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Michel Seuphor

Michel Seuphor (French 1901-1999)

Born in Antwerp, Fernand Berckelaers adopted the pseudonym 'Seuphor', an anagram for Orpheus, in 1917. During his long career as a writer, poet, art critic and artist, Seuphor made an important contribution to art history.

From 1922 onwards Seuphor moved at the heart of the European avant-garde in Berlin, Rome, Amsterdam and Paris and frequented the pioneers of Cubism, Dada, Futurism, Constructivism and Neo-Plasticism including Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, Albert Gleizes, Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Herwarth Walden, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Gino Severini and Joaquin Torrès-Garcia.
In 1921 Seuphor founded the Antwerp avant-garde magazine 'Het Overzicht', which he represented at important conferences such as Theo van Doesburg's launch of De Stijl in Rotterdam and the presentation of Casa Futurista in Berlin. In the German capital he met the core of its forward-thinking intelligentsia and artists, including Herwarth Walden, Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. During 1924-25, 'Der Sturm' published Seuphor's poems.

In 1925, Seuphor settled in Paris where he befriended Piet Mondrian and collaborated with the futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. In 1929 he founded along with Joaquin Torres García 'Cercle et Carré', a group dedicated to Asbtraction. Seuphor organised the group's exhibitions in which he brought together Mondrian, Arp, Sophie Taueber, Léger, Schwitters, Kandinsky, Le Corbusier. In 1934 Seuphor married and moved to Anduze in the South of France. During his eleven-year absence from Paris, 'Cercle et Carré' was continued with 'Abstraction-Création' (1932) and with 'Réalites Nouvelles' (1939).

As a critic, Seuphor left an important bibliography. Upon his return to Paris, he published l'Art abstrait, ses origins, ses premiers ma (Maeght, Paris, 1948). During 1950-51, for the preparation of his definitive book on Mondrian's life and work (published 1956), Seuphor spent time in New York in the company of Marcel Duchamp, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Marc Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Barnet Newman amongst others. His essay Le Style et le Cri was published in 1955. His La peinture abstraite en Flandre (Mercator, 1963), remains a standard work on the subject.

As an artist Seuphor found acclaim with a large exhibition organised by his friend Jean Arp at the Galerie Berggruen in 1954. In 1977 the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag and the Centre Georges Pompidou hosted a major retrospective of his work. Seuphor is credited with the invention of the so-called 'dessin à lacunes', drawings and collages in which the abstract forms are created by the empty spaces between the lines.