Biography (1932 - 1991)
In the early years of his practice, Lennarts took inspiration from the influential, avant-garde CoBrA group. The CoBrA artist’s concern with spontaneity and artistic freedom remained important to Lennarts and can readily be seen in his works on paper from the 1960s, centering most frequently on reproductions of dense foliage or close up portraits. Taking inspiration from the art of children and the mentally ill, these works are consistently executed with an aggressive technique of rapid mark-making in a single colour.
Born in Brabant, a traditionally Roman Catholic province of The Netherlands bordering with Belgium, Lennarts contemporaries included artists such as JCJ Vanderheyden, with whom he exhibited in the 1963 exhibition Schijt aan Schilderkunst (Bollocks to Painting). As well as being good friends, both artists worked in a style typical of Brabantian painters of the time. In his essay Swaying trees, trembling grass Rudi Fuchs describes Lennarts’ approach to depicting nature as ‘maniacal’, in part due to his examination of colour and in part due to the competition between the isolated painters of Eindhoven with their contemporaries in Amsterdam.
In 1970 Lennarts went on to exhibit with Ad Snijders and Lukas Smits at the Van Abbe Museum in Tot Lering en Vvermaak (To Education and Enjoyment). Pre-dating Bourriaud’s notion of relational aesthetics by more than 20 years, the exhibition saw two rooms of the gallery transformed into living room interiors. The artists re-named Eindhoven ‘Schapenstad’ (Sheeptown) and branded themselves as shepherds, directing the community towards a better understanding of art, achieved through conversations with the museum-goers and a newspaper called ‘De Heidenkoerier’ which was circulated throughout the city.
Throughout his career the written word formed an important element of Lennarts’ artistic output. He won the Eindhoven Incentive Prize in 1967 for his publications in the literary magazine Raam and in the following year his play De Boos (The Box) was staged at the Globe Hall of Eindhoven’s City Theatre. In 1985 Lennarts was again awarded a prize from the city for his novel Koekoeksklok in Utopia (A Cuckoo Clock in Utopia). During the 70s his dedication to the written word led him to the philosophical writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger, who can be counted amongst his influences.
A marked feature of Lennarts' practice is his relationship with the colour green. Rudi Fuchs describes his employment of the colour in the following passage:
“He made a great effort to have that green sway, twirl and quicken its pace. His leaves are forever moving, even if there was no wind. And the green is always different. The leaves have another colour on top than underneath. And there are those ever-present strange brushstrokes: short, quivering and trembling always executed with diluted acrylic paint.”
He remained loyal to the colour for the duration of his working life, penning his own 'Lennarts Green' in the vein of Yves Klein's patented 'IKB - International Klein Blue'. Whereas Klein's employment of blue reflected his lofty ambition for aesthetic purity, Lennarts's use of green reflects his grounded oeuvre; socially and politically engaged and rooted in the common experience, his works are a testament to the labours of the human spirit.
Lennarts attended the Beekvliet Seminary, Sint Michielsgestel, in 1945 with the intention of becoming a Trappist monk. In 1948 he attended the Joris College in Eindhoven, receiving a grant from the French government in 1959 to support his artistic practice. He began his studies at the Royal Academy of Arts in den Bosch, later transferring to the Art Acadmey in Tillburg. He exhibited internationally: solo exhibitions include Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1976; Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, 1984; Galerie Thornfield, Eindhoven in 1984, 1986 and 1989 and Winner - collective, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1987. Travelling exhibitions include Zuid Nederlandse Schilders Van Vandaag/ Southern Dutch Painters of Today, 1962, which travelled to NOMA, New Orleans (formerly the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art) and the Caribbean and Premio Marzotto, 1960, which travelled to Haus der Kunst, Munich; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris and throughout Europe. Group exhibitions include Atelier 3, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1964; Keuze B68, Noord Brabants Museum, Den Bosch, 1968; Ooghoogte, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1986. More recently Far From Turmoil, Mol’s Place, London, 2010. Throughout his career, Lennarts lived and worked in The Netherlands, France and Ireland.