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Piet Mondrian’s Sufi Friends Louk and Ella Hoyack

A Testament to Friendship

In the winter of 1924, a wealthy young Dutchman named Louis August Johan Hoyack (1893-1967) met the great Indian Sufi musician and mystic Inayat Khan (1882-1927). Louis (who was usually called Louk) quickly decided that “this Easterner blessed by God was the Messiah of his times.” About a year later, Louk met Johanna Daniëla (called Ella) Cramerus (1891-1979), a stylish divorcee who soon became his third wife. They moved from The Hague to Saint-Cloud, near Paris, to be close to Suresnes, where Inayat lived. Around the time the guru died, Louk had embarked on his life’s mission to systematize his master’s message.

Once in Saint-Cloud, Louk and Ella became close friends of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). Piet talked to Louk about the nature of God and the future of mankind, and he chatted, snacked and danced with Ella. Her pocket diaries for 1927 and 1928 constitute an invaluable record of the visitors to Piet’s Paris studio, while the many letters that Piet wrote to the Hoyacks from 1929 to 1939 offer all sorts of revealing information about his art, thought and life. The Hoyacks also introduced Piet to Muhammad Ali Khan (1881-1958), Inayat’s cousin, who became the “principal healer” of the sickly artist.

Though both Louk and Piet had roots in Theosophy, the ideological chasm between them was great, with Louk adoring the nature that Piet had virtually banished from his art. In addition, Louk soon betrayed the historical optimism that he had shared with Piet, while advancing autocratic and Luddite notions that the artist could not abide. Though Piet repeatedly criticized Louk’s books, this did not end their friendship, which was nurtured by their mutual affection for Ella.

In the autumn of 1932 the Hoyacks moved to Théoule-sur-Mer, near Cannes, but they continued to visit Piet in Paris. It took the threat of war to separate the threesome. Piet escaped to New York, where he died. Ella remained in Rome, where she was studying sculpture with her Sufi friend Jadwiga Bohdanowicz (1887-1943). Louk returned to The Hague, where he published unfortunate pro- German articles in 1940, divorced Ella in 1944 and married a fourth time in 1946. Remarkably, he was able to remarry Ella in 1960. Piet, we know, would have called it a happy ending.


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