How to Navigate the Legacy Blog of Henri van Bentum, 1929 - 2022

Welcome to the legacy blog of artist Henri van Bentum (1929-2022).  This site contains several hundred posts covering a vast array of topics, all written by Henri, beginning in 2008 when the blog launched. For a chronological menu of older posts, please see the lower left-hand side of this page. The site is curated by Natasha van Bentum, lifelong partner of Henri for fifty-one years.


Remembering Henri van Bentum - thoughts from Dr. Kimberly Arcand

Dr. Kimberly Arcand,
Visualization Scientist & Emerging Tech lead,
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory,
Center for Astrophysics / Harvard & Smithsonian

Remembering Henri van Bentum

“Art and science are two flowers on the same cosmic vine. They are about curiosity, creativity. They question, provoke. They are thinkers, instigators. They can communicate, make meaning. Art and science, those gorgeous flowers, help us manage and understand the world around us.

As an artist and color master, Henri van Bentum captured light and life, creating something beautiful, a choreography of color and texture. As a visualization scientist for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, I translate the energetic multiwavelength Universe into something we can experience. We make visible the invisible.

Henri and his artwork first came to my attention during the United Nations’ International Year of Astronomy in 2009. His major opus, "Organiverse", became part of my "From Earth to the Universe" cornerstone project, with celebrations by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Victoria Centre.

"Coloring Space", a collaboration between NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory (public outreach program) and Henri van Bentum, artist

Not long afterwards, Henri and I collaborated on an interdisciplinary sci-art project, an online exhibit juxtaposing some of his Organiverse Starry Night paintings with images of space. (See above example). This resulted in the creation of "Coloring Space" which is still viewable on the web site for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Henri van Bentum, housesitting on Pender Island, B.C.

Our journey through light together would continue. A few years later, when my colleague and I wrote a book called "Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond", we included a small selection of artists, among them, my favorite, Henri van Bentum, with his acrylic on canvas painting “Light Sprang Forth”.

More than that, I had found a friend in him, and Natasha, and we would continue to correspond, sharing parts of our lives, beyond the art, beyond the science. In Henri’s hands, the Universe danced. 

I’m thinking of him now, invisible particles and all light, now all the flowers on all the vines, dancing through our Universe. Maybe I will capture a part of his light (and life) in my own work someday.”


You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page
featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


Remembering Henri van Bentum, words from Dr. Mark Sherman (Henri's family doctor), given at the memorial gathering on August 13th, 2022

Dr. Mark Sherman, Henri van Bentum's family doctor

Good afternoon, everyone. I met Henri and Natasha not long after they moved to Victoria in 2004. One of the "Raging Grannies" Natasha knew had recommended me as a physician. They soon became my patients.

Henri was an easy person to respect, and to connect with, and we quickly recognized our shared affinity for Buddhism and our love of travel and the creative spirit.

It wasn't long before Henri had invited my then fiancée and I, for tea and a visit at their small 7th floor apartment overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait.

It was here that I first experienced Henri's opus, the "Organiverse Portfolio" that Henri had created while living in Morocco, and which he completed on the island of Madeira, 50 years ago in 1972:

-100 small mandalas, all painted in pointillism, "dot by dot", "atom by atom", as Henri would say. Each painting has a diameter of only 8.5 centimetres.

Shown here are just 8 of the 92 mandalas of "Organiverse" by Henri van Bentum, created in 1972 while living in Morocco, and completed on the island of Madeira. 

(I only learned later it was a special privilege to have held the original Portfolio in my hands, since it was normally kept locked in a metal cabinet for safekeeping.)

As someone who is deeply interested in the natural world, as well as human consciousness, I found the Organiverse portfolio fascinating and powerful.

Each painting evoked for me infinite representations of lifeforms representing Nature on both the macro and micro level.

I understood these were visionary works, since Henri had never studied biology nor astronomy. The work arose from a deep place of wisdom, connection and knowing within.

