The early years
Born Monday December 15, 1919 at 10:30 in Rotterdam in a street called Scheepstimmermanslaan: Franciscus Johannes Gijsbertus van den Berg, nickname Frans. Son of Franciscus Hubertes Bernardus van den Berg (Roermond April 4, 1890 – The Hague December 28, 1977) and Jeanne Bosschart (Rotterdam March 3, 1884 – The Hague July 24, 1968).
In 1922, the family moves to the Anna Paulownastreet in The Hague. He follows his primary school period meekly, with his red hair he is often the target of the class. He knows how to develop a personal armor for this and shifts his attention to his imagination and the nature around him. His talent for drawing developed during this period. Every evening he draws what has aroused his interest that day. At school he is allowed to draw on the chalkboard in free time. The astonished and admiring glances of his fellow students at the sight of his creatures confirm that this is the path he must take.
He left primary school at the age of 12. From then on, he received private lessons from a great-uncle in modern languages and mathematics, to bridge the period of admission to the Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague. He can then further develop his drawing talents.
At some point the family moves to Wassenaar to return to The Hague shortly after the summer of 1938, to a house on the Van Linschotenstraat in the Bezuidenhout.
The time at the Hague Academy
At the age of 14, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons Frans is following a preparatory course still life drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. He will get lessons from Jan Giesen. A year later he was admitted to the daytime course and he gets lessons from among others Henk Meijer, Paul Citroen, Willem Rozendaal, Aart van Dobbenburgh, Ahrend Hendriks, Willem Schröfer, Cees Boldingh, Dirk Harting, Sierk Schröder and George Hogerwaard. During the period at the academy he develops his passion for the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Until his death Leonardo will be his tutor. During this period he built friendships with, among others Hans Kroesen and Gerard Lutz. On September 24, 1938 he began keeping a diary.
World War II broke out in 1940. In that year he became skilled in etchings and lithography. He gets his hands on a German Nazi propaganda magazine containing an article about degenerate art. It shows numerous illustrations of works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, André Masson, Giorgio de Chirico and many others. It is a celebration of recognition for him and it strengthens him to continue on the chosen path. In 1943 he holds his first exhibition, together with Hans Kroesen. About 250 drawings and watercolors are exhibited. However, it is also the beginning of a difficult time. The pressure from the German occupier is increasing. He is forced to go into hiding to avoid being put to work in Germany. He finds shelter in Rijswijk and a few months later he goes into hiding in the parental home in the Van Linschotenstraat in the Bezuidenhout district in The Hague.
From March 1, 1945, the bombings by the Allies on the Haagse Bos in The Hague become so violent that the family has to leave the parental home, they can only take a few documents, including the diaries. On March 3, 1945, the family home was completely destroyed during a bombing. Almost all of his drawings and paintings are lost. However, he experiences this loss as a liberation. All the lost work with the many shortcomings will no longer stare at him. He can start all over again.
Shortly after the liberation, on July 17, 1945, he moved into a courtyard house in the Willemstraat in The Hague. He establishes himself as a painter and takes the name JOHFRA. This is a combination of the initial letters of his birth names FRAnsciscus JOHannes, in reverse order.
The years with Diana Vandenberg
At the beginning of 1946, Johfra was introduced by his friends to a certain Diavola. This was the nickname of Angèle Thérèse Blomjous (The Hague, April 1, 1923 – The Hague, October 3, 1997). The first encounters are a bit too boisterous for the more introverted Johfra, but on April 1, Diavola’s birthday, the conversation turns to painting, biology and the like. The conversation suddenly becomes much more serious, the common interests lead to a bond of collegiality. Because she thinks she should get a more serious image, Diavola changes her name to Diana, turning the little devil into the goddess of the hunt. Johfra and Diana increasingly travel together and a relationship develops. In the summer of 1946 Diana travels to Paris and Johfra is following her. Diana is working there as an au pair and Johfra spends ten days in a friend’s studio. In 1947 Johfra again stays in Paris, where Diana still works. Now they have more time for each other and visit many museums and other places of interest.
When they return to The Hague, they move into the attic space of the apartment belonging to Johfra’s parents. In 1948 they went to Italy to visit Rome in particular. This journey is the start of a number of trips to Italy, which leave a lasting impression on Johfra and serve as inspiration for many paintings, including the Fountain series. Diana is the driving force behind the various trips that the couple makes to the Alps, the Dolemites, the Pyrenees, the Swiss lakes, Florence and Venice. Artistically things are getting better also. Sales are increasing and this gives them more financial scope. During this post-war period, Johfra holds several solo exhibitions in the Bennewitz art hall in The Hague.
