Jos (Johannes) Lussenburg was born in 1889 in Enkhuizen, just below the Drommedaris. As a child, he was drawn to life on and around the Zuiderzee: influenced by his seafaring grandfather, the incoming and outgoing ships, hanging out and playing with friends, and sketching around the harbor. Music also played a role early in his life: his father took 6-year-old Jos to the brass band to learn the drum, and he turned out to be talented, later also taking violin lessons. However, he had little interest in school; he was a free spirit who preferred to follow his passions.
As the eldest boy in a family of eight children facing financial challenges, Jos became involved in earning a living at an early age but struggled to find his place. His parents wanted him to work as a carpenter’s apprentice with the goal of later joining the Public Works Department. However, Jos wanted nothing more than to pursue his true interests, which were music, sketching, painting, and the water.
Unfortunately, it was financially unfeasible to turn these passions into a successful career through formal education. When they moved to Apeldoorn (1908-10) due to his father’s health, Jos joined the military and became a postman, a service that provided him the freedom to play the violin in circuses or pubs in the evenings. The family later moved to Blaricum in the Gooi region, and Jos settled in Laren as a boarder. He continued sketching and painting, made lifelong friends, but the main goal was his violin studies. With a scholarship, he was accepted at the conservatory in Amsterdam, where he graduated in 1914, just before the mobilization at the beginning of World War I. In the army, he was allowed to assemble a regimental corps of musicians and successfully toured the country as a bandmaster. After the mobilization, he completed his solo study at the conservatory.
Jos married Jantje Langedijk in 1917, also from Enkhuizen. In his first job, he temporarily replaced the sick Gerard Boedijn as the director of the municipal music school in Maastricht. They lived two beautiful years in Limburg, during which Jos could also dedicate time to painting. However, when the permanent directorship was offered to him in 1919, he chose the Veluwe. It was a difficult but courageous decision.
The choice for the Veluwe was not entirely unexpected. His parents had settled in Nunspeet during that time, and he had visited them from Limburg. This environment made Jos realize that the sea continued to strongly attract him; Limburg would eventually become too dry for him. The family, now with one-year-old daughter Baukje Sjanzje, moved to the Veluwe, initially based in Harderwijk and with a lot of work in the surrounding area, which later expanded to the N.W. Veluwe. In 1925, they moved to their farmhouse on the Bosweg in Nunspeet. With sons Johannes Koenraad and Ludwig, the family was complete. They would never leave Nunspeet and continued to live in their self-renovated farmhouse “De Thuishaven” on the Bosweg.
Living and Working
De Thuishaven, Bosweg 9 in Nunspeet Jos didn’t have to live without a ship any longer, as the harbors of Harderwijk and Elburg were just a stone’s throw away. He captured his beloved life on and around the water of the Zuiderzee in detailed sketches and paintings. The natural surroundings and life in the Veluwe also became a significant part of his oeuvre.
Initially, the family experienced great poverty. Jos cycled from one music location to another in the wide area. In a short time, he became the conductor and mentor of many musicians, choirs, bands, and orchestras. In Harderwijk, he founded the regional music school and the N.W. Veluws Symphony Orchestra. He brought music to the people. However, a severe infection in his left index finger abruptly ended his career as a violinist in 1923.
The Painter Jos Lussenburg
Expressing his sorrow, he created the painting “Danse Macabre.” Discouraged and thrown back, but encouraged by his wife Jantje, he turned more towards painting. During the day, he did everything to master as many aspects of the painter’s craft as possible as an autodidact. In the evenings, he was on the road to keep music alive and secure his income. After 1945, his son Hans (also a graduate in music) could temporarily assist him in this.
Jos Lussenburg was a people person, and people enjoyed being with him. He gained the trust of fishermen, ordinary or prominent village figures, farmers, gypsies, wanderers, even a spirit drinker. They posed for him, on location along the way or in his studio. In that studio in the backhouse (formerly the pigsty), colleagues or students often joined him in painting. The large studio (former cowshed) served as a charming exhibition and reception space, where many meetings with colleagues were held.
Among his painting colleagues or “Art Circle Friends” were Arthur Briët, Jan van Vuuren, Zeegers (sculptor), Henk de Jong, and Marie Cremer. Even before 1940, Frans Huysmans, Ben Viegers, and Hendrik Verburg joined. Chris ten Bruggenkate moved in with De Jong to learn the trade, and Korndörffer (liberal minister) was encouraged by Lussenburg to take up painting, as well as Andries van der Beek and Jaap Hiddink. In the post-war period, Piet Bruins, Guusje Sundermeijer, and Cor Vrendenberg came to Nunspeet. Weekly, Geo Kouderer, Cornelis Korndörffer, Dienke de Vries Rohde, Anton Ton, Piet Hak, and his daughter Sjoerdtje Hak came to Nunspeet to paint together, guided by him in his studio. Jos called this “unfolding.” He didn’t teach in the sense of “this is how it should be,” but assisted where needed with technical instructions to find an individual style.
Lussenburg was deeply attached to home and hearth but gladly drew inspiration from new impressions. In the 1930s, he traveled several times to Italy with two artistic friends from Laren, an architect, and a musician. His works from Florence, Pisa, Venice, Verona, but also the Swiss and Bavarian landscapes, bear witness to this. In the 1950s and 1960s, he visited France more, especially Normandy, and in ’61, he spent some time on the Cote d’Azur. He never drove a car and never flew. His buyers and admirers visited him in Nunspeet or found him in exhibitions. His works were shipped from the 1930s by boat and later by plane to exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Vancouver, Algiers, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. In the Netherlands, his work is displayed in many public spaces and several museums, including the Zuiderzee Museum and the Noord-Veluws Museum.
Known as “De Lus” among friends, he was a connecting figure in the North-West Veluwe. He was a good and beloved listener, coach, mentor, and speaker, and people gladly sought his assistance until the end. At the end of World War II, the mayor asked him to join the emergency council. Although not intending to enter politics, he was urged by multiple parties to do so. However, Jos refused, as he was not aligned with any party and, as he stated, had ‘only served the interest of the entire municipality.’ He laid the foundation for ‘Gemeentebelang’ (Community Interest) in politics and remained involved for many years. In the art scene, he resisted the frequent requests to strengthen groups that promised support through ‘innovation and modernism.’ However, he joined “het Palet” and even became its chairman. In 1968, he received a Royal decoration. He was also surprised in Nunspeet, Elburg, Apeldoorn, and Harderwijk on special occasions (including his 80th and 85th birthdays) with honorary exhibitions and festivities.
Jos Lussenburg passed away in his sleep on July 28, 1975. He was far from finished with painting—a new canvas stood wet on the easel.