Horst Janssen

Photo: Ingeborg Sello

Horst Janssen (*1929 + 1995) is one of the most distinguished artists in the drawing and graphic arts. Critics compared the young Horst Janssen to the greatest artists in history, such as Rembrandt. Horst Janssen  shows so many forms and themes: landscape, erotism, portraits, still-life, drawings, graphics, prints, illustrations, posters, books etc. It is of no lesser fascination to discover the common features between Horst Janssen and the art of Romanticism – or artists like Goya or even Japanese art.

Janssen analyses intensely the work of other artists relating parallels or analogies, e.g. between Janssen and Rembrandt, Dürer, Füssli. There are elective affinities with Alfred Mahlau, Egon Schiele, Paul Wunderlich, Jean Dubuffet, Gerhard Altenbourg, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Ben Shahn and Malte Sartorius.

Horst Janssen was born in Hamburg in 1929  but spent his childhood in Oldenburg. There he grew up with his  mother and his grandparents in Lerchenstraße 14. His mother, Martha Janssen a seamstress, died in 1943 when Horst  was not yet 14 years old.  He never knew his father, but was adopted by his grandfather. After his grandfather and his mother had died, 1939 and 1943, he became pupil of the Napola, “Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt”,  in Haselünne, Emsland 1942. 

Inspite of these unfavourable circumstances, Horst Janssen thought Oldenburg  to be synonymous with home and security. His exceptional gift for drawing was already revealed during his school years. 

In 1944 he was adopted by his mother’s younger sister Anna, who lived in Hamburg. After the war in 1945, 16 year old Horst Janssen became the youngest student of the art college in Hamburg; where he entered the master-class of Alfred Mahlau who shaped and encouraged him. Horst Janssen stayed in Hamburg and from there he started his astonishing career as an artist in drawing and graphics; bringing him to wordwide fame. His exhibitions were shown in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Venice, Rome, Oslo, Moscow, Paris, Hamburg, Oldenburg, just to name a few. Beside his profession as artist Horst Janssen wrote several books. 

Horst Janssen was married three times and had several love-affairs. He had four children with four different women: Clemens (1950), Katrin, called Lamme (1956), Philip (1961), Adam (1973). 

In 1992, Oldenburg offered him the honorable citizenship award and Horst Janssen accepted with great pleasure. It was during this time that Horst Janssen, the notorious eccentric and egomaniac, decided to be buried one day “under the green grass of Oldenburg side by side with his mother”. Horst Janssen died on August 31, 1995, after a stroke and was buried in the Gertruden-Graveyard in Oldenburg. 

In November 2000, the City of Oldenburg inaugurated the Horst-Janssen-Museum in honor of the artist.