Johfra and Diana are married on March 21, 1952. They are then about to emigrate to America and a marriage would facilitate the obtaining of a visa. Not much later, however, they abandon emigration and decide to stay in the Netherlands. They get to know Cor Damme, one of the co-founders of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum in Haarlem. In 1953, Johfra and Diana join the Rosicrucians. In 1954 they visit the Lascaux caves. Furthermore, various solo exhibitions are held, not only in the Netherlands but also in Los Angeles and Cleveland (1956) and Brussels (1957). On August 7, 1959, they meet Salvador Dalí in Port Lligat.
In 1957 Diana introduced her friend Els de Jonge (Ellen Lórien) to Johfra. Johfra and Diana move to a house on the Madoerastraat 7 in The Hague in 1961, but he will leave Diana in 1962. A relationship has blossomed between Johfra and Ellen. At the end of 1962 he will live with Ellen in Amsterdam and the period with Diana will come to an end. It will not be until 1970 until Diana agrees to a divorce. She calls herself Diana Vandenberg after the departure of Johfra Diana, because she wants to maintain the relationship with Johfra for the outside world in any case.
Meeting the master of surrealism
At the end of 1942, Johfra first came into contact with the work of Salvador Dalí. This artist’s imaginations work on him as a tonic.
In April 1959, Johfra and Diana Vandenberg move to the town of Figueras in Spain, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. The place does not leave a positive impression on Johfra. The same day they go to Port Lligat to look at Dalí’s house. It doesn’t improve his mood. That day he notes in his diary: What a sad country! How did someone get to live here between a few fishing huts on a beach of a few tens of meters? On August 6, 1959, Johfra and Diana visit Port Lligat again, but now with the intention of meeting Salvador Dalí. The environment still does not make a positive impression on Johfra. That same afternoon they knock on the door of Dalí’s house. The first meeting is a bit tense and strange, but it is difficult to have a short conversation. They agree to come back the next day.
The next day they visit Dalí at the agreed time. Dalí now makes a completely different impression, both in behavior and appearance. This makes little impression on Johfra. He is mainly looking for the person behind Salvador Dalí, which makes the great master somewhat restless at that time. Together they go to the studio where Dalí shows them some great works of art in the making. They discuss a painting that Dalí mentions Les Lansas (note: the final title is The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus). This work makes a big impression on Johfra. Dalí shows what adjustments he had to make to his studio to be able to realize such a large painting.
In the evening Johfra notes in his diary some doubts and disappointments: This visit leaves us with a storm of conflicting thoughts and feelings. I found him repulsive and likable and tragic. A friar who is forced to be the figure he created himself. A victim of the world of which he is the jester, and of himself by his boundless vanity, making it impossible for him to break with this situation. What I totally missed was every trace of joy and humor.
In 1978 Johfra comes across the graphic work of Salvador Dalí at the Kunstmesse in Basel. This makes a negative impression on him. In his diary he calls this work superficial and unworthy of a painter of his stature. Johfra is most of all disappointed.
In January 1998 Johfra writes in his diary: Now I think completely different about this person, more nuanced. If the visit could have taken place now, it would have turned out quite differently. But of course this always applies. In fact, it is never good to record things. With everything you describe, whether it is a case or a person, you express a personal opinion. We don’t even know ourselves, how could we know another? I have known Dalí’s work for 55 years and it has become a fixed factor in my world. Now I know much more about him and I also see more in his work than before. Like Leonardo da Vinci (who was recognized as ‘divine’ by Dalí), Dalí acted on me in a formative manner. He has fascinated me very much, but was also very often disappointing and annoying, which has never been the case with Leonardo, who is my spiritual father.
The time with the Rosicrucians
On March 20, 1953, Johfra and Diana join the Rosicrucian Society, the Lectorium Rosicrucianum in Haarlem, a Gnostic spiritual school. They regularly visit the meetings of the Hague department, the temple services in Haarlem and the conferences in Lage Vuursche and abroad. The purpose of the mystery school is transfiguration, that is, the gradual merging of the personality of the ‘old man’ into a spiritual consciousness, which reconnects him with the original, divine life. In the period of affiliation with the Lectorium Rosicrucianum, Johfra makes many paintings based on the teachings and symbolism of the Rosicrucians. Johfra, together with Diana, provides his services to the society in various ways, which has branches in various European countries, and later also in North and South America. In Ussat-les-Bains, in the Pyrenees, they both set up a museum dedicated to the Cathars.
