Franz Jansen (1885-1958) is one of the less well-known artists of the Weimar Era. Like his more famous contemporaries George Grosz and John Heartfield, he was principally committed to social and political subjects. His goal was to expose the injustices of the Weimar regime in the hope of fomenting reform.
Franz Jansen, Masken, 1925
Franz Jansen was born in Cologne. From 1906-1910, he studied architecture in Vienna, and then traveled throughout Europe, before returning to Cologne in 1911. The following year, he joined the Berlin Secession and participated in the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne. In 1914, he had a large one-man exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne. In 1918, Jansen wrote a manifesto entitled, “About Expressionism,” in which he expressed annoyance with the tendency of art critics and historians to hastily label new movements such as Futurism, Cubism and Expressionism. He called this approach “Five o’clock tea esthetics,” and stated that art should embrace activism and strive to document real life. It should leave its viewer with something more than the ability to name a visual category.
Franz Jansen, The newest Models, 1920
From 1918 to 1925, Jansen, like Christian Schad, Franz Seiwert and many other artists, produced prints for publication in the political journal Die Aktion. In 1927 and 1929, he participated in two exhibitions devoted to the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, which also included artists such as Grethe Jürgens, Schad, Seiwert, and Gerta Overbeck-Schenk. Jansen participated in various exhibits throughout the early thirties until 1937, when the Nazi government confiscated 157 of his works from museums throughout the country. He was drafted into the army in 1944, and after the war, he continued to exhibit his work until his death in May of 1958 in Büchel.