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Johfra Bosschart: The Occult Surrealist

Johfra Bosschart (1919-1998) was a Dutch painter known for his surrealist and mystical paintings that often incorporated astrological symbolism. He was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

In the 1950s, Bosschart became interested in astrology and began incorporating astrological symbolism into his paintings. He eventually became a prominent figure in astrological art, and his work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibitions.

Bosschart’s style is often described as a blend of surrealism, symbolism, and mystical elements. His paintings are known for their intricate details, vivid colors, and dreamlike imagery. His work often depicted mythical creatures, ancient symbols, and otherworldly landscapes.

Early Life

Born Franciscus Johannes Gijsbertus van den Berg in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 1919, Johfra Bosschart was destined to be an artist. He grew up in a world crumbling under the weight of the Second World War, a time of upheaval that would later be reflected in his art. His father was a talented draftsman and exposed his son to the world of artistic expression from a young age.

Johfra Bosschart’s journey into art started in earnest when he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. Here, he first encountered the works of surrealist masters, such as Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, and Max Ernst, whose influence would later be evident in his creations. Bosschart’s passion for the occult and esoteric knowledge was ignited during this period. He began exploring the mystical side of life, which would become a central theme in his art.

Maldoror Series

One of the most striking and memorable works by Bosschart is the Maldoror series. Inspired by the 19th-century French poet Comte de Lautréamont’s “Les Chants de Maldoror,” the series consists of paintings depicting fantastic beasts and monstrous figures. These grotesque and horrifying images are a perfect example of Bosschart’s unique blend of surrealist art and the dark world of the occult.

The Maldoror series showcases Bosschart’s talent for rendering the nightmarish and the macabre, which would later be referred to as “monster brains” by some art critics. These works were controversial for their time, as they were seen as a form of degenerate art, challenging the conventions of traditional aesthetics and societal norms.

Johfra Bosschart’s artistry went beyond mere visual appeal; it was a journey into the realms of the subconscious and mystical. Take, for instance, his acclaimed Zodiac series. Each painting in this series was not just a mere representation of astrological signs but a complex tapestry woven with esoteric symbols and hidden meanings. Bosschart meticulously researched astrological lore and symbolism, infusing each painting with layers of meaning. For example, the ‘Leo’ painting isn’t just an illustration of the lion sign; it incorporates alchemical symbols and mythological references, creating a visual narrative that invites the viewer to delve deeper into the mysteries of the cosmos. This series, completed in reverse order starting with Pisces, was a significant departure from traditional astrological art, offering a unique fusion of surrealism with mystical themes that captivated and intrigued the art world.1, 2

The Zodiac Series

Perhaps the most famous of Bosschart’s works are his Zodiac posters. This series consists of twelve paintings, each representing a sign of the zodiac, with symbolic elements deeply rooted in esoteric knowledge. From the ethereal beauty of Aquarius to the fiery energy of Aries, the Zodiac series showcases Bosschart’s ability to infuse the surreal with the mystical.

The creation of the Zodiac series was a transformative experience for Bosschart, as it allowed him to break free from the constraints of traditional artistic techniques and embrace his true calling as an occult surrealist. The series was completed in reverse order, starting with Pisces and culminating in the powerful and enigmatic image of Aries. The Zodiac series not only captured the public’s imagination but also solidified Bosschart’s reputation as an artistic force to be reckoned with.

Amsterdam 1981 and the Following Year:

By the early 1980s, Johfra Bosschart had established himself as a leading figure in surrealist art. In 1981, he held a major retrospective of his work in Amsterdam, showcasing his vast collection of paintings and drawings. This exhibition was a turning point for Bosschart, bringing him international acclaim and cementing his place in the annals of art history.

The following year, 1982, proved to be a significant one for the artist Johfra Bosschart, as his work gained recognition and admiration from critics and the general public. During this time, Bosschart’s artwork was featured in several European exhibitions and galleries, exposing a wider audience to his unique blend of surrealism, mysticism, and fantastic beasts.

Johfra Bosschart: Occult Surrealist:

One of the key aspects that set Bosschart apart from his contemporaries was his profound interest in occult and esoteric knowledge. This fascination permeated his work, turning his canvases into portals to a hidden world of mysticism and spirituality. As an occult surrealist, Bosschart’s paintings were not merely artistic expressions but also intricate tapestries of symbols and arcane wisdom.