Johfra experiences his membership more and more as oppressive and is less and less able to unite with the objectives of this society. He can only talk about this oppression with Ellen Lórien, his later wife. After living together with Ellen in 1962, he was removed from the student list of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum.
In the 1960s he was asked to provide illustrations of the two-volume work The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross by the grandmaster and founder Jan van Rijckenborgh.
Johfra and Ellen Lórien
In 1957 Diana introduced her friend Els de Jonge (Utrecht March 16, 1924 – Plazac May 22, 2016) to Johfra. She is a talented artist who later signs her paintings with Ellen Lórien. A relationship flourishes between Johfra and Ellen. Johfra leaves Diana in 1962 and goes to live with Ellen in Amsterdam. After the divorce with Diana Vandenberg finally became a reality in 1970, Johfra and Ellen got married on May 11, 1973.
In 1963 Johfra managed to sell much of his available work at once to an American. With the proceeds they buy a piece of land in Aspremont in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the South of France. In the following year, Johfra and Ellen travel to Aspremont and build their first house. A few years later they build a second stone house, which becomes the main house. In the following years, Johfra and Ellen struggle to keep their heads above water. Especially the more fairytale work of Ellen is in demand, the work of Johfra is often found to be frightening. Ellen knows how to conjure up some masterpieces from her brushes during this time. Contact with gallery owners is not always smooth. They must be well on their guard not to get tricked. For several years, Johfra signs his work with Johfra Bosschart, partly because the French ask for a surname. He uses the surname of his mother.
In search of a less harsh living environment, Johfra and Ellen end up in the Dordogne. They pass the town of Le Moustier and pass La Roque-Saint-Christophe. Both feel immediately at home in this region and not far from here they find an old water mill, Moulin du Peuch, which they decide to buy. It is statued at the little river Le Vimont between the villages of Plazac and Fleurac. Johfra’s work is then sold through Galerie Kamp in Amsterdam. Later Ellen’s work is also sold through this gallery. The influence of living in the Périgord Noir is undeniably reflected in the work of both. They experience their stay here as a great gift.
When Walter Kamp is forced to close his gallery in 1983, Johfra and Ellen rely on the French public for their sales. In 1984 they started a gallery at home, Galerie La Licorne. Ellen’s work is particularly successful. Johfra and Ellen exhibit at various locations in France. At the end of the 1980s, Johfra is able to raise awareness for his work again in the Netherlands through Jester Art Galerie (Amsterdam). Jester Art Galerie went bankrupt in the early 1990s. Johfra and Ellen exhibit again at home in their own gallery. His last exhibitions followed in 1997 at Galerie Utrecht.
Johfra writes the following in his autobiography Symphonie Fantastique: Ellen is the driving force and inspiration of our community. She protects me from inner chaos. She takes care of business contacts, because in a practical sense I am no match for the hard society. Without her I would have been lonely for a long time and may now be painting in an Amsterdam attic. Ellen Lórien clearly played a very important role in Johfra’s life.
Leaving the Netherlands
In 1963 Johfra gets the opportunity to sell all his available work at once to Mr. Greenberg, an American. With the proceeds, Johfra and Ellen Lórien buy a piece of land in Aspremont, located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southern France. In 1964 they bought all kinds of demolition material and transported it to Aspremont. A wooden house is built from this. They are introduced to the unruly nature there under rather primitive conditions, initially deprived of gas and electricity. Both fight against nature as well as the psychological aftermath of the alliance with the Rosicrucians. Yet Johfra experiences his inner liberation and rebirth here.
The money is running out quickly. Although they attend a group exhibition in America, organized by Galerie Mokum (Amsterdam), but this would not solve this problem. Shortly after this Johfra gets into trouble with this gallery, which leads to the collaboration being broken. In this period of hard times, they try to get their work sold at French galleries. Sales are not really moving. Johfra mainly kmakes money by selling to the Rosicrucians who visit them frequently and keep the contacts intact, also because he has recently re-entered membership with the School.
At the end of the 160s, they held some solo exhibitions, including in Paris and Cannes. Johfra and Ellen meanwhile have started building a stone house on their piece of land. This house was completed in 1969. A solo exhibition in London followed in 1970. In that year, first contact is made with Pierre Borgue, author of Johfra, op de grenzen van het avontuur (translates: Johfra, at the limits of adventure). Johfra will exhibit in the Netherlands again, at Galerie Eijlders (Zandvoort). In 1971 follows the first contact with the Haarlem art critic Hein Steehouwer, inventor and founder of the Metarealists.