Here is something I wrote afterwards:

“Organiverse is a glimpse into the multilayered beauty of all that is Life.
These mandalas offer an immense opportunity for healing and for a
heart-based understanding of who we are physically, emotionally and
spiritually.  A dance of colour, form and contemplation.”

While I miss my patient and friend, Henri, I am as well comforted by how much of him still persists in his paintings and writings; in his friendships and connections; and in his gentle affection that touched me, and so many others.

Henri van Bentun at Rapa Nui (Easter Island), February 2000


You're invited to view "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page featuring several existing, and legacy van Bentum projects.


Remembering Henri van Bentum: words from the August 13th memorial gathering, by Grace Van den Brink - Past President, The Union Club of B.C.

Grace Van den Brink

For those of you that don't know me, I'm Grace Van den Brink, and I came to know Henri and Natasha both as fellow Union Club members and snooker players.

First of all, I would like to offer my continued condolences to Natasha, to family and Henri's wide, wide circle of friends, fellow artists and thinkers as we gather on his birthdate of August 13.

Henri was a talented man and he lived such a long and interesting life. Few of us will ever achieve some of all he accomplished.

In his obituary Henri was described as "valiant, steadfast, compassionate". I would like to add the word: Gentleman. No matter what, he never failed, at the very least, to give a wave or a nod or share a few words when our paths crossed in the Club. His and Natasha's support during my presidency here at the Club was always welcome and I felt he was my talisman whenever I would see him.

I first met Henri in the Billiards Room when I started to learn how to play snooker. I must say that his stance and shooting style, appeared to my uninitiated eyes, to be somewhat unusual. And yet, he played the game and played it well with enthusiasm, good humour and sportsmanship. 

In 2015, Henri played in the spring snooker tournament here at the Club. As you can imagine, there is a bit of a tale behind his win. 

For many weeks before the tournament, Henri and Natasha were cat-sitting in Arizona for P.J. Heyliger, one of Henri’s former students and illustrator of his children’s books. Surprisingly, there was not a billiards table to be found within 50 miles – something that Henri and Natasha missed as they would play 4 to 5 times a week here at the Club.

They flew home on January 16 and the tournament was scheduled for the next day. Now, Natasha said they were flabbergasted when Henri won. Not only had he not practised in almost six weeks, but he was getting over a long day of travelling and was on his feet for seven hours – all this while 85 years young.

Henri van Bentum with trophy

Henri’s impact went beyond the Billiards Room. Shortly after becoming a member in 2005, his “From Landscape to Innerscape” retrospective exhibition covering 45 years was featured at the Club, and the Club appreciated his donating his children’s books a few years later.

Henri, you are missed and yet your spirit, creativity, teachings live on as does your love for Natasha. Thank you.

Grace Van den Brink, Past President, The Union Club of British Columbia

You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 

Remembering Henri van Bentum - message from Raymond Doucette, former Vancouver neighbour

Our former neighbour, Raymond Doucette, during his lengthy stay in Lalibela

Here is a message from our friend and former neighbour back in the days when we lived in Vancouver.  Raymond is a humble but intrepid traveller and wanderer. Henri and Raymond had a regular correspondence from afar.  Henri and I were always fascinated by Raymond's accounts of his travels, in particular the lengthy time he spent in Lalibela, Ethiopia, where he assisted in the creation and funding of a job-creating Lodge for local people.  Natasha

"My solitary bachelor life ended in 1996, after the new neighbours, Henri and Natasha van Bentum, moved in across the hall.

They explained they were just house-sitting for six months – actually, they described it as “fish-sitting” -- since one of their main tasks was to look after a huge aquarium that occupied about one fifth of the living room space.

They were a bohemian, friendly pair. The six month fish-sitting assignment ended up lasting five years, since the owners decided not to return (they'd moved to northern BC, and rented the apartment to the van Bentum’s).

Before long, the three of us visited each other regularly, with Henri and Natasha always inviting me to their place for supper;  it was larger than my bachelor studio.

