilion of Public Architecture during the World’s Fair exhibition in Brussels in 1958. Moeschal makes the work in collaboration with the architect J. Van Doorselaer and engineer A. Padouari. The sculpture has an overhanging piece of 80 metres under which the visitors can walk. The image is the sensation of Expo ’58 at the Heizel, but was later taken apart and destroyed. Moeschal makes monumental sculptures such as Het Signaal in Groot-Bijgaarden along the Brussels-Ostend motorway. He works in the Negev desert and in Mexico (the Zonneschijf for the Olympic Games, 1968). He designs a ceiling painting (1988) for the ticket-windows hall and platforms of the South Station metro in Brussels. Moeschal is impassioned by the technical possibilities of his time. As such, as the first in Belgium, he uses concrete for large-scale sculptural works. The artist evolves towards the geometrical abstract.


Source: House of Literature, Antwerp


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Willy Anthoons

Birth 1911
- Death 1982
Willy Anthoons, collection House of Literature, Antwerp.

At the age of three, Willy Anthoons flees to London with his grandmother and remains there until the end of the war. After the reunion of the Anthoons’ family (his father was held prisoner by the Germans in Holland), they settle in Brussels. Anthoons follows lessons at the Higher Institute for Decorative Arts, with Oscar Jespers, among others. In 1940, he is mobilised, but becomes gravely ill. The army sends him to the Ardèche in order to recover there. During this period Anthoons begins sculpting and painting. After his return to Belgium, Anthoons joins up with a few artists that were refused by the official Salon des Beaux-Arts (because of their non-figurative work). In 1945, along with Pierre Alechinsky and Pol Bury, Anthoons unites himself with the recently established group La Jeune Peinture Belge (René Lust and Robert Delevoy), which endeavours to promote young avant-garde artists for exhibitions, both in Belgium and abroad. James Ensor is the honorary president. The association organises group exhibitions in Paris, The Hague, Stockholm, Zurich and Bordeaux. With the death of the founder René Lust in 1948, the group La Jeune Peinture Belge becomes defunct. In that same year, Anthoons settles in Paris. The sculptor befriends Michel Seuphor, the sculptors Émile Gilioli, Morice Lipsi, Sesostris Vitullo, Jean Arp, Berto Lardera, Nicolas Schöffer and Etienne Hajdu. He exhibits work in various ‘salons’ such as the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the Salon de Mai. He also maintains contact with painters such as Gaston Bertrand, Luc Peire, Pierre Alechinsky and Alfred Manessier. A neurological illness afflicts his motor skills so that the sculptor must gradually stop with his creative work from 1977 onwards.


Source: House of Literature, Antwerp


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Joris Minne

Birth 1897
- Death 1988
Joris Minne, collection House of Literature, Antwerp (archive of Frans Dille).

No biography available.