The first success
In December 1972, the Haarlem art critic Hein Steehouwer informed Johfra about the term Metarealism, which he literally means ‘next to realism’. A term with which he wants to indicate that the spiritual world and the material world coexist. He also talks about his idea of bringing together a group of artists related to meta-realism and organizing a traveling exhibition with this group. On May 20, 1973 the group De 7 Metarealisten officially formed, consisting of the artists Frans Erkelens, Johan Hermsen, Johfra, Han Koning, Victor Linford, Ellen Lórien and Diana Vandenberg. Jan Blok is appointed manager for the group exhibitions to be held. Hein Steehouwer will write a book to support the exhibitions.
On May 3, 1974, the start of seven group exhibitions took place. The first large group exhibition is held in the Van Reekum Gallery in Apeldoorn. At the opening, the presentation of the book De 7 Metarealisten will also take place, but also the posters of the Zodiac series will be presented. The opening was a great success, there were more than 500 visitors. The exhibition attracts a total of 9,000 visitors. The next group exhibition takes place in June 1974 in the museum Het Prinsenhof in Delft. The exhibition in Delft is even more successful than Apeldoorn; there will be a total of 12,000 visitors. Exhibitions will follow in the Artist Center in Bergen, Het Hofje van Staats in Haarlem, Pictura in Groningen, Galerij de Ark in Boxtel and the Romi Goldmuntz Center in Antwerp. The total number of visitors for the seven exhibitions is 48,000. However, the painter Han Koning drops out, so that the group only consists of six artists. In 1976, the artists were interviewed for a television program that was broadcast on Dutch television at November 29, 1976 by the television broadcaster TROS, entitled Van beroep: fijnschilder (translated: Profession: fine painter).
All exhibitions are extremely successful and attract a lot of public. However, the first tensions arise in December. Disagreement arises between Hein Steehouwer and Jan Blok, the manager of the group. The group broke up in 1976. There is still a kind of restart via Jan Blok, who founds Galerie Artim (The Hague). Two books with only images are released and some exhibitions are held. However, the Artim initiative is short-lived. Johfra work is then represented by Galerie Kamp (Amsterdam).
Hein Steehouwer dies suddenly on March 24, 1977. With his death, the term Metarealism also came to an end.
The great success
In 1973, poster magnate Engel Verkerke, inspired by the Haarlem art critic Hein Steehouwer, came up with the idea of publishing a poster series of the twelve zodiac signs. Steehouwer advises him to have these works made by Johfra. Verkerke concludes a lucrative contract for Johfra. With this, the financial worries for Johfra and Ellen Lórien have been removed for the time being. The twelve paintings are made in the format 90 by 60 centimeters, which corresponds to the format of the posters to be published. The compositions of the paintings are imbued with symbolism. To ensure that the colors stand out on the posters, Johfra paints the paintings in a brighter color scheme than usual. Johfra has been working on these twelve paintings for over a year.
In 1975 the Zodiac series is fully exhibited at Galerie Kamp (Amsterdam). The owner Walter Kamp purchased the twelve paintings himself. The art critics do not have a good word for Johfra’s work, but the public come to the work in very large numbers. The Zodiac series is accompanied by a booklet written by Hein Steehouwer: Johfra and the Zodiac. Building on this success, posters of other works by Johfra are also being released. Galerie Kamp organizes major exhibitions of which Johfra’s work is part, including at the Baseler Kunstmesse. Other exhibitors including are Ernst Fuchs, H.R. Giger, Salvador Dalí, Rudolf Hausner, Wolgang Hutter, Aat Veldhoen, Diana Vandenberg and Ellen Lórien.
The Zodiac series is ultimately experienced as a burden by Johfra. Although he owes much of his fame to this, he is forever put in the corner of esotericism and astrology. A fact with which he struggles for the rest of his life, because he considers his other work of much greater importance. He sees himself primarily as a natural mystic. With the production of the seven paintings of the Maldoror series, he hopes to weaken this image, although he has great difficulty with the content of the so-called bible of the surrealists, The Songs of Maldoror.
