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.


Celebrating Light: A Journey Through the Organiverse with Works by Rabindranath Tagore ("Gitanjali") and Henri van Bentum

 As a way of introducing the Gitanjali / Organiverse project (see post of February15th ), we've linked up with the UNESCO International Day of Light 2023 to introduce one of Rabindranath Tagore's poems (#57, "Light") and one of Henri van Bentum's 'Organiverse' mandalas (#57 of #100 set). The site has a link to the full project, encompassing all 100 mandalas and 100 poems.  https://vanbentum.wixsite.com/journey



Special Edition of "Gitanjali and Beyond" devoted to Henri van Bentum's "Organiverse" mandalas and featuring a reading of the "Gitanjali" song offerings (poems) by Rabindranath Tagore

Cover of "Gitanjali and Beyond", Issue No. 7,  Rabindranath Tagore, Henri van Bentum

Today the Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies published its annual eJournal, "Gitanjali & Beyond", devoted to a project marrying the 100 Organiverse mandalas by Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) with the 'Song Offerings' (Gitanjali) of Rabindranath Tagore. In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature for "Gitanjali".

The concept and production of this project was done by Henri's friend Brian W.E. Johnson, who reads Tagore's poems.
Brian W.E. Johnson

"Slow Art" in motion --- painting, poetry, and sound. This special issue of "Gitanjali and Beyond" comprises 221 pages and is intended to be studied quietly over time.

Here is the link. 

Below is an excerpt from Dr. Bashabi Fraser's Foreword:

"When Natasha van Bentum first wrote to me about her husband, Henri van Bentum’s 100 Mandalas (created in 1972) which have been recently structured as reflections on Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali poems, I was intrigued. I asked Natasha to send me samples of this project, and she was willing to send me the entire opus of Organiverse and Gitanjali.

The compositions, completed while Henri and Natasha lived on the island of Madeira, are done in pointillism in water colour. They are intricate and intense. The idea of mandalas with their Hindu and Buddhist symbolism, signify a universal search for release from suffering, reaching out towards an unutterable joy.

. . . Henri’s mandalas, with their perfect circular pattern, encompass and visualise worlds that unfold from the first blue representation of the pondering universe and go on to explore and explode in colours that come together like the rising sun, the colours of the rainbow, unfurling petals, swirling dreams, bursting stars, crystallising shapes which are infinite in their possibilities and suggestiveness, till the final ones that speak of life’s fulfilment reflected in the image of the rising sun, meditative and expectant in its promise of life’s continuity.

. . . Henri’s positive approach to life in spite of the many obstacles he encountered, his courage and success are apparent in these mandalas which defeat the idea of chaos with their cosmic energy that is both transformative and transporting. They represent life itself in its many manifestations and speak directly to the viewer with an appeal that is mesmerising.

    There is something sacred about their affirmation and celebration of life, a sense of inclusion that is compelling."

Organiverse mandala 23 of 100, Henri van Bentum
Watercolour on paper, 1972
Copyright (C) Estate of Henri van Bentum 

LINK TO FOREWORD AND THE FULL PROJECT: https://gitanjaliandbeyond.co.uk/2023/02/15/gitanjali-and-beyond-issue-7-special-issue-organiverse/


Video featuring excerpts from a few speakers at the Memorial Gathering for Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) held in August 2022

Dear readers - here is the link to a 30 minute video (on YouTube) with some of the speakers at the Memorial Gathering held for Henri van Bentum (1929-2022) on August 13, 2022. See list of timings, below.


Here are the timings:

Min. 0:00 - 03:13 - Introduction by Grace van den Brink - the first-ever woman President of the Union Club of British Columbia, and a fellow Snooker player.

Min. 03:14 - 13:00 - Seonaigh MacPherson, a long-time friend who is also a professor at a university in BC.  Several years ago, Seonaigh helped with the launch of a school for Tibetan refugee nuns, in northern India.  

Min. 13:01 - 16.35 - Photos and mini clip from a documentary film on Henri, Banff, 1983

Min. 16:35 - 19.35 - Marcus Hissen, Victoria Symphony musician and friend.

Min. 19:25 - 23:07 - Henri's friend, Brian W. E. Johnson, and fellow Snooker player. 

Min. 23:08 - 29:14 -  Natasha van Bentum, Henri's lifelong partner of fifty-one years.

Min. 29:14 to end - includes clips from the documentary made about Henri in 1983, when he lived in Banff --- excerpts from him speaking at his exhibition of "Spatial Rhythms" watercolours at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.


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.