Horst Janssen – Life

Childhood and Youth


On 14 November, Horst Janssen was born in Wandsbek near Hamburg. He is the illegitimate child of seamstress Martha Janßen and the Swabian Gerhard Karl Bauder. Janssen grew up with his mother’s parents in Oldenburg. Fritz Janßen, a master tailor, adopts his grandson. There will never be any contact with his father.


In Oldenburg, Janssen attends the primary school Röwekamp, the Heiligengeisttorschule and later the secondary school Margaretenstraße (today's Paulus-Schule).


Death of grandfather.


Janssen becomes a student at the National Political Institute of Education (Napola) in Haselünne, Emsland. There he is particularly supported by Hanns Wienhausen, a drawing teacher.


Death of mother.


Taken in in war-ravaged Hamburg by Anna Johanna, “Tantchen” (Auntie), his mother’s sister, who had adopted him in 1944. At first they lived on Burchardstraße, later on Warburgstraße (Harvestehude).


Course of Studies


Student with Alfred Mahlau in the class for free and applied graphics at the Landeskunstschule Hamburg, today’s HFBK.


First autodidactic expressionistic experiments with the woodcut technique.


Birth of son Clemens, who grows up with his mother’s family, Gabriele Gutsche.


Scholarship by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.


Lichtwark scholarship; he leaves the Landeskunstschule against his own will.

The 1950s


Commissioned works (including oil paintings) for Guido Dessauer, manufacturer of coloured paper in Aschaffenburg. First involvement with lithography.


Charged with attempted murder out of jealousy of Judith Schlottau (wife of his friend Günter Schlottau and Janssen’s lover from autumn 1952 to October 1953).

Janssen is sentenced to a suspended sentence for drunkenness, which he has to serve for yet another alcohol offence. In 1955 he spends three weeks in Glasmoor prison.


Marriage to Marie Knauer.


Birth of daughter Kathrin, called “Lamme”.


First “Flur” (hallway) exhibition at Warburgstraße 33 with large-format woodblock prints, with which Hans Brockstedt, Janssen’s gallerist, achieves initial sales successes in Hanover.

From 1957 intensive involvement with etching, instructed by Paul Wunderlich.


Divorce from Marie Knauer.

Marriage to gallerist Birgit Sandner, which is divorced after only a few weeks.

Janssen expands his range of techniques by pencil and coloured pencil.

From November on, Hans Brockstedt becomes a lodger and roommate at Warburgstraße 33 for one and a half years.

The 1960s


Marriage to Verena von Bethmann Hollweg and birth of their son Philip in 1961.


Art prize of the City of Darmstadt.


First comprehensive exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover. From January 1966 until January 1967, the exhibition tours to Hamburg, Darmstadt, Stuttgart, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Lübeck, Basel and Munich.

Janssen declines the offer of professorship at the Landeskunstschule am Lerchenfeld, Hamburg.

Janssen and Paul Wunderlich are awarded the Edwin Scharff Prize of the City of Hamburg.


Death of Janssen’s aunt Anna and his esteemed teacher Alfred Mahlau.

Relocation to Hamburg-Blankenese, Mühlenberger Weg 22.


Invitation to the 34th Venice Biennale, together with Richard Oelze and Gustav Seitz. Janssen receives the Grand Prize in graphic art.

Beginning of the relationship with Gesche Tietjens (“Panne”).

In autumn Janssen becomes acquainted with the publicist Joachim Fest. Through Fest, contact is established with Wolf Jobst Siedler and the publishing house Propyläen-Verlag.


Divorce from his third wife Verena.

Beginning of friendships with the collector Gerhard Schack and the printer Hartmut Frielinghaus.


The 1970s


Travels to Scandinavia and Tessin accompanied by Gesche Tietjens.

Landscape becomes the new artistic motif for Janssen.


Short love affair with Roswitha Harting, whom Janssen meets on his second trip to Tessin.

