Lucebert (1924-1994)

In 1952 the experimental poet and visual artist Lucebert (meaning ‘bright light’), the pseudonym of Lubertus Jacobus (Bertus) Swaanswijk lived in the loft of these premises. In 1948 the doubly talented Lucebert (he was both a poet and a painter) had joined the Experimentele Groep Holland which would later become assimilated in the Cobra movement. Cobra’s first exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum was also to prove Lucebert’s last. In 1949 he left the group which – just as himself – was a promoter of spontaneous art. Lucebert’s debut as a poet came in this same year and two years later, in 1951, he published his first collection of poems. His breakthrough came in 1953 when he was awarded the Poetry Prize of the City of Amsterdam. However, the presentation of the prize in 1954 was cancelled because the artist, who was living on a special welfare benefit for artists (the Contraprestatie), turned up to collect his prize dressed as an emperor. In the ensuing outcry he was forcibly removed by the police. By 1954 the ‘Emperor of the Fifties Poets’ was no longer living in Amsterdam, as in 1953 he had moved to the artists’ village of Bergen in the province of North Holland where he dedicated himself to photography, lithography, etching, screen printing and oil painting. Yet Lucebert continued to also write poetry and was awarded many prizes, including the Poetry Prize of the City of Amsterdam (twice), the Constantijn Huygens Prize and the P.C. Hooft Prize. In 1983 he received the Dutch-Belgian Literature Prize, Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren. Some of his lines like ‘Alles van waarde is weerloos’ (‘anything of worth is defenceless’) and ‘overal zanikt bagger’ (‘moaning silt is everywhere’) are known to a wide audience. Lucebert continued to exhibit his versatile works of art in the Netherlands and abroad until his death in 1994.


Photo: Henk Jonker