The pen goes where the heart can’t go – Hugo Claus

This quote is one of the many sentences Hugo Claus wrote. It describes the passion and fervor that were so characteristic for him, his great love of language. As an author, he won more awards than any other Flemish writer, but he was also an artist, theatre maker and film producer. During his long career, he wrote thousands of poems, many plays and more than 20 novels. He won various national and international prizes, such the State Prize for Theatre, Poetry and Prose, the Dutch Literature Prize and the Aristeion Literature Prize, the highest European literary award. Hugo Claus past away exactly 10 years ago. For the occasion, his friend and curator Marc Didden worked together with Bozar to stage the exhibition Con Amore. An homage to Claus and everything the author meant to him and so many others. The exhibition features selected archive images, text fragments and work by diverse artists, amongst whom Karel Appel, Roger Raveel and James Ensor, as well as contemporary artists such as Michael Borremans, Thierry De Cordier and Sam Dillemans.

Hugo Claus was born in Bruges, 1929 and spent the most of his childhood at various boarding schools. When he was 17 he left home and moved to Ostend, where he got to know the art scenery. That same year he printed his first collection of poetry, Kleine Reeks that collect 19 poems talking about malediction, love and lack of communication, themes that would recur in his later work. His poems and sketches took the attention of various artists and so Claus got involved with the COBRA movement. He took part in various activities organized by the group and started experimenting with various art forms. He staged his first theatre play in 1953 at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the current Bozar. 15 years later, he chose this venue to stage his own version of the 16th century play Marieke van Nijmegen. Because of nudity and storytelling, the play created a great deal of controversy and Claus was given a suspended sentence of four months.
The most famous of all being is his masterpiece Het verdriet van België, written in 1983. The story is based on his own childhood and the political climate in Belgium during World War II. The book became an immediate bestseller, and over the past decades it became very popular worldwide. The book can be considered as one of the classics in international literature.

Apart from the exhibition in Bozar, several lectures and exhibitions can be seen:

– In the weeks to come, various lectures will be given in Flanders and The Netherlands by, amongst others, Georges Wildemeersch, Jeroen Olyslaegers, Lize Spit and Marc Didden.

– Until 1st July, the exhibition Hugo Claus, achter vele maskers can be seen at the Letterhuis in Antwerp.
Curator and film director Hilde van Mieghem gives us a special insight into the work and the person of Hugo Claus, writer and visual artist who created his own reality.

– Until 15th April, Cinematek in Brussels shows a retrospective of films by and for Claus in that he directed, took part in,
or that were important to him.

Hugo Claus – Con Amore until 27th May at Bozar in Brussels.

Left: Hugo Claus, standing in profile by Roger Raveel 1993.
Right:illustration De Blijde en Onvoorziene Week , 1950 by Karel Appel and Hugo Claus.

Left: Photo by Ed van der Elsken concerning the production of the book ‘Love Song’ by Karel Appel. From left to right: Joop van de Broek, Hugo Claus, Andreas Landshoff, Wim Crouwel and Karel Appel.
Right: Birthday gift from Roger Raveel for Claus’ 75th birthday in 2004.

Left: Kleine Reeks, the first collection of poetry claus published when he was 17.
Right: Suzanne Holtzer was the editor of Claus for twenty years. She was one of the few people spending the last hours with Hugo Claus. Later she made this linoprint about that particular moment.

Left: Corneille and Hugo Claus in Paris, photographed by Henny Riemens.
Right: work by Hugo Claus and Albert Pepermans.

Left: Diary of Hugo Claus 1960.
Right: Hugo Claus and Sylvia Kristel.

Left: the making of De Leeuw Van Vlaanderen in 1984.
Right: Self-portrait by Hugo Claus.