Separation from Gesche Tietjens at the end of the year.


Second Janssen exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover.

Birth of Adam Janssen, son of Janssen and Gesche Tietjens.

His lover Bettina Sartorius moves to Mühlenberger Weg for a few months. When she leaves Janssen, he attempts to commit suicide.


Beginning of relationship with Birgit Jacobsen.

Apart from drawings and pictorial letters, Janssen courts the married woman with collages, foldout booklets and very small objects.


Schiller Prize of the City of Mannheim.


Separation from Birgit Jacobsen.

Through his printer Hartmut Frielinghaus Janssen gets to know Viola Rackow (“Vriederich”). The love relationship that lasts until the summer of 1978 inspires him to create numerous erotic watercolours.


Poster exhibition at the Stadtmuseum Oldenburg.

Biermann-Ratjen Medal of the City of Hamburg.


Relationship with Kerstin Schlüter.

The 1980s


Exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, USA.


The publication “Querbeet” (At random) with essays, speeches, treatises, pamphlets, short stories, poems and ribaldries is a collection of Janssen’s literary works since 1950.


Exhibitions at the Albertina, Vienna, the Museum of Art and Design Hamburg (MK&G), the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, the Isetan Museum, Tokyo, and the Munch Museum, Oslo.

The pamphlet “Angeber Icks. 1ne Quijoterie” is published: polemics in words and pictures against the art market and Janssen’s most despised contemporary artist colleagues, above all Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys.

Janssen becomes acquainted with Dierk Lemcke, who becomes his most important publisher from then on.


Touring exhibition in the USA.


Stefan Blessin self-publishes a first Janssen biography, after Janssen banned a publication by the publishers Hoffmann und Campe.


Exhibitions in Novosibirsk and Moscow, initiated by the Göttingen collector Tete Böttger. At the end of 1985, the eight-month love relationship with Annette Kasper, almost 36 years his junior, begins.


A second comprehensive collection of texts is published by dtv-Verlag in Munich: “An und für mich.” (In and of myself. Selfish, epistolary, poetic, sardonic, declamatory, spoken matters and everything printed 1981-1986).


The first volume of the Janssen autobiography “Hinkepott” (Hinkepott. Autobiographic friskery in letters and essays) is published by Merlin Verlag.


The second volume of his autobiography is published: “Johannes” (Johannes. Illustrated letters ‘Hinkepott II’. Morning greetings, night thoughts, confessions, reminiscences, entanglements and misbehaviours), again by Merlin Verlag.

The 1990s


On the morning of 19 May, Janssen crashes through the boards of the rotten balcony in front of his house. Acid from the etching bathtubs burns his eyes, Janssen is in danger to lose his eyesight. His new girlfriend Heidrun Bobeth accompanies Janssen during the healing period and inspires him to create the “Bobethanien” (Bobethania) series comprising 100 landscape watercolours. Moreover, he comes to terms with the misfortune and his recovery in “Der Foliant” (The folio. An exhibitionistic documentation of the accident’s history).

Janssen is awarded the Oldenburg prize of the Oldenburg region.


Exhibition of the “Bobethanien” landscapes at the Albertinum in Dresden.

Touring exhibition in Japan and Norway.

In mid-1991, Janssen and Heidrun Bobeth finally break up.

In August 1991, Lamme Janssen moves to Mühlenberger Weg with her daughter Kalayni.


Honorary citizenship of the City of Oldenburg.


On the occasion of his 65th birthday, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Museum of Art and Design Hamburg and the Altonaer Museum simultaneously present Janssen exhibitions.


Following several strokes Janssen dies after hospitalisation and rehabilitation on 31 August at Mühlenberger Weg. Burial at the Gertrud cemetery in Oldenburg.


In November, the Horst-Janssen-Museum in Oldenburg opens. The establishment of a Janssen Museum in Hamburg failed in 1989.