The Work of Horst Janssen

The 1940s


First drawings as a pupil of the National Political Institute of Education (Napola) in Haselünne.


Teacher Alfred Mahlau arranges the first small commissions.

First publication of a drawing in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

He creates pen and ink drawings and experiments with linocuts, monotypes and woodcuts. Topic: scenes of animals and humans.


Illustrations for fables and fairy tales, including 16 pen and ink drawings for the satirical magazine  “Eulenspiegel”.

Publication of the first book “Seid ihr alle da?” (Is everyone there?), illustrations for Punch-and-Judy verses by Rolf Italiaander.

Illustration of a book cover “Der heilige Jarmussek – Schlesische Erzählungen” (Holy Jarmussek – Silesian Stories) (Strom-Verlag).


Works by Horst Janssen come in various publications.


The 1950s


His second book is published: “Wettlauf zwischen Hase und Igel auf der Buxtehuder Heide” (Race between the Hare and the Hedgehog on Buxtehude Heath).

Illustrations for the volume “50 Years Deutsches Schauspielhaus” (major theatre in Hamburg ).


Commissioned work for Guido Dessauer, manufacturer of coloured paper in Aschaffenburg. In the following years he paints portraits of the family in oil.

Janssen teaches himself the technique of lithography at the coloured paper factory. First portraits even in this technique.

Book illustrations for the publication “Bunte Skizzen vom Hamburger Hafen” (Colourful sketches of the Port of Hamburg).


Design work for Guido Dessauer: advertising supplements, exhibition stands.

Commissioned work for the film architect Franz Schroedter.

Many lithographs are created: mainly portraits and figurative scenes.


Design of the stained-glass windows for the Deutsche Bahn office building in Hamburg-Altona.

During a trip to the island of Sylt watercoloured drawings with shells, jellyfish, crabs and suchlike originate.


“Selige Schnippelzeit “ (Blessed chopping time): creation of large-format woodcuts: animals, street scenes and female figures. Inspiration from Ben Shahn. Janssen prints by hand.

At the beginning of 1957, the woodcuts are for the first time shown in a “Flur” (hallway) exhibition at Warburgstraße 33.


New focus on etching as a technique. Paul Wunderlich introduces him to this printing process.


Large-format etchings are accomplished. The works show the influence of Jean Debuffet and his Art Brut.


Period of “manic scribbling”, including the “telephone etchings”. Pencil and coloured pencil drawings, informed by Richard Oelze’s drawing technique. At the beginning he employs the colours very faintly.

The 1960s


Once more woodcuts, then he “never touched wood again, not for creating pictures”.


Commissioned by the City of Hamburg for the artistic design of the entrance to Farmsen underground station.

From then on, a new beginning in drawing, developing his own unmistakable style: through his close-knit pencil hatching, he becomes the “million hatcher”. Anatomies and female bodies, the so-called flesh drawings, become his theme.

First successes: exhibitions in Schleswig, Bremen, Paris and Darmstadt.


Large comprehensive exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover: the catalogue of printed works produced on the occasion already contains 400 sheets. The exhibition marks Janssen’s real breakthrough and will go on tour.

Until 1966 he produces portraits of poets for the Laatzen bookshop in Hamburg.


His own publications with his drawings (“10 drawings from the Poppe Collection”) are issued, including calendars, foldout booklets and New Year’s greetings .


Books with his own versions of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” are created: “Hensel und Grätel” and “Paul Wolf and the 7 Young Kids”.

The use of forms changes: the outline becomes more important in his drawings. Accessories such as belts and buckles are added to the women’s physiognomies.

Landscape becomes a new artistic motif.

The 1970s


Janssen is now drawing from nature. From now on, the artistic charm for him rather emanates from the object.


Encounter with East Asian art through Gerhard Schack. The etching cycle “Hokusai’s stroll. Treatise on the production of an etching” is created, turning to the examination of models.


Impressed by Claude Lorrain’s landscapes, Janssen creates some 250 washes, pen and ink drawings of the same theme.

“Copies”: drawing and etching after the “old masters”, “redesigning by reproducing”.

The cycle of etchings “Hanno’s Tod” (Hanno’s death) is created.


Drawings, pictorial letters, collages, foldout booklets and very small objects are created. Their purpose is to court Birgit Jacobsen.


The “November-Buch” (November book) is published. He calls it his “master-piece”.


In the next two years he creates numerous erotic watercolours inspired by his love for Viola Rackow.


The 1980s


Publication of his literary works since 1950 in “Querbeet” (At random) with essays, speeches, treatises, pamphlets, short stories, poems and ribaldries.
Pastels of the “Paranoia” suite of drawings.

The cycle of etchings “Nigromontanus” is created, as well as Horst Janssen’s homage to Ernst Jünger.

Some publications for the first time see the author Horst Janssen without the illustrator.


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

In recent years, offset printing has resulted in numerous posters.


Janssen works on large landscape etchings: “Laokoon” (Laocoon. The trees of Annette).


The 1990s


After Janssen was in danger to lose his eyesight due to an acid accident, he is inspired by his girlfriend Heidrun Bobeth to create the “Bobethanien” (Bobethania) series comprising 100 landscape watercolours.

Publication of “Der Foliant” (The folio. An exhibitionistic documentation of the accident’s history).


Once more, posters are created.


A journey of the previous year inspires him to create landscape motifs with shingle roofs.


Last works are accomplished in March. Horst Janssen dies on 31 August as a result of several strokes.