Their place was full of Guatemalan, Indonesian and Indian textiles, plus of course Henri’s paintings, and artefacts from their global wanderings.

I discovered Henri’s cooking was just one of his talents. And which I avidly anticipated.

Before meeting the van Bentum's, I’d never heard a single sea-going yarn. Nor knew anyone like Henri. Or his repartée. And I was soon hooked, intent on experiencing his lively European humour.

And his earnest, and vivid accounts of their travels, adventures, and fascinating sojourns.

The three of us had similar travel bents – appreciating above all, out of the way, unspoilt places. Which was possible in those days.

My memories are also of Henri's profound discipline, his careful, and steadfast fastidiousness --- yet free.  As was his art, his integrity.

I came over to Victoria in August 2020 for his 90th birthday and brought him a portable solar light from Ethiopia. He was thrilled and showed everyone, saying “Imagine, the light gathered here comes all the way from Lalibela!

Henri took me under his wing. And as an equal. For which I am totally grateful. 

I have appreciated the support, and attention he generously provided. And particularly for a time when I most needed it. I've wished I had let him know.

Postscript:  For those who don’t know it, Henri’s blog is an endless source of fascination. It’s still there on the Internet, and will remain as part of his legacy.

You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


Remembering Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) Message from the international Circumnavigators Club


"Henri van Bentum, artist, was truly a man of the world.

He was a long-time member of the historic Circumnavigators Club, a nonprofit organization founded in 1902 for people who sailed around the globe (*), and who believed in making the world a better place through friendship and understanding. 

Henri was an esteemed member of the Circumnavigators. 

We will miss him. “Luck to you”, Henri!"

David A. Mink, President

(*) The Circumnavigators Club is the only organization devoted to bringing together those men and women who have circumnavigated the globe by any means, crossing every meridian longitude in one direction. The Club's purpose is to encourage global fellowship and understanding. It strives to inspire people to see and absorb as much as they can about the world in which we live. Motto:  Through friendship, to leave this world a little better than we found it.  https://circumnavigators.org/

Certificate of membership for Henri van Bentum, Circumnavigators Club, 1975

You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects. 


More from the August 13, 2022 Memorial Gathering for Henri van Bentum: offering by Dr. Seonaigh MacPherson


Henri van Bentum in Petra, Jordan

Henri van Bentum: A Life of Amplitude - by Seonaigh MacPherson

"I have been invited to say a few words about Henri as a friend and collector of his art. Yet, my first contact was with Henri as a teacher, so I would like to start there.


Our first contact was in a colour workshop Henri offered in Vancouver in 1987. In this workshop, he demonstrated how through three simple primary colours - red, blue, and yellow - the entire universe of colour could be generated.

As evidence, he had us prepare our own colour wheels. This reflected one of the abiding things Henri has shared with me - through instruction or by example - to return to the fundamentals.

It was a kind of simplicity, as he called it, or practicality, that was as apparent in his art as in his cooking, which focused on simple, nutritious ingredients combined to produce taste, health, pleasure, and stimulating conversation in equal measure.

The second thing I learned from Henri was creativity in living, not just in art. He modelled and embodied how, through modest means, it was possible to create a life of amplitude.

This is a rather odd word or phrase that came to me as I contemplated Henri, so I thought to check up the meaning of the term in the Meriam-Webster dictionary.

While commonly known to signify the size of a wavelength in physics, the definitions continued on to describe qualities of character rather than matter. In these cases, amplitude referred to an extent of dignity, excellence, or splendour or, alternatively, the quality or state of being ample as in fullness, abundance.
Henri van Bentum, crew member aboard "Esperanza", sailing from Ibiza to Italy 1961

This encapsulates for me the kind of creativity in living manifested by both Henri and Natasha - the cultivation, through modest means, of a life of dignity, excellence, and splendour that resulted in a sense of a full and abundant life.

The third thing I learned from Henri is one of the qualities ascribed to the motto of the City of Amsterdam's coat of arms described on the program: steadfastness.