Homecoming in the Périgord Noir
With the sealed contract for the Zodiac series in his pocket Johfra and Ellen drive through France . It is 1973 and they are looking for a new homeland, a landscape that suits them better. They go to the Dordogne, to the Périgord. They pass Montignac where the Lascaux cave is located. However, this cave is no longer open to the public. They follow the river Vézère and arrive at the town of Le Moustier and the imposing prehistoric rock face, La Roque-Saint-Christophe. The area makes a big impression and they decide to look for suitable housing in this region. They visit an old water mill, Le Moulin de Peuch, in the town of Fleurac, not far from Le Moustier. The building is not in very good condition and will require major renovation and restoration. However, the region is beautiful and a house can always be changed, but the asking price is too high.
The tide turned in 1974. The group exhibitions of the Metarealists bring in large sales. Johfra and Ellen return to the old water mill. This still appears to be for sale. They can buy the mill at a considerably lower price. What follows is a move over a distance of 800 kilometers. Johfra and Ellen have only just moved when a large car stops at the door. Gallery owner Walter Kamp makes his entrance. He has seen the expositions of the Metarealists and has become enthusiastic. Johfra shows the triptych Unio Mystica. Ellen advises Walter to claim this painting, but he does not. However, this triptych is sold shortly thereafter. Walter is very angry with himself and immediately buys the entire Zodiac series, of which nine paintings have yet to be completed. All this enables Johfra and Ellen to have the mill refurbished and renovated. Both Johfra and Ellen have access to a large studio. In the early 1980s, part of the building will serve as a gallery under the name Galerie La Licorne.
The area around Le Moustier provides a lot of inspiration. The nature of the Dordogne can be seen in many paintings in that period. In this period, various painting series, such as the Maldoror series and the Fountain series, but also the lesser-known series such as the Witch Portraits and Witchessabbats and the Ellen in Wonderland series were created. In 1979 he completed the immense triptych The Adoration of the Pan. In the mid-eighties his work changes, it becomes less dark in nature. There will be room for fairytales and elves. He also allows himself to paint in a slightly looser way, although the fight with the detail always remains. He remains the painter of the square decimeter.
The songs of Maldoror
In order to make the paintings for the Maldoror series, Johfra must read the book The Songs of Maldoror in its entirety. He struggles through the story with difficulty and cannot yet unite with the text. At some point, he even threatens to refuse the assignment. In his diaries he notes: I have made the decision and I refrain from making the seven paintings in The Songs of Maldoror. Mental hygiene is the reason. Yet he perseveres and gradually he knows how to express some appreciation and even gets enthusiastic. When he has finished reading the book, he writes about it in his diary: I have read The Songs of Maldoror. I think the sixth song is the most beautiful. This book is the source of surrealism. Not André Breton but De Lautréamont is the inventor of surrealism. The images and especially the style of writing by Salvador Dalí are entirely taken from this book, as well as his attitude and mentality. The Surrealists have been unable to do much more than what De Lautréamont has done. The movement only expanded and popularized it.
At the end of 1975 he started with the first painting, Kali. The Maldoror series is completed in February 1978. The size of each painting is 120 by 90 centimeters. Verkerke has published a poster of some of the works. The Maldoror series was exhibited at Galerie Kamp (Amsterdam) from April 29 to May 31, 1978, together with work by a number of other artists. The opportunity is also taken to present the Johfra Sketchbook. In July of that year, the work are exhibited at the Baseler Kunstmesse.
The attempt to fully illustrate the book The Songs of Maldoror with drawings has not materialized for all sorts of reasons. Only a few sketches of this have survived. In the end, Johfra is not really sorry about this. Despite his earlier enthusiasm, he mainly sees the book as a bombastic and adolescent product.
Note: The image of the artwork The Divine Toad of the Maldoror series is unfortunately not in our possession.
From a young age, the fantasy world of the fairy tale has made a big impression on Johfra. For example, at a young age he is strongly fascinated by A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare as well as later by Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring, from which Ellen Lórien derives her painter’s name. Elementals, nature spirits such as elves, fairies, gnomes, sylphs, undines. Mythological figures, mythical creatures, dragons, devas, angels. All continuously populate Johfra’s work as well as Ellen’s. This is strongly related to a strong connection with nature. Above all, Johfra is a natural mystic who worships the Great Mother, that nature is. The miraculous creation that nourishes him and which has drifted him away from the teachings of the Rosicrucians, in which nature is seen as a natural dead which is impossible for him to reconcile.
In the past, in the forest of The Hague that delights him, and later on in the wild beauty of the Alpes-Maritimes, and even later in the paradisiacal opulence of the Périgord, he invariably delves into the mysterious silence of nature that surrounds him. In many paintings he knows how to portray this enchantment masterfully.
