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Lucebert Gender: M
Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk
born on 15 September 1924 at 01:00 (= 01:00 AM )
Place Amsterdam, Netherlands, 52n22, 4e54
Timezone LST m19e53 (is daylight saving time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Koppejan
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_vircol.18.gif 21°51' s_mo.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 12°30 Asc.s_cancol.18.gif 22°40'

photo: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo, license cc-by-sa-3.0


Dutch illustrator and the poet-painter of the Cobra and Fifties movement.

Lucebert was the son of the house painter and waiter Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk (28 May 1902) and Johanna Kalf (1891), a barmaid. They married 14 October 1914 in Amsterdam and got three sons. The marriage was unhappy: there were financial problems and quarrels and when Lucebert was only 2 years old, his mother left the family. They divorced officially on 31 December 1927 in Amsterdam. After four difficult years, his father remarried on 12 June 1930 the Catholic Hendrika Johanna Wilsens (18 April 1892, Vught), an early widowed house keeper without children.

Until age 13, Lucebert lived in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam, which had then a typical Labour neighbourhood with a mixed population, including poor immigrant Jews. He became at young age interested in alchemy. His father played on 24 November 1928 the role of Sint Nicolaas in Amsterdam, but there is little reason to believe that his youth was happy. He followed the ULO Trade school from 1936-39, where two teachers formed him: The teacher of German letters G.F.J.C. Bering stimulated his love for romantic poetry and letters. The other was the SDAP member and socialistic painter, lithographer and Concertgebouw clarinet player Johan van Hell (28 February 1889, A'dam – 31 Dec 1952, A'dam). Van Hell recognised his talent and gave him private lessons in painting.

After the ULO (summer 1939), Lucebert had to work in his fathers house painting company. His talent for painting was rediscovered by a passenger, when he just made some painting on a wall. With a grant he was allowed to study at the "Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs" (art school) in Amsterdam. The director, the Bauhaus architect and designer Mart Stam (5 August 1899, Purmerend – 23 February 1986, Goldach), made him aware of Dada and surrealisms, but after four months of art study, his father abruptly ended it, as he had to work for bread to sustain the poor family.

Lucebert had several clerk jobs as a teenager. But with his friends Johan van der Zant (the poet Hans Andreus) and Wim Kraaykamp, the elder brother of the actor Johnny Kraaykamp, he formed an artistic group, that wore their hair longer than usual. But there was also a war going on. In May 1943 he went semi-voluntarily for "Arbeitseinsatz" as a clerk in an explosives factory in Apollensdorf . He initially liked it: He wrote romantic poems, often visited the Medieval Luther city Wittenberg and the public library in Dessau. But when he was accused of sabotage, he ended up as a forced labourer in the factory and became ill. As he simulated severe illness, he was was allowed to go home (May 1944). In Amsterdam he went underground with his elder brother till the end of the war on Dutch Liberation on 5 May 1945.

After the war Lucebert worked for a while for the Canadian troops. Later he started wandering, lodging with friends like Bert Schierbeek and became an autodidact artist. On 22 December 1947 Lucebert converted to Catholicism, together with his girl friend Corinne de Wit. He became religiously inspired, and made wall paintings for Franciscan monasteries. But the Franciscan nuns did not appreciate his kind of art, and later painted it white. Note that his first painting teacher had the name "Johan van Hell", and that his pen name "Lucebert" - that he first used on 5 September 1945 in a letter to the poet Hans Andreus - derives from the Latin word "luce" (light) and the German "Bert", meaning shining. The in poverty born Lucebert, saw the name "Lucifer", a Latin translation of the Greek word "Eosphoros", Phosporus or morning star in the Septuagint, as a light-bringer, a lamp shining on the darkness of the ruling classes in society. Later he would affiliate with (1955) and name his first born son Brecht Swaanswijk (1954) after the Marxist poet Bert Brecht.

In 1948 he met the painter Anton Martineau (19 Nov 1926, De Wallen, A'dam) in Paris. They lived like clochards under shelters and drew prayer cards of Saint Anthony and Cecilia to sell to Catholics. He first used the name Lucebert in public on his first exposition in association with Anton Martineau from 23 September till 6 October 1948 in the building of the "Vereniging voor Drankbestrijding" (Association for Liquor Control), Oosteinde 18 at Amsterdam. Note that his unhappy parents were a waiter and a barmaid. His early paintings had a pessimistic world view. His work was sold then for less then a guilder to ten guilders.

In 1948 Lucebert became a member of the COBRA group, whose members lived in Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), Amsterdam (A). Important members were: Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Constant en Corneille. They propagated spontaneity and a new start. They wanted to break with the old fashioned styles. Their paintings often looked as if they were made by children. Lucebert often made drawing like paintings with strange colours, partly because of his colour blindness! Vincent van Gogh has also been suspected to had this ailment or just a, not being distracted by details, dog's feature.

As Lucebert combined poetry and paintings, he became the poet of the COBRA movement and was the leading figure in the Fifties movement of experimental poetry (Keizer der Vijftigers). The process of creation, was as important as the finished end product. His poetry was often provocative, but as it dealt with the great questions of life, he got recognition for it. As he was really an enlightening poet that helped others to see things from another perspective.

