The songs of Maldoror

In June 1975, after the success of the Zodiac Series Johfra gets a commission by gallery owner Walter Kamp to make seven paintings based on the book The songs of Maldoror, written by Comte de Lautréamont (pseudonym for Isidre Lucien Ducasse, 1846 - 1870).

Johfra sees this as an opportunity to shake off his esoteric image. Also this contract for another series of paintings provides him enough income to make several modifications to their water mill Le Moulin du Peuch and to suffice in their needs.


The Lovers
What comes over a hill?

The Hermaphrodite

In order to be able to create the paintings Johfra must read the whole book. With difficulty he struggles through the story and yet can not support the text. At some point he even threatened to refuse the commission. In his diary he notes: I have made my decision and won't make the seven paintings based on the songs of Maldoror. Mental hygiene is the reason.

Yet he continuous and gradually moves through the story and even manages to express some appreciation and becomes even enthusiastic. If he has read the book, he writes in his diary: I've read The songs of Maldoror. The sixth song, I think is best. Within this book lies the source of surrealism. The Lautréamont, and not André Breton, is the inventor of surrealism. The images and especially the writing style of Salvador Dalí are entirely based on the book, like his body and mind. The Surrealists are not able to do much more than what the Lautreamont did. The movement made only the development and popularization of it possible.

The Whore of the Cemetery

The Lunatic

The Louse God

At the end of 1975 he starts with the first painting, Kali. The Maldoror Series is finished in February 1978. The size of each painting is 120 by 90 centimeters. Of some of the paintings a poster is published by Verkerke.

The Maldoror Series is presented at a grand exhibition at Gallery Kamp (Amsterdam) from April 29 to May 31, 1978, along with work by a number of artists. The occasion is also used to present the Sketchbook of Johfra. In July of this year, the works are exhibited at the Baseler Art Fair.

For various reasons, nothing came from the attempt to completely illustrate the book The songs of Maldoror. Only a few of the sketches he made are preserved. Ultimately, Johfra is not really bothered by this. Despite his earlier enthusiasm fot the book he sees it now mainly as a bombastic and juvenile product.

Note: Unfortunately, the image of the artwork The Divine Toad of the Maldoror Series is not in our possession.