Between 1980 and 1982 Johfra works on a second poster series commissioned by Engel Verkerke with the subjects of Fantastic Beasts: unicorn, faun, sphinx, Gorgons, centaur, dragon, hydra, griffin, Bacchus, harpies, Sirens, sea horses, phoenix, basilisk, Pan, Pegasus, triton; 17 pieces in total.
In 1989 the booklet Elfes, fées et gnomes is published, in which works by Johfra, Ellen Lórien and Carjan (Car Verheul) are depicted. Paintings and drawings by Johfra, paintings by Ellen. The figurines made by Carjan fit very well with this theme. In 1990 the filmmaker Robin Lutz (the son of his former academy friend Gerard Lutz) comes to France. He makes a film about the work of Johfra and Ellen. The film entitled The World of Johfra is broadcast on Dutch television by broadcaster TROS television on 14 May 1991 and shows how Johfra is in his element in the Périgord. The series Ellen in Wonderland was created in 1994 and 1995, with in 1996 the Apotheosis. A total of nine paintings in which Ellen Lórien plays the leading role in dreamed worlds.
The fountains of Rome
Johfra visits Rome for the first time in 1948, together with Diana. Not only the buildings and ruins on the Palatino impress Johfra, the fountains do not let go of him either. Most of the fountains are formed around the ancient gods of the water element: Neptune, Amfitrite, tritons and naiads. He visits the world famous Trevi Fountain and Esedra Fountain and the fountain in Navona square. During the rest of his life, the fountains regularly recur in his oeuvre. In the period from his visit until the early 1950s, Johfra regularly makes drawings with water and mythological figures as the subject. In the mid-sixties he made two series of five drawings, each with sea horses in rough water as a theme.
The pinnacle has yet to come. Between 1987 and 1989 he made a series of 16 large paintings about the fountains of Rome. He depicts the images as he sees them in his mind, much more fantastic and more baroque than the gray fountains are in reality, and places them in a completely different world. The Fountain series is exhibited in full on March 17, 1990 at Jester Art Gallery (Amsterdam), but this gallery goes bankrupt.
When Johfra is looking for a new gallery for his work in 1997, he comes into contact with Galerie Utrecht (now Morren Galleries) through Cornelia Steehouwer, the widow of the Haarlem art critic Hein Steehouwer. The gallery owner comes to France to collect the Fountain series. He has a potential buyer for one of the paintings, Trevi Fountain. This collector buys the complete Fountain series. Galerie Utrecht will then be the first to organize an exhibition showing the entire Fountain series, even if all the works have already been sold, with the intention of making a sensational impression. Immediately after this, a second exhibition will be held with works that are now for sale. A winning formula.
In 2001, three years after Johfra’s death, a grand exhibition with 96 works by Johfra, including many masterpieces, is held in the West-Fries Museum in Hoorn. A number of paintings from the Fountain series are part of this exhibition. In 2010 an exhibition is held in Slot Zeist entitled Op de grenzen van het avontuur (translated: On the limits of adventure), after the book of the same name by Pierre Borgue. Part of the exhibition are works that are depicted in this book, but also some works of the Fountain series can be seen.
The end of the journey
It is 1998 and Johfra is not doing well, he is getting more and more stomach complaints. Only after some time the diagnosis of colon cancer is made. His powers diminish and so does his joy of painting. In his diary he notes on May 31, 1998: For now I will not paint anymore. It is also the day that he completes his very last painting with the significant title Thuisvaart. The following period mainly consists of doctor visits and being together with Ellen, which elicits Ellen’s statement: Johfra is dead, long live Frans. They often sit in the garden together. They talk to each other about death and the journey that follows. The autobiography Symphonie Fantastique is finished just in time, so that Johfra still has the opportunity to see the result. Johfra dies on November 6, 1998 at 2:30 AM.
During the modest funeral ceremony at the interment on November 10, 1998, his friend the writer / poet Gerrit Luidinga speaks the eulogy. A few dozen listeners, from both the Netherlands and France, are present. His grave is very simple.
After his death, Stichting de Verbeelding was founded to posthumously publish the standard work Hoogste lichten en diepste schaduwen (translates: Highest lights and deepest shadows), written by Gerrit Luidinga. This contains many images from his oeuvre as well as passages from his diary in twenty volumes (from 1938 to 1998) of a total of about six thousand pages.