GV mourns loss of impactful artist

By Erin Grogan | 1/25/15 8:06pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Bernadine Carey-Tucker Cyril Lixenburg


Throughout the entire Grand Valley State University campus, there are approximately 550 pieces of art by Cyril Lixenberg. The drawings, prints and sculptures that decorate the university span his entire career and will commemorate him in years to come. On Jan. 11, while surrounded by family at his home in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Lixenberg passed away at the age of 82 years old.

“Those who were lucky enough to meet him will always talk about this wonderful human being who was friendly and sharing and approachable,” said Henry Matthews, director of Galleries and Collections at GVSU. “We still live with him. He is part of our lives on a daily basis.”

Matthews first met Lixenberg in 1985 while working at the Detroit Institute of Art, and he later invited the artist to display his works at the Muskegon Museum of Art and GVSU.

“Sometimes you meet people and you know right away, then and there, you’re going to know that person for life,” Matthews said. “You just click, somehow. And Cyril and I clicked – I invited him to come home and have dinner, and, as we liked to joke for the next thirty years, he never really left.”

Lixenberg also made yearly trips to GVSU to mentor students and critique their work.

“He is just a natural teacher,” Matthews said. “He loved interacting with people, he loved their energy, and I think he got a lot of energy from them but he gave back. It was always give and take.”

The artist created two large statues for GVSU: Amaranth, the 15-foot tall painted steel sculpture outside of Mackinac Hall on the Allendale Campus, and another steel structure Magela-S, which he created on GVSU’s Pew Campus for ArtPrize 2010. It was dedicated to Lixenberg’s wife, Saskia.

Lixenberg’s early work consists of realistic portraits and landscapes, but his style evolved during his career.

“He changed as an artist,” said Nancy Richard, GVSU's university archivist. “I think seeing that and seeing that you don’t always have to do the same thing in life and just him talking about life was a big impact and loss to the students at the university.”

Lixenberg donated 300 of his own prints to GVSU, starting the Print and Drawing Cabinet. He also donated 500 prints from other Dutch artists to the collection. His photographs, documented interviews and news articles are archived at the Seidman House and are available for the public to view.

GVSU President Thomas Haas and Provost Gayle Davis gave Lixenberg the honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree in 2013.

The GVSU art gallery is expecting to receive a donation of his last collection. They will hold a celebration of his life in early May. More information on the GVSU art gallery can be found at www.gvsu.edu/artgallery/.

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