(Brugge, 1929 - Antwerpen, 2008)
Hugo Claus was a truly multi-talented artist. He wrote poetry, novels, made film scenarios, wrote plays and he drawed and painted. And he did all these things at a singularly high level. His production was enormous. Claus is still considered to be one of the greatest authors using the Dutch language. His name was often mentioned in connection with the Nobel prize for literature.
Hugo Claus was born in Bruges (Belgium) on 5 April 1929. His father, Joseph Claus, was a printer. When he was 18 months old he was sent to boarding school for the very young and he went to boarding schools until 1940. After that he could not get used to living at home any more. When he was 17 he departed to France.
He published his first poems in 1947, he was only 18 years old. He wrote his first novel ‘De Metsiers’ in 1950. This book was heavily criticised in Roman Catholic circles. He was also involved in CoBrA; he became a member in 1950. Some of his expressionist gouaches date from this period. Claus participated in some small CoBrA exhibitions.
Hugo Claus’ part in the movement was not significant, he stated it was based on the friendships with some of the members, which was evident from the fact that he illustrated Pierre Alechinsky’s book ‘Zonder Vorm van Proces’ in 1949. Besides, Asger Jorn made a mural painting in his house in Gent and Christian Dotremont assisted him in creating many peinture-mots.
As a visual artist Hugo Claus had exhibitions in many countries. His work, often of a slightly mocking nature, is very popular everywhere. In 1988 he published a novel called ‘Een zachte vernieling’ in which he looked back on the early nineteen fifties and his CoBrA period in an ironical way.
Suffering from the Alzheimer disease, Hugo Claus died in 2008 in Antwerp.