For this he admired the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. In the poem "Exodus" he wrote: de dichter hij eet de tijd op; de beleefde tijd; de toekomende tijd (the poet eats the time; the experienced time; the future time). But he also warned the poets readers not to read his poetry too superficially: "de zoeker naar de aard van een gedicht; (...) zal doof zijn voor het ijlingse; loven en laken van modejager & modeverguizer.

He won the major Dutch literary prices including the 1953, 1956, 1962 Poetry prize's of Amsterdam for respectively "Apocrief", "De beulen" and "Terreur", the Constantijn Huygen Prize of 1965, the P.C. Hooftprijs of 1967 and the 1983 Prize of Dutch letters. He became remembered as the poet of the words "Alles van waarde is weerloos" (All things of value are defenceless) from the poem "De zeer oude zingt" (The very old sings). Maybe the old men he referred to was the old tree (of the mpingo tree made wood instrument) clarinet player Johan van Hell. His words were put years later in neon letters on top of the office building of an insurance company in Rotterdam.

He exhibited in the first "International Exhibition of Experimental Art" in the "Stedelijk Museum" of Amsterdam, Netherlands from 3-28 November 1949. Major exposers were: Pierre Alechinsky (1927), Karl Otto Götz (1914), Stephen Gilbert (1910), William Gear (1915), Jacques Doucet (1924), Michel Atlan (1913), Joseph Istler (1919), Shinkichi Tajiri (1923), Anders Österlin (1916), Carl Otto Hultén (1919), Max Walter, Svanberg (1912), Zoltan Kemeny (1907) and Madeleine Szemere Kemeny (1906). Many exhibitions would follow. See the Wikipedia for the details.


Early 1953 he met Antonia Wilhelmina (Tony) Koek (9 May 1927, Amsterdam - 9 March 2011, Bergen). They got a son Brecht Swaanswijk (30 November 1953, Bergen - May 2010, Spain). They married 13 December 1954. In 1955 he worked six months together with Bertold Brecht in East Berlin. Later they would live in Bergen at Sea. He died on 10 May 1994 in Alkmaar of cancer.

Link to Wikipedia


  • associate relationship with Brecht, Bertolt (born 10 February 1898). Notes: worked together 1955 in East Berlin
  • other associate with Looy, Jac. van (born 13 September 1855). Notes: Double talents (Winner of the Jacobus Van Looy prize for double talents)
  • compare to chart of Claus, Hugo (born 5 April 1929). Notes: both poets believed in alchemy
  • compare to chart of Van Gogh, Vincent (born 30 March 1853). Notes: Both colour-blind and religiously inspired painters


  • Family : Parents divorced 31 December 1927 in Amsterdam
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Other Family 24 November 1928 in Amsterdam (His father played children's friend Sint Nicolaas)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Family : Adopted by Parent 12 June 1930 in Amsterdam (Father remarried his Catholic stepmother Hendrika Johanna Wilsens)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : New Job July 1939 (had to work in his fathers house painting company)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : New Job May 1943 in Wittenberg ("Arbeitseinsatz" as a clerk in an explosives factory in Apollensdorf)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Social : Institutionalized - prison, hospital May 1944 in Amsterdam (Went underground after sick leave)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Social : Deinstitutionalized - prison, hospital 5 May 1945 in Amsterdam (German capitulation)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Misc. : Changed Name 5 September 1945 (First used pen name "Lucebert" in a letter he poet Hans Andreus)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Social : Joined group 22 December 1947 in Amsterdam (converted to Catholicism)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 23 September 1948 in Amsterdam (first exposition in association with Anton Martineau)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 3 November 1949 in Amsterdam (The first "International Exhibition of Experimental Art" in the "Stedelijk Museum" of Amsterdam 3-28 November1949)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Death of Significant person 31 December 1952 in Amsterdam (Johan van Hell)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Family : Adopted a child 30 November 1953 in Bergen (Brecht Swaanswijk)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Relationship : Marriage 13 December 1954 (Antonia Wilhelmina (Tony) Koek)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Koppejan quotes Municipal Archive in "Beeldgids van de dierenriem" (15 sept 1924, 1h00 AM Amsterdam).

Swaanswijk, Lubertus Jacobus (1924-1994): KNAW

Lucebert - dbnl

Dossiers - Lucebert -Lucepedia


  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Cancer (died of cancer)
  • Diagnoses : Body Part Problems : Eyes (colour-blind painter (Article))
  • Vocation : Art : Fine art artist (COBRA member)
  • Vocation : Writers : Poet (Dbnl)
  • Notable : Awards : Other Awards (Constantijn Huygens Prize, the P.C. Hooft Prize, the Prize for Dutch Literature and the Jacobus Van Looy prize for double talents.)
  • Notable : Famous : First in Field (The "Emperor of the Fifties.")
  • Notable : Famous : Top 5% of Profession (Poet and painter)