In this case, he taught me through example and instruction the meaning of integrity, loyalty, and being there.


This final quality of being steadfast was something I valued deeply in our friendship as well - a kind of persistence, loyalty, consistency, and presence of duration.

Over the years, Henri and Natasha offered me a kind of refuge as I moved around the country and globe, a touchstone or reference point to return to over the years.

The second quality I valued was the sense of nourishment and enrichment I found over the years in his company. This included delicious meals, as described, which Henri tended to prepare, but extended to the rich colours and textures of his and Natasha's apartment, art, and clothing, collected from around their travels around the globe.

And so too it included enriching conversations and ideas, which were as much a part of the meals and overall experience as the appetizers, wine, main courses, and desserts.

Finally, I valued his quality of caring, a kind and generous capacity to take interest in the lives and well being of others.

As many of us, who knew him well appreciated, Henri could be fierce in defence of integrity and high standards of conduct. This ferocity was a kind of circle of fire that, once penetrated or crossed, welcomed us into his circle of care.


Why do I collect his art? Because just as he and Natasha gave me refuge in their home and friendship, his art and artistic vision continues to give me refuge every day in my home.

When despondent or deflated through one or another reason, I let my gaze fall on one or another of his canvasses to uplift me.

As others have pointed out, it is their use of light, colour, and perspective that give them this capacity to uplift.

As a sidebar, when I frequented Henri and Natasha's house for dinner while completing my doctoral studies at UBC, Henri like to tease me that I was becoming a Paper-Head Dummy (Ph.D.).

There was something very accurate in all that. I recall a doctoral seminar room in which dozens of chairs were stacked at the back of the room with no pictures on the wall, not even a poster.

It was as if as we reached this apex of education, we were somehow scaffolded out of our senses, as if beauty and awareness no longer mattered, to be replaced by a kind of abstract conceptualism.

In contrast, while Henri is known as an abstract artist, his approach to the abstract is distinctive - perhaps it might be called an abstract ecology.

It is this unique perspective in his art that invites a sense of connection to realities beyond the ordinary appearance of things - both to the cosmos, as has been well represented here, but also to the biological.

As above, so below.

Indeed, it is this biological resonance in his art that has drawn me to collect his work. In his canvasses, I don't merely see artfully placed shapes and colours, but echoes of our biological embeddedness.

Don't get me wrong: He did not paint them to be representational. Rather, they reflect his unique perception and an imagination that springs from nature itself.

In his abstractions, we see the resonance of the microcosm and macrocosm, implicit in the beauty of his forms.

"Coral Dream", acrylic on paper, 1965, Henri van Bentum

As an example, I have brought two of my favourite paintings of his. The first is "Coral Dream", an acrylic on paper, the first painting I bought of his when still a doctoral student. I wanted to invest in this rich life of the senses and feel that it wasn't something I was abandoning in pursuit of that paper-head dummy!

To better share with you my experience of these paintings, I perused the Internet for close up photographs of coral and found this image -- (here Seonaigh holds up a picture) --- that shows how closely his perception paralleled coral in the wild.

"Spatial Rhythms #2", watercolour on paper, 1983, Henri van Bentum

Likewise, the second painting, a watercolour, from his Spatial Rhythms series, always reminded me of chromosomes lining up to form DNA. Sure enough, when I looked for electron microscopic images of chromosomes, I found this picture --- (Seonaigh holds up another photo) --- with such close parallels to the abstract painting.

In this way, I hope you can join me in appreciating Henri's unique approach to abstract art as a way to perceive our interconnection with the microcosm of the Earth just as it echoes, too, the macrocosm.

So, thank you Henri, for having enriched my life and for living a life of amplitude. Thank you to all of you as well for sharing in this appreciation and celebration of his life."

Seonaigh MacPherson with Tashi


You are invited to visit  "Remembering Henri van Bentum", a new landing page

featuring several existing, and legacy projects.