His use of esoteric elements and themes in his art allowed Bosschart to explore the depths of the human psyche, unearthing the fears, desires, and mysteries that lurk beneath the surface. This approach to art, coupled with his extraordinary talent for blending the surreal with the mystical, made Johfra Bosschart a truly unique artist whose work continues to inspire and captivate to this day.

While Bosschart was never directly linked to this specific movement, his work certainly pushed the boundaries of conventional artistic expression. His paintings often featured unsettling imagery, such as monstrous figures and nightmarish creatures, challenging viewers to confront their fears and anxieties. This provocative approach to art garnered criticism and admiration but ultimately helped solidify Bosschart’s reputation as a groundbreaking and influential artist.


Johfra Bosschart passed away in 1998, but his legacy lives on through his mesmerizing works of art. His paintings continue to be exhibited and admired by art enthusiasts worldwide, with many recognizing him as a pioneer in surrealist and occult art. The themes and techniques he employed in his work have inspired countless artists who came after him, ensuring that the surrealism of Bosschart will never be forgotten.

Bosschart’s art is a testament to the power of the imagination and the importance of challenging the boundaries of conventional artistic expression. From his early life to the fantastic beasts of his Maldoror series and the esoteric symbols of his Zodiac posters, the story of Johfra Bosschart is one of a visionary who dared to explore the depths of the human psyche through the surreal and the mystical. As an occult surrealist, his work continues to captivate and inspire, leaving a lasting impact on art.

Johfra Bosschart’s work, steeped in surrealism and mysticism, continues to resonate with audiences today, offering a unique window into the human psyche and spiritual exploration. His paintings are not just artifacts of the past but living pieces of art that speak to our ongoing quest for meaning in a complex world. For those looking to experience the enchanting world of Bosschart first-hand, several of his works are on display in prestigious galleries and museums across Europe. Notably, the Zodiac series, with its intricate symbolism and astrological themes, can be viewed in various art exhibitions, providing a mesmerizing experience that transcends time. For digital explorers, high-resolution images of his paintings are available on select online art platforms, allowing a closer examination of his intricate details and profound symbolism from anywhere in the world. This accessibility ensures that Bosschart’s legacy continues to inspire and challenge viewers, just as it did during his lifetime.2

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Johfra Bosschart?

Johfra Bosschart was a Dutch surrealist painter born in 1919 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He is best known for his unique blend of surrealism and occult themes in his artwork, which often features fantastic beasts and esoteric symbols.

What is Johfra Bosschart’s real name?

Johfra Bosschart was born Franciscus Johannes Gijsbertus van den Berg. He later adopted the pseudonym “Johfra Bosschart,” which combines his first name and his mother’s maiden name.

What influenced Johfra Bosschart’s art?

Bosschart was heavily influenced by the works of surrealist masters such as Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, and Max Ernst. He was also deeply interested in occult and esoteric knowledge, which played a significant role in shaping the themes and symbols present in his artwork.

What is the Maldoror series?

The Maldoror series is a collection of paintings by Johfra Bosschart inspired by the 19th-century French poet Comte de Lautréamont’s “Les Chants de Maldoror.” The series features grotesque and nightmarish creatures, showcasing Bosschart’s talent for combining surrealism and macabre.

What is the Zodiac series?

The Zodiac series is a collection of twelve paintings by Johfra Bosschart, each representing a sign of the zodiac. The series is known for its intricate symbolism and esoteric themes, blending surrealism with mysticism and astrology.

What is “degenerate art,” and how does it relate to Johfra Bosschart?

“Degenerate art” is a term that originated in Nazi Germany to describe art that did not conform to the government’s standards of aesthetics and morality. Although Bosschart was not directly associated with this movement, his work often pushed the boundaries of conventional artistic expression and featured unsettling imagery that some considered degenerate.

How has Johfra Bosschart influenced other artists?

Johfra Bosschart’s unique blend of surrealism, mysticism, and fantastic beasts has inspired countless artists who came after him. His groundbreaking approach to art and his exploration of the human psyche through the surreal and the mystical have left a lasting impact on the art world.

When did Johfra Bosschart pass away?

Johfra Bosschart passed away on November 6, 1998.

Where can I see Johfra Bosschart’s artwork?

Johfra Bosschart’s artwork can be found in various galleries and exhibitions worldwide. Many of his works are also available online for viewing through various art websites and social media platforms dedicated to his work.


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