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van Hensbergen, Gijs 1958- (Arie Van der Lemme)

van Hensbergen, Gijs 1958- (Arie Van der Lemme)


Born July 12, 1958, in Schoten, Belgium; son of Pieter (a scientist) and Ans van Hensbergen; married Alexandra Coulter (a hospital administrator), November 30, 1986; children: Hendrikus, Rosa, Hester. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Courtauld Institute of Art, London, B.A. (hons.).


Home and office—Bridport, Dorset, England. Agent—Evan Thorneycroft, A.M. Heath and Co., 6 Warwick Ct., London WC1R 5DJ, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Knoedler Gallery, trainee art dealer in London, England, and New York, NY, 1981-84; historian, art critic, filmmaker, and writer. Martin Randall Travel Ltd., lecturer.


(Under pseudonym Arie van der Lemme) Art Deco, Appletree Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 1985.

A Year in Castile, Sinclair Stevenson (London, England), 1992.

Gaudí: A Biography, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon, Bloomsbury Press (London, England), 2004.

American Philanthropy, Bloomsbury Press (London, England), 2007.

Author of a documentary film script about sculptor Antony Caro.


Gijs van Hensbergen once told CA: "My book A Year in Castile was a response to my personal passion for cooking, people and cookery, and book collecting. There was no convincing record of life behind the stoves or cooking in Spain. In 1986 my wife and I left London, the art world, the world of the art critic and filmmaker, to become a suckling pig chef in the ancient city of Segovia.

"My major influences as a writer have been Richard Cobb (an historian of the French Revolution), V.S. Pritchett, and the American, M.F.K. Fisher. But I make no claims to compete with them as writers. I have no doubt about the authenticity of my experience and my ability to discover the unusual person or moment. To travel with an open mind and to leave prejudice at home (for later) more often than not allows new experiences to come in.

"My writing process whenever possible is to write from nine to five, reread in the early evening, and throw away most. Deadlines are also immensely stimulating, as are visits from the bank manager. Inspiration, however, comes from the subject. The genius of Antonio Gaudí is hard to ignore or not be seduced by. The overwhelming power of Picasso's Guernica demands a response. My response is to tease out its life."

Van Hensbergen later added: "I have always been fascinated by the political and propaganda power of art: why it is produced; what it tells us about the culture, the desires, needs, aspirations of the patron; but most importantly, what it disguises. I start with a cultural object—a painting, a person—and tease and worry through all the evidence, hoping to allow the subject to come through. It is, of course, a conceit, but I hunt for objectivity and try to sit back and behind the ‘original’ voices, knowing full well that I ‘orchestrate’ the evidence. The most exciting and stimulating work is unearthing the evidence, pulling the tapestry into focus. The writing is the final construction of an argument that at times started years earlier, and sometimes by someone else.

"To write about art and the visual stimulus it gives is an enduring problem. To get the right voice that allows for banality just as often as exhilaration is what I aspire to. To construct an argument that is simple but have both weight and meaning is what I hope for. My literary inspirations are Richard Cobb in Still Life, E.H. Gombrich in The Story of Art, and Ron Powers's brilliant life of Mark Twain. What I would choose as a mantra is ‘twist the eye … look and puzzle … see the evidence, the cracks of paint, the ghosts of other images, plagiarism, originality, breathtaking technique, brilliance of execution … and let colour breathe.’"



America, May 13, 2002, Jose I. Badenes, review of Gaudí: A Biography, p. 17.

Booklist, November 1, 2001, Spinella Michael, review of Gaudí, p. 455.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of Gaudí, p. 1279.

Library Journal, November 1, 2001, Jay Schaefer, review of Gaudí, p. 90.

Spectator, June 16, 2001, Simon Courtauld, review of Gaudí, p. 43.

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